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Frasier Clan Of Falkirk

Date: 01-21-12
Poster: Kathleen Frasier
Post # 1

Time Alone

Falkirk manor was almost never quiet. With a few families living in the spacious mini resort, there were plenty of children and plenty of noise. Today that noise was contained mostly outside as the snow continued to drift. A good foot was piled and being piled into forts and snowmen by the kids. The nannies were bundled up just as much as Kathleen stood by the floor to ceiling window in her husband's office watching them. One that was more like a lounge for many a family meeting was held in here. It was a comfortable room, warm with a good fire in the hearth. Especially warm to watch the winter's cold outside. Here she waited for Neale that they might have the precious time alone they rarely got. Not that she would trade noise for silence for when those rare moments occurred, it felt strange, like something was lost. Her attire suited the season and she put on her best velvet gown of burnt orange trimmed in gold. Hair was pinned up but as usual strands escaped their confines. A soft scent of tabu hinted in the air about her.

The sound of bootsteps would reach her before the men, the set of two, a steady stride of purpose and determination. And then, the Duke's voice, set in that deep resonance that indicated business as usual. "But actually, Garrett, by the spring, the land that we seeded this fall should be ready for ..." Both me came to a halt when they entered through the double doors and saw the female there by the window. Neale Frasier's words, whatever they were going to be, completely left him on some other train of thought, derailed, diverted, whatever, seeing Kathleen had him onboard a totally different transport now. Garrett was the first to speak to her. "Your Grace." Neale's right-hand-man offered Kathleen a dip of head and shoulder out of respect and as he straightened, he looked to Neale. "We can discuss this later, Your Grace. You've already filled my head with so much information it aches." Just for show, he pressed two fingers to his temples and rubbed in a circle, smiling to his best friend, before he offered Neale a nod and turned to depart. Whether he was given the okay to leave or not. "Yes, yes..." Neale didn't take his gaze from his wife. Then, as if he just shook himself from the delicious spell she always seemed to entrance him with, he turned to look at the departing man. "Later." He called after Garrett, since it seemed the man was well on his way. Neale cleared his throat and then started forward, folding up the parchment he had in hand. "Good day, My lovely wife." His smile touched his eyes, fine lines forming at the corners as he paused to close the doors behind him and then started in her direction.

The footsteps had her turning as the men entered. Always a smile for Garrett for he'd been a long standing part of Neale's life and hers since they got together. She knew in her heart he always had a good word on her when he had Neale's ear. There had been a few around Neale back when. "Good day, Garrett, always good to see you," words to trail as he made his exit which didn't surprise her for he was that kind of considerate. The look in dark eyes was something else where her husband was concern and if she could seduce him with just a look, that look was there. "I am taking advantage of some quiet time that we might spend together." Although they might well not be totally alone it would give them a chance to talk about their children. A start. But at the moment she was across the way, meeting him half way, to slide her arms around his waist, going to tiptoe to give him a kiss that would be a very warm welcome.

A welcome he would return, and a thank you too. His mouth moved over hers as his arms encircled her, pulling her closer still. He moved from that kiss but a fraction as he spoke. "How thoughtful of you." He smiled down to her, glancing toward the window where she'd been standing, then back to his wife. The papers in his hand he discarded with a flick of wrist toward an obliging chair cushion. "But if we're of a mind of taking advantage ... " He allowed his words to linger, while his gaze dipped back to her lips, but then his brow tugged into a frown and he leaned back just a little to better study her features. "Or was there something of importance you needed to discuss?" How easily he was sucked into the need to 'enjoy' his wife when they were given the opportunity. It was the middle of the day, however, and she may have more pressing issues than what his full-steam-ahead engineer and those two conductors closest to the headman in charge were demanding.

She thoroughly enjoyed the kiss. Savored it until finally easing their lips apart. "Consider this an appetizer," for even as she spoke there was a knock on the door. She eased to stand by his side properly, although her hand was resting on the curve of his buttock behind where the maid would not see. "Set them over by the hearth please, Mary." Which the woman nodded quickly keeping her eyes averted as she did the bidding. There was a small respite of finger food and warmed aged brandy. Something perfect for a wintery day. She would get to the topic or more like topics at hand but first there was a reassurance. "Patrick offered to take the children for the weekend to Ballicastle to play with the children there. Give them a little excursion. I agreed but await your approval as well." It would also mean plenty of alone time for them this night and the next.

The Duke of Falkirk growled at the back of his throat with the interruption, but since his wife was being so congenial, he nodded his thanks to Mary as well. He waited, slipping his hand around to where hers rested and giving it a squeeze. Poor, careful Mary would be none the wiser. "He did?" Now, what was Patrick about? "You didn't suggest it to him?" Neale followed Mary from the room with his gaze and then, since her hand was beneath his, he tightened his grip again and used that hold to pull her around to face him again. "Not that I mind either way, I think it is an experience they should enjoy." But it wasn't like Patrick to think about whisking the kids away. Daniel, maybe, seeing as how that sibling always worked in Neale's best interest, but Patrick? This was a surprise. Pleasant. But a surprise all the same.

"It is a surprise and yet not," words quiet until the maid took her leave. She had set out everything proficiently and was quick to leave. Why she remained at Falkirk especially with a few single handsome male Frasiers still available. "It seems he has been seeing a lady, Quinn for that matter." Which was another family of high esteem in the lands. "I think it was an excursion to take her on too and well chaperoned now." Which had a soft laugh to follow as she turned back into his arms, hands running up his chest as eyes lifted to meet and hold his. "It would be nice to see your brother married again, happy." Tilting her head a moment as one hand lifted even more as fingers brushed against his neck, twisting the hair around a forefinger distractively. "One of the reasons, well," not really finding any other way to say it but out with it. "Alisdair got into a fight this morning. Knocked another neighborhood child out cold. I was told this not long before you came in." So it was not something dealt with yet. The woman told her some which she would relate too but Neale may want to speak to his son.

Neale momentarily closed his eyes with the words that slipped from Kathleen's lips, losing himself to the feel of her touch, the light tug of his hair while she spoke of Patrick. Yes. His mind replied to her comments with a distracted responsibility to do so. Yes. Quinn lass. Well chaperoned. Good. Happily married. Sure. But then, his eyes opened immediately and he looked at his wife then glanced over his shoulder. "He did...what?" Hopefully, Alisdair had a just reason for the attack, but if he knocked the teen out, then undue force was used, and that would not be tolerated from the heir to Falkirk, not at this stage of the game. Yes, Neale had his fair share of violent deeds, necessary retaliations. But...this was Alisdair, and being the next in line held some mighty hefty expectations that Neale thought the boy understood. He wasn't hothead Patrick's heir, after all. He was Neale's. "Is he here?"

"He has been sent to his room until you see him." Which she was sure the lad was sweating it out upstairs where their bedroom chambers were located in the north wing. "Do you wish to do that now?" which unfortunately she knew the answer that he should and would. "There are a few other matters but this one takes presidence." She too was sure there was a good reason but the nanny had not seen exactly what happened and wished not to jump to conclusions. She had seen to reviving the lad and notifying his parents who came and got him. "Trinny had been there as well and in tears. I have comforted her but she seems reluctant to say anything on what happened yet." Although giving her some time she was sure she would open up, she was afraid for her half brother.

"Or course I wish to..." Neale had turned to walk to the door, but paused when she continued, his head turned to hear her out. "Trinity is involved as well? What the hell..." Neale dipped his head, stroking a palm across his face and then with a deep sigh, he dropped that touch away, looking back to Kathleen. "I take it the boy has been seen to, and his parents have come to fetch him. I'll need to go see them after..." A turn of a look to the door. "After I speak with Alisdair." He leaned in, touched a kiss to Kathleen's forehead and then started off to do just that.


Date: 01-22-12
Poster: Neale Frasier
Post # 2

Alisdair was still furious about what had happened. Edmund Darwin was a friend but what had happened had been way out of bounds. He had been pacing as he waiting for his father to come to his room. There would likely be punishment but he'd take it. No one was going to hurt or scare his sister, not even a friend. Finally, he moved to a window and looked out. Would he ever get over that feeling of trepidation when his father was involved?

Most times, the halls echoed out any arrivals. But before Alisdair realized, there was a knock on his door. It wasn't opened without his consent, but there wasn't any doubt that his permission to enter had better come soon.

He wasn't expecting it so soon and jumped then turned to the door. "Co... " His voice cracked and he made a face. Not now! "Come in." Even that knock sounded ominous.

Her sigh probably matched his but all this needed to be dealt with. Tansy was in her room as well and it was time to check on her before they were all whisked away to Ballicastle. She hoped her pre-teen daughter would open up now that she had a little time to settle down. She found her with her face buried in her pillow but no longer crying as she sat up when her mother knocked. "Come in," was squeaked out as Kath made her way in. She didn't say anything until she sat on the edge of the bed next to her. A hand lifting to tuck her hair behind her ear. Instead of asking her outright what happened she asked, "do you need a hug?" Which Tansy all but leaped into her arms for a good hug, more like leaning over from where she now sat on the bed. With a half sob Tansy stated, "it wasn't Dair's fault, Eddie swung at him first when he came to my rescue.." Soothing a hand over her hair as Kath responded, "so that is what happened?" Feeling there was more to it than that mere statement. She felt the bob of Tansy's head to affirm her statement, "well.." Tansy added meekly. So there was more but she seemed hesitant to speak on it yet. "It's all right you can tell me.." so Kath waited.

Neale stepped in to the room, closing the door behind him. He stood there by the entrance, his hands behind his back. If he were not Neale Fraiser, Duke of Falkirk, he may have leaned back to that wood as he nodded to his son. But as it was, he stood - there - and nodded once. "Alisdair." One name, and all sorts of questions and expectations and demands.

The younger Frasier imitated his father as he stepped away from the window, his chin up. "Sir. I expect you've come because I hit Eddie. He... " He cleared his throat again, then continued. "He tried to kiss Tansy and she didn't want him to. She tried to step away and Eddie twisted her arm." Alasdair's hands clenched into fists. "I told him to leave her go and he did but he took a swing at me. So, I swung back and hit him in the jaw. He went down like a rock." And the expression on his face said that he'd do it again.

Neale listened. His expression, as usual, unreadable until his son finished. Green eyes maaaaay have narrowed ever so slightly, but not enough for Alisdair to notice or pick up on the Duke's inner conflict. "Kathleen says your sister has been crying since this took place. Care to check on her with me?"

Alisdair let out the breath he had been holding slowly then he nodded. "I'd like to, Father. I wanted to go to her but I was sent straight here." He wanted to shrug but refrained knowing how that would not go over well. Besides, he was very worried about Tansy and seeing her would help. As he stepped up beside his father, he looked up. "Aren't you upset about it too?" Curious why his father hadn't said more.

Neale looked over to the young man, the heir to Falkirk, his son. A few more inches and they would be standing eye to eye. "On a few levels, Alisdair. But, you've shown you wish to take care of your sister, so we'll tend to that first. After, you and I will continue from there." Fingers curled around the door handle and opened it for the younger. "Take care of your siblings, Alisdair, always. They may not always be grateful or the outcome may not be what you hoped for, but if you act with good intentions, eventually it will all work out. Not saying you won't have to deal with a lot of shit prior to that 'eventually' getting there though." He used a motion of head in a cant toward the opening. "Check on Tansy."

"I'll always do what I think is right, Father." Even if it led to trouble, "and I'll take care of them, I promise." He didn't have to be told twice. When he was in front of his sister's door, he knocked, and waited for an answer. Of course, he also glanced back to see where their father was.

Kathleen was patient, soothing her daughter which had her opening up. Tansy blurted out, "he tried to kiss me and .. and.. it scared me, made me feel strange inside and I tried to get away and .. and.. andmyarmgottwisted andand," sucking in a breath, "Dair made him stop but then he fell to the ground as I ran to my room.. here.." tears were starting to run down her cheeks again half scared it was her fault somehow. That's when the knock came upon the door and Tansy swiped her tears away fast. Kath gave her a quick reassuring hug before moving up from the edge of the bed and over to the door to open it. Seeing who it was, she opened it wider for both Dair and Neale to come in. She was glad to see them as it was a family matter to be discussed between the four at this point.

Neale remained behind Alisdair, not saying a word, but a presence of support for both of his children. Knowing now what had transpired, he first checked Tansy's tear streaked face then shifted that green gaze to his wife. When his son entered, so did he, but this time he didn't shut the door. He just stood within the opening.

"I... that is, we came to see how you're doing Tansy." He looked up at Kathleen and smiled ever so slightly then looked at his sister. "Did he hurt you?" He hated to see anyone cry but especially his younger siblings. It about tore his heart out.

Kath gave Neale a reassuring look, which included a slight dip of her head in a way he'd only catch. From there she gave a slight smile to Dair as she felt he'd done the right thing even if there would be repercussions with the Darwin family. She steered her thoughts from there as it would only cause stress second guessing before the reality of the response. Tansy was up and across the room to give her big brother, her hero, a hug. A good squeezing one and an affectionate sisterly peck to his cheek. She stepped back a little wide eyed that lifted up to her father. Perhaps that wondering if she was at fault caused the paleness to her skin again. "I am not hurt, he didn't try to hurt me even if my arm got twisted when I struggled away," assuming Dair told their father why. "He scared me." Maybe her reactions inside scare her even more. She was changing inside too. Kathleen knew she would have to talk to her daughter about the facts of life once this trauma was past, but not too long past to address it.

Not only repercussions from the Darwin family, but Alisdair's as well. The young Frasier may only have crossed by a few into the realm of teen, but with every action there came with it that reaction. Alisdair was a Frasier, and would one day be Duke. He'd have to eat a lot of crow when it wasn't exactly his favorite course or felt it wasn't even his due. But chew he would, and swallow, and smile the whole damn time. Neale waited until after the siblings embraced before he spoke. "Edmund struck out first, Trinity. True?"

Tansy slightly lifted her chin with the determination set there in her eyes. She didn't look at her brother. "Yes. When I struggled and Dair came over, he let go and swung at him first. Dair swung back and he collasped fast."

Since the Duke asked Trinity and not him, Alisdair managed to remain quiet. He still was wondering why Edmund felt the need to strike out like that. Had he felt guilty or was he mad that Trinity had pulled away and Alisdair had come to stop him? He had been glad to accept the hug. Now he was trying to stand still and not fidget.

"I'm relieved you're not hurt, Tansy." Her father took those few steps and placed his hand on the side of her shoulder, leaning in to touch a kiss to the top of her head. "Alisdair wanted to check on you, so, if you are sure all is well, you and Kathleen should continue your talk." Greens flickered over to the bed where Kathleen remained before returning to Trinity. "Alisdair and I need to see to some additional things."

Kathleen started to say, "I think they can get their things ready..." to go to Ballicastle but those words never made it when she noticed their Butler approaching the open door from the hall. Ted Jameson was a decade older than Neale. Hair peppered with more gray than not. He cleared his throat as he stood at attention just outside the family zone and waited. The fact that he was here meant it was something important enough to disturb them. Of course he wouldn't know that he was walking into a family talk session.

Alisdair was nervous again and rightfully so. Those additional matters could mean anything from deciding on a punishment to well, just about anything. He straightened his shoulders though and started to turn to face his father when Jameson appeared. Maybe it would drag his father's attention away.

The clearing of a throat always drew his attention, and Neale looked around his shoulder. "Jameson?" He turned fully to face the man. Neale knew the well-seasoned butler wouldn't interrupt without cause, and that drew his brows together ever so slightly. "Is all well?"

Jameson cleared his throat, "sorry to bother you Sir," giving a slight nod to Kathleen as well to excuse the interruption before dark eyes were back to meet Neale's squarely. "There is his Lordship Edward Darwin here to see you. He has his son with him who has recuperated from the earlier situation." Addressing it in such a way to be proper about it and not judgmental. "He requests to see you, Master Alisdair and Missy Trinity." Notice, the word request over demands as that was how the man stated it and Jameson would relate exactly the words used. Words gave way to the disposition of the one speaking them more often than not. "They are downstairs seated in the front guest room." Which meant they would have been offered a drink, something to eat and so on.

"Indeed." Neale replied, almost without realizing. He nodded to Jameson, then looked back to his wife and daughter. "Trinity, you remain with your mother until we send for you." She didn't need to be around at first, but since his Lordship requested to speak with her, Neale had a feeling an apology better be forthcoming. First the men, however. "Alisdair." A sweep of hand indicated they begin below. When they started down the stairs together, Neale was speaking low. "You will apologize, Son, for the excessive force. For knocking him out. But you will do so to the father, not the boy. You'll not apologize for the act though. It was well deserved considering your sister's visual reaction." Alisdair wouldn't get the chance to respond because they cut the corner to the front room. "Lord Darwin." Neale offered over, crossing the distance with his hand extended. As they shook, the Duke of Falkirk nodded to the son. "Edmund."

They had taken a seat for Edward Darwin didn't know how long they might have to wait coming unannounced. He stood as soon as they heard them coming as well he indicated to Edmund to do the same. Edmund did so but slowly and looked to the floor rather than the Duke of Falkirk or his son and friend. "I am sorry to disturb you as such but matters needed to be seen to. Edmund has something to.." realizing the daughter was not present, "say. Mostly to your daughter, Trinity if she is available?" Edmund's glance strayed to the window as if wishing he could escape.

He almost thought his father was going to make him apologize to Edmund but when he heard that it was to his father, Alisdair was relieved. He squared his shoulders, ready to do just that. He glanced at Edmund then looked at Lord Darwin, and like his father, he offered his hand to the man. Then he stepped in front of Edmund and did the same.

"Of course, and my daughter will join us shortly. I thought it better that the men..." And he meant that title of men, considering the boys were old enough to steal kisses and throw punches, they could own up like men to their deeds. "should speak a moment first. Trinity and my wife will be down in a moment." Refreshments had been offered, but neither man had accepted so Neale allowed his gaze to wander from the men to the drinks and then back. He would offer something again, but for now, he waited to see which of the young males stepped up.

Edward shook Neale's hand then the son's before stepping back with a look given his son. Except Edmund was looking out the window. He cleared his throat, "Edmund.." prompting the lad back to reality. Edmund snapped his attention back. Eyes going a little wider as if he'd been off in some other safe place within his thoughts. "I'm sorry for what I did. It was wrong. I wasn't thinking right when Miss Trinity was standing there so close and so pretty.." his voice was changing having him croak a little as the octave went from baritone to alto. Which had him even more embarrassed. "My father set me straight on acting proper. I understand if you don't want me coming around anymore." Which now after all said and done was going to hurt the most. Once all was said, hoping he covered it all, he noticed Dair's hand outstretched still his way. He stepped forward really quick to shake it hoping it meant his apology was accepted.

He stepped away from Edmund after the handshake then looked from Edmund to Lord Darwin. "I also wish to apologize, sir, for my use of excessive force. It wasn't necessary to hit that hard." He hoped that would please his own father as he stepped back.

The Duke of Falkirk let the boy speak, and when he was done, turned to look out the double doors to Jameson with a fractional nod. The butler hurried off to escort the females down. Neale wouldn't coax Alisdair to contribute, the lad knew what he had to do, and when the words were spoken to Lord Darwin, Neale just stood beside his son, his pride well contained but there, oh, it was there. "Edmund, you've been a long time friend of this family, but this decision is definitely Alisdair's."

Jameson arrived as it gave her time to help Trinity wash away any of the tears that were caused and change into something more comfortable. Kath braided Tansy's hair too which made her look even younger and more innocent but to the fifteen year old... he'd only see her as beautiful. They appeared at the entry to the guest room escorted by Jameson who then bowed away and off but never too far he would not be there with a call of his name heard.

Lord Darwin gave a nod to Alisdair, addressing him as a man and not a child. Neither lads were children any more. "Perhaps if decisions allow," being it was not stated yet if his son, or even himself, would be welcome here again after his incident, "you can teach my son how to throw a punch and receive one too. It seems Edmund talent lies with the brush on canvas so far." Which the lad had promising talent. Although that in itself was another topic between father and son. It had Edward realizing that such talent came with emotions that were triggered unexpectedly, like a high strung breed of dog or horse. Edmund was trying not to stare as he caught sight of Trinity at the door with her mother. While his father talked with Dair and the Duke, he stammered out, "I'm really sorry Tansy," not realizing he used her nickname, "I didn't mean to hurt you or .. or.. " he started stuttering and clamped his mouth shut right there. Perhaps the talk with his father was starting to sink in. The problem was, he was sorry but he couldn't say he was sorry about trying to kiss her for he wanted to kiss her but now he knew you couldn't just go and kiss like he tried to do!

Edmund's sudden apology had Neale turning to see his wife and daughter. He reached out a hand to the girl to bring her to his side.

"I think it's as much Tansy's decision as mine, Edmund. We're still friends but I don't know if she'll want to see you." And there she was and Edmund had gone right ahead and apologized. Alisdair wasn't even sure he had been heard! He watched his sister then his father. Maybe he was going to get out of this with no punishment. No, it would happen. He just wasn't sure when.

Tansy didn't realize the starry eyed look she had as she watched Edmund. He was a handsome lad that had scared her with trying to kiss her. Red was creeping into her cheeks as she struggled with feelings she didn't understand and had never encountered before. "I don't mind as long as he keeps his lips to himself." Yet, she wasn't really sure of her words on that either which had her cheeks now blazing red. She gave a look of help her brother's way to see what he thought. The fist fight came with them. Kathleen knew that look and inwardly sighed. The years ahead would be hard on her daughter as well her parents. Especially since she was proving to be above average in looks. The talk would come this week once they were back from Ballicastle. Dark eyes lifted from daughter to husband to rest there with unspoken words as she waited on Dair to reply.

He hid a grin at the way the two stumbled around one another. Tansy got a wink then he looked at Edmund and this time he did shrug. "There you have it. You keep your lips to yourself, Edmund, and you're welcome here. As far as learning to fight, I'd be glad to help you with that, if my Father agrees." He didn't really want to stay mad at his friend and now he didn't have to.

"All in good time." Neale pulled his gaze from Kathleen as he spoke, then looked to first Edmund and then Falkirk's heir. Alisdair was not a fighter, but Patrick was, and if it came down to any training, both boys could get excellent tutelage on technique from that Frasier kin. Neale wouldn't have these teens just fist'a'cuffing it out for the hell of it. "I appreciate you coming, M'Lord. It seems to have been handled appropriately by all involved. Come, allow me to escort you to the door." Yes, there were still refreshments to be had, but the Frasier clan of children were preparing to go away and needed to prepare.

It was at that time that Patrick showed up in their part of the mansion to take the two to Ballicastle, well, after he picked up Gemma.

"I am pleased things could be worked out." Edward responded man to man. There were matters that he hoped to work alongside Neale with but now such would be held off until things quieted from these proceedings. He might have said more but the brother had arrived. "I will not keep your time," as they had at least an hour's worth by the time all was said and done. "I will speak with you later, Your Grace. Lord Patrick," giving the man a respectful nod as he motioned to his son that this was the time for them to leave. They had interrupted and would not stay, passing on the refreshments politely considering the reason they were here. Walking alongside Neale as well his son in escort to the door and out. Snow was coming down again and made for a peaceful feel, or maybe coupled with the relief the apology brought by all and set the unfortunate matter straight.

It was good to see their uncle though once again, Alisdair was wondering if he'd be allowed to go. He waited to make sure before he'd dash up the steps. He would hate to miss out but he'd understand too. Had Tansy gone upstairs already? He wouldn't take as long to get ready so he hoped so.

Kathleen got to say hello to Patrick and a goodbye to the neighboring Lord before she ushered Tansy up the steps to finish her packing. She would take longer than Alisdair for she wanted all her best dresses to choose from being she would be amongst the McAndrews lads. Oh, her head would be spinning! Any notions on Edmund would probably be dashed after a visit with the McAndrews lads.

Once Neale had offered his farewells, safe journeys, and the agreement to meet with Lord Darwin in the near future, the butler closed the door and the eldest Frasier looked back toward the room. "Do you have steel weights in your feet as well as steel in your fist, Alisdair. Get moving!" Neale nodded toward the steps, smiled and then crossed to Patrick to speak with his brother before they headed on their journey. He owed his Thorn 'one' after these next few nights alone with Kathleen.

"No sir!" He grinned and turned on a heel, running up the steps as fast as he could. Not as much to pack indeed! And he'd forget about all this and thoroughly enjoy himself. A few days away from home and with Uncle Patrick as chaperone!


Date: 01-28-12
Poster: Kathleen Frasier
Post # 3

All Quiet

It wasn't long before their section of Falkirk Manor grew quiet with even little Neale taken with brother and sister to Ballicastle with their uncle Patrick. Kathleen turned to her husband with a twinkle in her eye. "Now, where were we? A drink of brandy? Perhaps you can tell me how your day went." He had been in conversation with Garrett that might be something he would speak on with her. There was another matter but it was his turn in a way. Of course she stepped closer to run a hand up his arm in a loving touch.

Neale actually released a breath he didn't realize he had been holding, smiling down to his wife, and then watching that path of hand up his arm. "We could do either of those things, or ... " His arm had extended to rest a hand on the indent of her waist, fingers curling around her back. "We could see to that a little later. I do believe I have a more pressing..." His voice faded away. "Wait, you told me you had other matters you needed to discuss. After Alisdair's...I'm sorry, Kathleen." A shake of head offered over his genuine apologies. "We have a somewhat quiet house, and where you are concerned, I am too easily distracted. Tell me what you need of me."

Her hand wove up to rest against his stubble cheek. "There is much I need of you but if I don't bring up the few concerns before.." well.. he knew what that before was 'before', "then I fear I'll forget while in your arms," and the heat of passion they shared but that didn't need to be said. That flame was there just waiting to be allowed to ignite more. "Ellyn. Approval was given her to become a trainee under Princess Noirin for the order of Athena. Has.. anyone spoken to her about men? Being she will be amongst them in a way most young ladies are not." Which she waited in a short pause for any response.

Neale's thumb stroked against the fabric of her clothing while she spoke. "Yes, I've spoken with the Princess about her appointment. But..." A faint pucker of a frown pulled his brow, there...gone. "She will be there amongst the males, but for training purposes. Why would she need 'that' sort of discussion?" The Duke was by no means unaware that his niece was of the age to 'need' such a discussion, but amongst the warriors and under Noir's care, surely ... well, surely. Allow him his delusional comforts that Ellyn was still too young and uninterested for the talk of which Kathleen spoke.

Which had her blink a few times. The whole subject matter had weighed on her to even approach but something within drove her to no matter how uncomfortable. "I'm not quite sure how to explain this but coming from a woman's intuition. Ellyn is innocent in many ways, innocent of men and I fear, wouldn't know a bloke spewing sweet words over one that was sincere." Which she paused to collect her reasoning on even broaching the subject. "She has that look in her eyes of a lass that might well have a crush on one of those men and, well, I just wish not to see her taken advantage of." Ellyn had always been a tomboy of sort but recently, she was acting more like a young woman taking that kind of care about her looks and attire.

"That...look?" Neale looked over Kathleen's shoulder as if, standing on the other side, he might see his niece and the look he had missed. "Noirin has assured me, Kathleen, that the Order is strict on their inductees. It will be good for Ellyn to have rules that she can't twist about because the one overseeing her adores her and wishes her to be happy in whatever she does." His other hand tapped at his chest, then reached out to tap Kathleen lightly on the top of her head. They were both guilty of giving Ellyn a loose grip when it came to her reins. The lass pulled them tight no matter how much they shook them free. That...was the tomboy in her. Then the Duke took a step back from his wife, cocking his head to the side as he studied her features, arms crossing at his chest. "And tell me true, My Love, how does any woman know when a man is sincere or when he is just spewing sweet nonsense? I've never been able to tell the difference." A quick uplift of chin was a precursor for his smile. "Perhaps, though, you are right, you should talk to her before she settles into her new life."

There was a soft sigh in resignation. She felt she had blundered in getting her point across. "Then you wish not to speak to her on the various kinds of men women fall for..." more a statement than a question. "I was not trying to slight the set up procedures and rules under the Order of Athena that Ellyn adheres to. It is that they do not restrict her from being around the many males, around her." She knew that almost all of them had let a lot of things slide where Ellyn was concern for the injustice life had thrown her. She tipped her head to the side to study him with the last of his question, digesting it. A slow smile hinted, "is that a trick question?" Oh wait, she paled a little, "me? I can't say I'm much of an authority on the various kinds of men, I only knew you." Which was true! But, if he wished not to be the one to have a talk with Ellyn, then she would attempt it or talk to Shiloh first in what she thought being she was more worldly than Kathleen felt she was. There was another thought too to throw in there, "do you think this is something her father should speak to her on?" She didn't want to pretend he didn't exist even if Neale had Ellyn as his ward. That happened when Channing had gone missing and continued since the man lived in a different reality but who was to judge that reality? Did that take away from him being a good father to his only child? Kathleen was mentally off on a tangent.

Once. Twice. The third time Neale opened his mouth to speak, he shut it again but when she mentioned Royce, his head started to move back and forth with his negative reply. "Channing? Good Lord, no. He would probably expect for Lenora to have already explained things. No." Neale sucked in a really deep breath, filling his chest cavity completely before releasing it. "I never thought about it before, Duchess, but if you feel I should speak with the lass, I most definitely will." His hold released at his chest and he raked his fingers through his hair, resulting in an uncharacteristic disheveled appearance for the Duke of Falkirk. "But you feel she has that look? So, she has already set her eye on someone?" If Neale allowed himself to consider the 'group' she usually hung with, those young men were definitely a rather impressive lot to consider. The McAndrews triplets? The Prince Tykir? What if she was interested in someone older? Surely they came in contact with the knights of the realm as well in their escapades. God. His stomach ached and his chest tightened all of a sudden.

"Oh," and here there was a soft laugh to follow, "I don't mean to be explaining the facts of life. I'm sure she knows all about them. I mean more the ways of men that she might not fall in love with the wrong kind." Using the word love for that was what a crush was based on, that his niece, his ward, might have fallen to such clutches. She felt that Ellyn was at least smart enough to listen to Neale and that he would have a far better understanding of the male mind than she had. She had been lucky. A hand came to rest upon his chest with the tilt of an upward chin. Certainly it would be a far harder task if she was asking him to explain the facts of life to one who probably knew those facts already.

Was it harder? Explaining the 'facts' would be far easier than attempting to explain any 'variables of men'. "That should be easy enough, I'll just make sure she understands to avoid them all...and she will never have to worry over sincerity." Since he was only mildly, vaguely, completely, serious, he smiled to his wife. "I'll make sure she knows I wish to speak with her." And Alisdair thought having to deal with Neale was tough, THIS discussion, THIS, was what tough was all about.

Just because a McAndrews prince was royal born, didn't make for them to be a good man where a woman was concern. In fact, a few of those McAndrews broke hearts without ever realizing it. Oi, the complexity of it all but she had faith in Neale. ".....or not to choose a man less than you are." Adding that with a smirk for certainly she took his comment as not being serious at all! "Thank you. It eases my mind for I feel as a mother towards her." Even if she was not that much older than her niece by marriage. She had her arms around him, squeezing with the appreciation for easing her mind on it all. He was her hero!

Those young men, any of them in her clique, were the exact reason for his pained interior! She was rubbing elbows and shoulders with those royal heart breakers all the time. Neale knew the older generation well and the younger ones were not proving any different in their appeal to the opposite sex. Finally she was in his arms again and he wrapped his own around her. "You are as a mother towards her, Kathleen." His head dipped, pressing a kiss to the top of hers, breathing in the fragrance of her hair. "I doubt that not." With his wife still in his embrace, he leaned back slightly to look down to her. "Anything else?"

"It is why I came to you on this matter," was more murmured in against his chest, because she felt as a mother would over her child. That kind of concern to see them not get hurt, not just physically but emotionally. She felt as snug as a bug in a rug being in his arms and held to that comfortable feel for a moment. Perhaps the words he'd been waiting for came next as she lifted her head to look into his eyes again. "Only in what a wife needs of her husband.." slow was the luring smile as dark eyes held that inner flame that was already igniting for him to see.

That green gaze locked with hers. "At last." Not even caring that the housestaff still milled about to settle the manor for the evening, Neale scooped his wife up in his arms and carried her down the hall to their private rooms. If Jensen cast a smiling gaze that way, neither Neale nor Kathleen would know. Falkirk was Jensen's home too, and he was all to proud of the fact that the Lord and Lady of the manor were so infatuated with each other. Made the future all the more pleasant to think on. Yes. Yes indeed.


Date: 01-31-12
Poster: Neale Frasier
Post # 4


Family meals at Falkirk were always busy and crowded and loud. The dining room buzzing with conversation, with food service, with laughter. Any Frasier who missed out on the meal, could be sure to catch a bite in the kitchen following and then join up with the family in one of several family rooms or outside on the south lawn when the weather permitted. Usually, Falkirk teamed with activity and kin, wandering here, there, everywhere. Not tonight.

The younger of the clan were off with Patrick to the castle, leaving the parents to enjoy their evenings in quiet company. Not a single couple wasn't taking advantage of the special favor provided by The Thorn. Since the manor house would be relatively quiet these couple of days, the Duke of Falkirk had sent a special request to the Princess Noir that he might have an evening with his Niece. Yes, he was aware she was in training. Yes, he realized that it was important that she abide by the standards set by the Order for the inductees. Yes. Yes. And yes, he would make sure she was back in time for training, so that she didn't fall behind in physical or mental training. Yes. Because of the trip, dinner tonight was relatively quiet, just casual talk between the adults and Ellyn about what she was currently learning, how she felt she was doing. If she was enjoying herself. Then as the plates were cleared away, the others gradually took their leave to various parts of the manor. Leaving Neale, Kathleen and Ellyn seated around the table. Kathleen excused herself with a smile and kind word for Ellyn, leaving Neale and his niece at the large table, she to his immediate left.

Ellyn had found it strange that Noir gave her time off to go visit her family. She had been working hard and that seemed to be the excuse for it. She had been too. Admittedly. She was constantly going even after practice was over. She would practice longer, sometimes with a few of the squires that lingered to watch her. She taunt them about standing there like bumps on a log instead of joining in. She usually got her way, especially if she smiled at them. It was amazing what a smile could sometimes do. She also had a few pet projects she worked on when not hanging out with her social peers. The request, however, plagued her as a zillion thoughts over. The more she found it all quizzical, the more she felt there was some dire reason behind it even if she really could not imagine what it was. Had her father gotten worse? So when the time came for her to go, she made haste. It was always better to find out what was wrong than think what might be wrong!

She usually wore pants and a loose fitting top. Tom boy attire she was once told in a taunting way by a lad who ended up with a bloody nose as the consequence. Tonight, she wore a rich deep wine gown. One that dipped slightly in the front as was fashionable but certainly attested to the fact, she was not a boy. In fact she was bustier than most girls but not overly either. The gown only enhanced that she was very female. There was also a hint of a perfume that had luring quality to it that a man would find pleasing. To her it was a nice smelling perfume that was not too heavy. She stood as Kathleen took her leave, finding that a little odd too but didn't question it. A hug and a touch of a kiss to her cheek was returned with ease. She stood there a moment with a hint of a smile growing as she studied her Uncle that had served as a father as well when she needed. "It has been a very long time being alone with you like this. It brings back some of the better memories I have as a child." She took her seat again and poured herself some more tea.

Neale had also stood as the others made good their departures, accepting his wife's hand with a kiss to her knuckles and then a soft, barely visible nod to her as she left them. That green Frasier gaze shifted back to Ellyn as she spoke, lowering once more to his chair when she did, and waiting for her to finish her tea service before he responded. Unlike the stoic, reserved Duke of Falkirk, with Ellyn, he was relaxed, comfortable. His elbows rested on the table and fingers laced, and he leaned forward a little to rest his chin on top of the support provided by that union. "I miss it, you know. This time -- me and you." He smiled over to her, then released his grip and sat back, the chair behind creaking softly with the returned weight of man. "But I'm pleased you've found your niche, Ellyn, with the Order. I don't for even a moment, doubt you will excel. You'll be an asset for Heathfield and Her security, and I'm happy for you...and for us, knowing we will be well protected by the Princess' forces."

It was good that he wasn't stuffy with her or she would be fleeing the scene. Instead she enjoyed the bit of tea before setting it down as focus turned completely on her Uncle. Whom she sometimes called, "Poppy, is my father all right?" She would get to the crux of this for certainly that would be bad news and a reason for getting her here tonight to ease her into bad news? She settled a touch more with his words, "I have missed the times too but time has one grow up and step out on their own. I love the Order and I feel I will be of great service to the Queen and all of the royal family as needed. It is a honorable profession to choose." It also allowed that fierce part of her nature to be released in a controlled way. Fighting. Defending. Protecting. The foremost thought on her mind was out in the least. Neale's faith in her boost her like no other could. She fought well and excelled but there was still that doubt in her own mind at times. Something she would deal with and was. He had not mentioned anything out of the ordinary as she slightly cocked her head in study of her beloved Uncle. She had learned to wait, err.. practicing it right now was more to the truth and kept quiet.


Date: 02-25-12
Poster: Ellyn Royce
Post # 5

The Talk

Neale smiled over to her, shifting in his chair so that he braced an up-bent elbow upon the arm of it and then leaned to rest his jaw against his fisted hand as he looked to her. "Your father is well, as you could see at dinner. There is nothing new with the man although he seems to be distracted less and less with the illusions of ..." He sat straighter, lowering his arm, as if the Duke seemed to realize his slight in taking such a comfortable stance and that his confession to Ellyn might not be such a relief for her after all. He didn't mention her mother, but finished his statement with a generalization instead. "...the past." He sat forward, extending an uplifted palm toward her as it rested on the tabletop. "There is a reason, though, that I asked that you be relieved of your duties and your barracks tonight, Ellyn."

The line of her shoulders eased hearing her father was actually, possibly, relating to the here and now more. "Maybe one day I can break through that invisible wall I feel were my father is concern and get to know him. Is it true that I look so much like my mother?" Wondering if that was part of the problem. She didn't understand death of someone so close and it was hard for her when feeling shut out. But, there was always hope and she knew her father did love her in his estranged way. She stalled in her thoughts as he extended his hand palm up and so after that initial confusion, she lifted hers to extend and set upon his, a smile coming with the effort. At first she thought he said relieved of her duties and barracks but the for tonight sunk in. Her heart sunk for a moment with a quick intake of a breath. "Please, do tell, Uncle." He had her curiosity instead now.

His fingers curled over hers gently. For all he had attempted to provide for her over the years, Neale realized Ellyn still did not understand he felt as if she was one of his own. So much had been sacrificed for her, with her, and though she remained so dear to him, she was not ... his. The chasm had to be crossed between Channing and Ellyn. Neale started first with her question, meeting her eyes and holding them. "You are as your mother was, a woman of beauty and spirit. That you have her in you bothers no one here, no one, but only brings her closer to us all. As I've told you, so many times, she was a woman with Frasier spirit. As has Hannah, as have you. It is no surprise to me that you've chosen this noble calling." That said, Neale drew in a breath. "You will, no doubt, be exposed to much that will be new to you. good." He nodded, he made himself nod. He swallowed. He made himself swallow. He made himself continue. "I've been made aware...." He paused. "I am aware that you'll be exposed to many different personalities, both female and male." Can. Worms. Open.

Her uncle was as dear to her as her rightful father. But, her rightful father lived under their roof too. It made it hard but she had a big enough heart to love them both, each differently and presently, she loved her Uncle more as her father than her father. In spite of that there was still a need to get to know him. He had been dear to her mother who she never knew and would never know. The statement about her and her mother brought a smile worthy of pure sunlight. It warmed and swelled her heart. At the same time it brought her eyes to water with the repressed tears because she would only know her mother through those that had loved her dearly. The next part was confusing as it stood to reason she would be meeting many new males and females alike. "Yes, I've been making friends of both genders.." which had her cock her head to the side wondering where this was leading as so far she was clueless. She also noted the nod, the swallow, the mannerisms she had learned that came just before the crux of the topic, which she felt they were not at yet.

"Yes, I'm aware of your friends. You've been keeping excellent company." He gave her hand a squeeze. You are young. No. Not a good start. I realize you are naive to ... No. That wouldn't do. Neale Fraiser, the Duke of Falkirk, Laird of the Fraisers, Captain of The Flames Fury, well versed and voiced and prepared...was at a loss. He was lacking as he looked across the table into the trusting, loving eyes of his niece as she waited patiently for him to get his thoughts together. Every word he had mentally constructed and perfected prior to this moment...Gone. Presently he was adrift on a makeshift raft upon an unfamiliar sea. Neale sucked in a deep, deep, deeper breath. Smiled to Ellyn. Then let that breath out slowly. "Okay, here it is, Ellyn." Leaning forward a bit more, his other hand sandwiched the one already in his grasp. "Males. For the most part? It is hard to read them. It is the same for females I suppose, it is difficult to know what they are really feeling or wanting or ... hiding..." That raft was rocking dangerously to pitching him off. "There are scoundrels out there. And a pretty, intelligent, wealthy, spirited lass such as yourself, you're a definite temptation to a man. Even those men who you may be fighting alongside." His head dipped back and he looked to the ceiling. This...was not going as he had intended. He brought his gaze back to her. "I am not insinuating that the warriors of these lands are less than honorable or noble." Green Frasier eyes narrowed and he attempted to seek out some semblance of comprehension within Ellyn's gaze. "Am I making myself clear?"

Her smile quivered back and forth as he spoke. Relief, certainly, that he approved of her peers. Most of them were royalty even! Those of good family and breeding if one were to look at it that way. There was a lot of innocence behind those big green eyes but there was also those of a woman who was struggling into her own. She watched her uncle struggle with something so it had to be really important. He was as a fish out of water flopping around or so it seemed. Still, she knew he would be out with it soon. There it was too. "Males.." was automatically parroted as to let it all sink in. Which only took a few seconds as the heat rose from her neck to her cheeks. She noticed his reference to women - hiding - that didn't bode well on his experiences. "I didn't think, or feel, any are attracted to me when there are so many beautiful females out there." Which was true and her doubt rose up out of nowhere. Blink. Well, yes, some of those males she trained with could use a beating for some of their looks given females, not just herself. "Yes." She could still feel the heat in her cheeks and he would probably take it for the subject at hand than something else that was really triggering the heat. Normally she would not respond such to talk on males or talk on male and female relationships. "I will love from afar or otherwise bring them home for you to meet." She was sure Neale and any of her other uncles would spot a scoundrel.

The fact may be, that Neale, and any other of her uncles, may find every male a scoundrel where their darling niece was concerned. His fingers closed tighter around Ellyn's hand but not to the point of discomfort. It was more a protective, unconscious response. "I would never wish for you to love from afar, Ellyn. Such an emotion is wasted with distance. But as you experience..." He cleared his throat softly. " may just wish to keep in mind these simple words. My father sat me down when I was younger, back before I took to the sea to make my own way. Back when I thought that bearing a title, being a Duke, was frivilous and not worthy enough of all that I wished to accomplish in my life. Back before I became arrogant and certain my father could not possibly know what was best for me. We age though, and learn ... and the wisdom of our elders eventually makes all the sense in the world." Neale winked to Ellyn. "Your grandfather was a damn fine man and I continue to strive to be the laird he would have me be." He chuckled a bit, realizing he had gotten off the subject. "Back then, he sat me down on the top rail of a fence, looking me eye to eye and told me....'the true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. It is in that way you know that man's worth.' That's what I'm passing on to you, Ellyn. Don't be wary of life and those who come to you, those that tug at your emotions. You need not be scared to live and to love. But be mindful. Watch. Seek out that true measure of any man. Be he your kin." He slipped his top hand free and rested that across his own chest at heart level. "Or one who may be seeking to be more than just acquaintance or friend."

Her fingers were curled with his in a comfortable way. A loving touch that could be shared between one that was her father in all sense of the word, with his daughter. "It is?" That slipped right out on the comment of loving from afar. It was not something she would have thought. To her it was safe to love that way. She had seen so many disappointed when love came like a brush fire only to leave ashes and charred emotions behind. She was quiet again as she listened intently. This was an area she really, admittedly, knew little about. Perhaps there would be some insight here to share and she was willing to take such insight to heart. Her Uncle had opened up to her, and it was her turn to open up to him. Well, at least ask some questions that might put some things in perspective. "What if you are attracted to a man you feel you could never be with?" Now there was the million dollar question. "I would be scared to tell him that he would laugh at me, or pat me on the head like I was just a kid." The last she took in but wasn't quite sure what he was getting at. She could mull it over later as she waited to hear his advice on the question posed.

Red flag...snapping...flapping...before his face. Neale studied Ellyn a moment more then he nodded slowly as he started to speak again. "Attraction is one thing, Ellyn. Devotion is another. Attraction captures the eye. Devotion captures and claims the heart. You are not a child, Ellyn. And by you simply stating this concern that you may be considered so, may be your own answer. The truth doesn't hurt unless it ought to." Neale continued to search those large, expression-filled green eyes of his niece.

Oi, that had her mind reeling back and forth, back and forth. It made her physically shiver. Was she so see-through? Here she thought she was being older in addressing this but she could tell her Uncle was seeing right through her. "Then I should go and tell the one and if he pats me on the head then I have my answer." It took her a moment to realize what she had just said, what she had just admitted to. She was squirming on the inside but in a way, it was a relief to let someone know for she had kept it all secret. She was good about secrets, stealth, she had to be. Not that any had been bad secrets. She had imaginary friends for a while too, maybe that was a trait she had shared with her father. Except her imaginary friends had never been real. Lashes lowered over obviously all too revealing eyes as she found her feet landing on unfamiliar grounds. Not all that unlike what Neale had just struggled through in having this talk with her.

Ellyn was already good about ...hiding. God help her. Her comment to his advice made it all too clear she did not understand a single word of it. But, he hadn't either when his father had offered them over to him...back then. "That's not what I'm saying, Ellyn. Right now, I'm saying, don't set your cap to be patted by any man. I can't say what you are feeling is love or not, are feeling anything about anyone...anyway." She was confiding in him, and he knew it, but was it better to allow her to believe that maybe he wasn't so certain as to the definites of that confession? "But what I'm saying deserve nothing less, nothing less, than a man of worth. That does not mean wealth, that means ... worth. So be mindful as well as hopeful, and with time, attraction can grow to devotion. But it can't be forced or hurried or demanded. Be patient. Be watchful. But be happy, Ellyn. Too much worry over it all means it isn't right. It comes. Trust me." He nodded slowly, smiling to her. "It comes all on its own."

She gave a sigh, sounding like more in relief. "A worthwhile man. I would have nothing less but that doesn't mean such a one would be attracted to me in the same way. Someone who has humor in the face of diversity but doesn't take from him being serious. One who knows how to be devoted, to be dependable when it matters. One who takes life with an ease that makes it look simple and he is not bogged down by its trials. One that if he were to love a woman, she would be the luckiest one in the world." Yeah, she had it bad but it was her first crush. Nothing much came of crushes, she knew this, but still it didn't stop the head nor heart from feeling as she did. Now it was her turn to slightly nod. To slightly swallow, "I am attracted to an older man." Was that terrible?

Neale had listened, had summed it all up and had the answer all lined up to offer to her. Because his niece would be more than noticed by such a man. Until... The Duke of Falkirk could keep expression from showing on his features. It was a necessity when dealing with his siblings, or in business. The Captain of The Fury could wear a blank mask so effectively, none could even begin to guess what lurked beneath. Neale Frasier, Uncle to Ellyn Frasier, barely managed the same. He kept his eyes locked with hers, his hand resting beneath hers, his breath synchronized with hers. "Older? Exactly how much older?"

She had watched, had tried to read him but when he asked that question, eyes went owlish. "I'm not sure. Maybe ten, maybe twenty?" She had not asked nor knew exactly how old the man was. So, maybe it did matter? "He is not an old man." That much she could reassure her uncle. "He is a mature man." That sounded a little bit better!


Date: 03-04-12
Poster: Neale Frasier
Post # 6

Ten years. One thing. Twenty...that was a totally different ball of string. Neale kept his features and his gaze expressionless although within his chest, his heart pounded out a beat that he might begin to fear she could hear. He searched her eyes, those eyes so full of life and hope and promise while his mind raced. Was it one of Heathfield's knight's? One of Ballicastle's? Was it even a knight? "I won't press you for a name, Ellyn. This man of worth you are ..." He hesitated, fighting back the use of several words in that breath, to keep from putting any thoughts in her head. "...interested in must surely be deserving of your notice. To be of such a matured age, he must be a man whose choice in woman is..." Neale's hand tightened around hers. " this man married?" Oh God help them.

Perhaps it was a only a crush. Perhaps it was an infatuation or .. there was always the perhaps she was truly in love with such a man. A man Neale would approve of. A man her father would approve of. Except, perhaps, for his age in comparison to hers. But, all this was a mote point considering she had no idea if the man could or would return such feelings. The man was clueless! There was a soft sigh that escaped, sounding far more feminine than she usually portrayed herself. She looked every inch a vulnerable woman in love sitting across from him with her hand still in his. Eyes had lowered with a brush of thick lashes against flushed cheeks. She was resigned and on the edge of telling him who this man was just so he might say, turn around and walk away. Forget him, find someone your own age. Should she? Green eyes lifted in that moment looking so much like her mother, his sister. Perhaps that bit of indignation Leora would exhibit at times. "No, I would never fall for a man that was married." Like one had control over matters of the heart and whom one chose to give their heart to. "I don't think he has ever been married." But that might sound bad too? "He's not one interested in other men." The last being a firm statement as certainly she had learned there were such men, especially in large groups of men. Well, she wasn't going to go there in her thoughts for they were still on this mature man they were speaking on. She was still in debate to just say who it was but she still stalled.

Did Neale's heart just skip a beat? As it did so many times when Ellyn looked up in a certain way, held her head in a certain way, moved in a certain way? "He must be waiting then for his ... special someone. Speaks volumes for the man." He'd say no more about preferences, for in truth, neither one of them knew this man's inclinations or reasons for not being with a woman at this stage in his life. "Ellyn..." Neale leaned forward, scooting toward her as he did from his place at the head of the table so that he could lift and turn her hand, pressing his lips to her knuckles. He kept his eyes with hers even as he lowered it again. "Bide your time. There are none of us who know what the future holds. But trust me in this, no matter what it is, or with whom it may be with, whatever we do and will endure, is made to make us who we are meant to be. Bide your time. Don't hide yourself away by any means...but, Lady Royce, bide your time."

That statement was the first words that actually encouraged her feelings. "Do you think? Yes, that could be it," more mussed as she thought on it but there was the flirt of a smile back and fort upon her lips just as fleeting as her thoughts. She squirmed inside as a bit of guilt surfaced. Her words coming in near a whisper. "Is it bad that I've sent him gifts anomalously? I felt a need to express myself but not the guts, yet, to face him. I fear, being laughed at..." which her words trailed off as did her eyes sweep away with the admittance only to come back again. There was hope that such a deed was not so bad? Perhaps many did it?

"Gifts?" Neale cleared his throat softly, this was a bit more than he had bargained for when he agreed with Kathleen to speak with her. Maybe this was more Kathleen's forte and not his. "Perhaps...perhaps not." He answered, his chin dipped to his chest in thought and then lifted again so he could catch her eyes once more. "Did you get to see his reaction to receiving them?"

She could feel the blush rising, "I dared not the first two times but I could not resist the last. He has no idea nor his comrades." She was starting to feel the guilt as it was becoming more clear that she should feel a bit guilty. "If you were single and receiving such gifts, yet clueless as to whom they were coming from. Your comrades aware of them too as it seems they are rarely apart," she was babbling right on and didn't bother to stop as this might give her the best insight, "how would you feel? Would you want to know who was sending them when they pleased you?" That much she had gotten and pleased her probably just as much as the man.

"Depends on the gift, I suppose, Ellyn." He closed his eyes, placing himself in such a position there in his imagination, but just as quickly opened them again to look at his niece. "I'm not single, however. Though I would be intrigued, for sure, and depending on the particular gift, complimented and pleased that someone would know enough about me. Best, though, if maybe you didn't send anything else, unless you wish him to know, of course." The Duke of Falkirk actually just shrugged one shoulder. "And if that's the case, if you wish for him to know, then you should hand it to him yourself." Neale eased his hand from Ellyn's. "I don't know who this man is, Ellyn, and I don't wish for you to tell me. But do know this, My Dear Niece. There is little that is not shared among comrades, especially if they are rarely apart as you say." Which gave her Uncle cause to 'assume' the man whom she had an interest in was among the fighting forces of one of the kingdoms. "If you persist, you will be found out. So make your choice now whether you wish for him to know...ever. Because, Ellyn Royce, he will."

She was nodding as she listened, well part of her brain listened, the other part was off on its own tangent. Bottom lip tucked and was lightly chewed on. Something she did when in debate. Once released the debate was over, this was something Neale would most likely notice. He was her uncle. Her father in all truth of the word. He cared. He could be trusted. Perhaps this weight was not so bearable anymore. Without rhyme nor reason she spewed out the name. "SirLazareCarno." Sounded like one word as she sucked back in a breath. She blinked in an owlish way as her mind raced, had he just asked her not to say the name? OHMYGOD, he had! There it hung between them and she couldn't snatch it back or she would to respect his request. She visibly paled and looked about to faint. In a small voice she heard herself saying, "I will personally deliver the next gift." Although she wasn't sure what she would get him but she would be delivering it in person when she could get him alone.

Had she just spouted out the name? OHMYGOD, she had! And there it hung, even as she paled and struggled and finally spoke again. Not just one of the fighting forces, not just a knight of one of the realms, but ... One of the Four! Sir Lazare Carno. Ahshit. That didn't slip from his mind to his lips though. No. Her uncle just sat back, raking his fingers through his hair. A man of worth. Dammit. Could Neale have set this up in the man's favor any better? The Duke fought back the need to groan and in its place, he smiled to Ellyn. "You definitely know a good man when you see him, Ellyn. I'll not worry about that anymore." Would the warrior unknowingly belittle her if she did make her feelings known though? What was the age difference? The life experience difference was immense! "Would you like my advice?"

"Yes.." came in a whispered response full of relief. At least her Uncle approved of her choice. She certainly did. She could go on with her praises of the man but then his head would be bigger than the world they stood upon. This time she heard! Thank goodness her mind was not quite as scattered just thinking and talking on Lazare. Advice. Advice? She could use advice, she braced herself, "yes.." and waited.

She heard because it had been to some degree, and might just continue to be, what she wanted to hear. Would it be? "Sir Carno is a warrior, Ellyn. Regardless of the age difference, there is the difference of a lifetime. I truly believe the Horseman would never hurt you intentionally, but he is single for a reason, Sweetheart. I can only reiterate...bide, your, time."

She wasn't quite sure what he was meaning by what he was saying. When did she ever have to bide her time like he implied? "I should not deliver .... a gift in person?" For if she did that sounded like it would break biding her time in the way suggested. "I know there are many experiences I am lacking.." and she inwardly curled into a knot because it was not something she could do anything about. "I was hoping.." what exactly was she hoping? Sounded hopeless at the moment, "well," tears welled in her eyes, "I'm not sure what to do exactly. Is it possible to erase what the heart feels because it is not something plausible?" She felt like she was sinking fast as it all seemed to be collapsing around her. Maybe it was not possible for her to find a love like her friend had.

"Believe me when I say, Ellyn, there is no erasing, only dealing and moving on. And I'd never suggest you deny your feelings only, like I've said, watch the man more. Find out why he isn't with a female now. Does he not have the time? Is there someone maybe back in Luneberg? You are in training, Ellyn. It's there your mind and your efforts should be centered. Romantic sensibilities are all fine and grand, but ... set your priorities, lass. Do you wish to be a warrior? Or do you wish to be a wife? And in which order do you wish to achieve those two?"

"I am beginning to wonder if love can be a terrible thing." That too was more mussed but certainly felt that she expressed that concern. Perhaps fear was a better word. Eyes were wide as she blinked again like an owl would. "I would want to be both if it is possible. Princess Noirin is both.." she just took time off when she was pregnant but she came back. "Would you not like grand nieces and nephews one day?" Although they would be more like grandchildren to him.. those that would be hers if that were to be. "I would have to find the right man," so in that she had something common with Lazare in waiting but what did she do in the meantime? Her mind was reeling once more over the matter. "I should probably tell him I had sent the gifts," she was pretty certain about that at this point or so felt was the right thing to do. She was chewing on her bottom lip again. "Such a dilemma though, for how do I watch and find out all those other things when he knows how I feel then?" She was mussing out loud at this point. "Maybe I can hold off some and find out those things but then let him know.." that might work better.

Neale sat quietly while she mussed aloud but then ... At last! Did Neale actually blow out a breath of relief when she made that final decision. He hadn't doubted she would eventually get there, but his insides were clenched tight until she did. "Warrior first, Ellyn, wife next, like the princess, if you wish to make the comparison." He nodded to her, wiping his hands along his thighs and then standing. "I know without a moment's hesitation, Ellyn, that you will find a way to do the right thing here. And, Love is never, ever a terrible thing. Not even when it is lost. It hurts like it will never heal, but it does, if you allow it to, and you move on to greater loves. Sarina gave me Alisdair. Your uncles have loved and lost and found great blessings followed. Your mother...blessed us with you. No one ever said loving someone was easy, if it's a true love, it really is hard as hell. Guess that's not what you want to hear, but it's how I perceive it. It hurts me to think I might ever lose Kathleen. She life. It hurts me to think that one day I may not be here for her. For any of you. But oh so worth it." He winked to Ellyn, leaning in to touch a kiss to her forehead. Sarcasm laced his next comment. "I'm so optimistic, Ellyn...aren't you glad you spoke with me?"

She rose as he did, a relief in many ways washing over her. She was glad for this talk. "Thank you Uncle, your wisdom of words have always been appreciated." She had hoped that love was not a terrible thing even if it didn't work out or work out how you had hoped it would. She remembered Sarina and had liked her. She had been good to her. Kathleen was now liked and good to her. She was glad he didn't continue with such ugly thoughts. Changing the subject as a gleam rose in her eyes when she stepped away from the chair to do a turn about once, hands flowing down over the swell of her hips. "How does a dress look on me?" Being she had always dressed as the tom boy when she could dress herself and could choose what to wear. It was getting late and best to leave the night on a lighter note.

Neale passed an appreciative gaze over her swirling form. For all her rough and tumble ways, deep down she was a female. "How does it look? It looks like you should wear one more often." Neale offered his hand out to her. He, himself, would see Ellyn back to the Princess.

There would be one pleased warrioress heading back to the barracks of Heathfield this night, wearing a smile for many reasons. She lifted upon tiptoe to place a kiss to his cheek, saying more than words that were not needed from there in her thanks. "It is late but not too late for the ride." Pleased he would be accompany her when he need not but that meant they could talk on other things the while.

"Just means more time I can spend with you." Who knew what else she may confess on the ride back? And in that case, would the Duke of Falkirk ever be sane again?


Date: 05-03-12
Poster: Ellyn Royce
Post # 7

Hero of the Heart

Spring had sprung and the energy had everyone practicing with greater zest.. and longer. Many stayed on putting off their lunch break to try out some of the new moves they were shown. Ellyn was one of them. Or perhaps a few of the lads, from squire to soldier to guard, lingered to watch her. She was wearing the lighter leather armor being this was only practice. She was doing the hand-over swing that had her turning and dipping away from her enemy, only to turn up behind them in a final blow. The dummies had that perpetual perplexed face, straight line for the mouth, star shape for the eyes and a thick wooden post that could swivel if hit hard enough, making the straight out arms spin.

It might be spring, but it was warm. Warm enough to cause a good sweat to gather and streak a path down the spine or down the temples. Some of the more devoted of the ranks had lingered after the set hour for the mid day meal to try something new, or attempt to master something they had already learned. Grunts and shouts, hoots and, at times, laughter, filled the field and along its edge. Vincent and Lazare had remained, both seated on a bench, a log of the day's accomplishments and challenges braced to de Beauvais' thigh as both men studied it. At times, this one or that would look up, just to give their thoughts or their eyes a break. If they spoke, with all the commotion flanking the field and taking place on it, none would hear.

The Dragon had looked up just as Ellyn came up behind the practice dummy, dark gaze narrowing with consideration. "The Order of Athena has some promising recruits this season." He muttered low, watching her before his notice eased over to the men and boys lining the field a bit further up to watch her. "Hmmm." Was the hum of consideration. "Could be a problem."

Lazare lifted his head, scanning the field in the opposite direction until his notice touched on the lass having at the padded fellow who didn't stand much of a chance against her at the moment. "That's the Frasier lass..." His chin lifted with an upward nod, as if agreeing with himself. "The one that was with Tykir in that cavern."

De Beauvais watched her a little longer then dropped his eyes back down to the work at hand, or thigh, as the case may be. "Do believe she is a Royce, Carno. But she is of Falkirk."

Lazare nodded some more, unlike Vincent, he hadn't felt the need to go back to business as usual yet. "Ellyn." Carno added.

Vincent murmured out an affirmative, all deep and vibrating at the back of his throat. The Dragon didn't lift his gaze again.

Hair was pulled up and back in a long pony tail that curled. She wore the same as the lads but the dip in front didn't show off a muscular chest but a sheen over skin that was tanning over the rise of feminine mounds. Ellyn was slightly bustier than the average. The short mail skirt over leather only covered her upper thighs leaving shapely legs exposed to just below the knees which were encased in light leather boots.The kind one could move with agility as if no boots at all. Shapely in muscular but not muscular like a male. Of course any red blooded male noticed but most noticed with respect. Ellyn was unaware of them for her mind was set on what she was doing. That was until she took a break, hand lifted as the back slid over her forehead. Her line of sight taking in Lazare, not really Vincent whom sat right next to him. Nope. She almost dropped her sword. Almost. Instead she slid it into the sheath at her hip and headed for the barrel of water for a cool drink. What she didn't know was that a few of those various lads decided to head for the water barrel too.

She looked his way, so Lazare lifted a hand in greeting, then lowered it again to his leg when she turned to move away. When there were others about, none of the Four practiced barechested. Even Vincent wore the vest that often made up his attire no matter the weather. Lazare had untied the white cotton shirt though, and allowed the breeze to cool what was exposed of his chest while he and Vincent intended to finish up their work. Like most of the men on the field during practice, his pants were fitted to the leg, but not tight, so that movement wasn't restricted. Did make for a good show of muscled thigh though, if one was prone to notice. The Sword hung at each of their hips, because these were as much an appendage to the Four as the limbs they were born with. And it was a much agreed upon fact, that the training field was much more pleasant when Lazare Carno was in attendance. Because, with him hard at it with whichever of the Four he trained against, there was always such a delightful breeze. When the Four were finished, that breeze remained for the other men who came on later. Since practicing was still underway, nothing seemed amiss when several of the recruits started to get some water the same time as the lass. Lazare's eyes touched on each, but lowered after to once again study the sheet.

Young Sammy Johnson came running up to intercept Ellyn. She had befriended him and he became her self appointed guard. Many situations were averted for the other lads and young men with Sammy in the way. Once more he had done so, "Lady Ellyn, Sir Lazare waved your way," he had noticed she had not noticed. It had Ellyn stopped in her tracks as she quickly turned to wave in Lazare's direction but his head was bent to what paper kept their attention. Ledgers or logs, she wasn't quite sure. Her hand fell, slightly deflated and mortified. She turned to continue to the water barrel but seeing quite a few there already, least five in that swift notation, another would be sought. Sammy was pointing out the one not far from the Kingsmen. Oi. She steeled herself as she gave Sammy a nod and started with him in that direction. Sammy had this grin on his face the other lads would not see! Ellyn could hope the tan covered the heat she felt rising on her cheeks the closer they got. Once close enough she dipped a curtsey as graceful as any of her moves while Sammy bowed, "good day Sirs," almost in unison with Sammy.

Dark eyes flickered up from one of the faction, and Vincent offered an uplifted nod to return the greeting. Though with that done, dark head dipped again, braids framing his face like the blinders of a wagon horse.

Lazare looked up at the same time, smiling over to the two. "It is a good one, isn't it? You looked good out there today, Johnson. Nice roll when Treleu lunged at you." That smiling gaze shifted from Sammy over to Ellyn. "Quite dedicated to your training as well, Lady Royce." He was going to say more...

but Vincent growled in, not even pausing what he was doing at this thigh. "Which makes all the others the more dedicated as well considering how they linger."

Carno still smiled over to Ellyn. He just shrugged his brows at the Dragon's observation, and one shoulder did the same. "Suppose we should thank you then, Lady Royce."

Her heart started pounding so fierce, certainly they could hear it? She could hear it like war drums in her ears. Nearly pounded out what Lazare was saying. In spite of her self conscious feelings, the only place it might be seen would be the throb at the base of her neck had picked up but then that could be from all the practicing too. Ellyn could barely tear her eyes from Lazare while Sammy grinned from ear to ear with the compliment. "Thank you.." but anything more got strangled in her throat as Vincent growled. A shifting glance his way but the man was not really looking at them. She was right back to Lazare, like a magnet. She was smiling as he was smiling. "Thank me?" It was lost on her as she was not aware why a number of lads lingered today. Usually she left with the other young women in training or Sammy intercepted like he did today. Young man was sharp and had his own bit of a crush on Ellyn but he looked upon her as a friend, satisfied with that. He was also a few years younger. So he had no delusions.

Vincent brought the cover of the journal up and over the pages, looking up at the two there. "Carno is attempting humor, Lady Royce." Vincent stated, standing and tucking the bound papers under his arm. "You're not the only reason they linger, many of them continued to practice. But..." The Dragon gave a nod of head toward the emptying field. "More than usual did this day. If you'll excuse me." He offered a nod to the trainees, then stepped around Lazare's knees to head toward the castle. De Beauvais said absolutely nothing about the colors swirling around the lass. Yes, they were noticed, but they were not commented on.

Lazare braced his hands behind him on the bench and leaned back a little when his towering comrade stood then walked away. "Between the three of us..." His gaze moved back to the pair. "He has the people skills of Polyphemus. Not that his social graces are an issue when he has your back in the midst of a battle." He winked to them and chuckled at his own comment. He cracked himself up sometimes. Sitting up again, his hands clapped down on his thighs and pushed himself up to stand. "Guess I'll leave you to your afternoon." Carno slapped Sammy on the shoulder, and provided a nod of approval to the Lady Royce. "Remain ever dedicated to your training. It is a noble undertaking to serve these lands."


Date: 05-06-12
Poster: Lazare Carno
Post # 8

Ellyn wasn't quite born yesterday as Vincent's implication of why the lads were staying, some of them, slowly sunk in. The more it sunk in the hotter her cheeks felt. Surely she was wrong? Misunderstanding which only made it worse. She'd live through this no matter. Her lips moved to say adieu to the respected, even if intimidating, kingsman but nothing came out. Probably best for it would be some kind of squeaking sound. Her voice remained caught in her throat as Lazare would now vacate them too. Sammy was being hailed by one of his comrades as he started off moving backwards with a respectful salute before around and headed off the field. It left her standing there with a lot to think on. Best probably Sammy had gone for he was clueless, or so she thought, about her admiration for the remaining kingsman that was soon to be gone as well.

Lazare looked out over the field to the lad calling out for Johnson, then followed Sammy's departure which left Ellyn standing there. A quick glance took in the back of de Beauvais before he looked once more to Ellyn. "I do not mean this in any way except as a courteous gesture, for I know as one of the Order, you do not need an escort amongst men. But..." Lazare continued to smile to Ellyn, it was after all, a constant expression on the jovial warrior's features. "May I see you somewhere, Lady Royce?"

If the man only knew, he'd not be encouraging her. She got that dreamy-eyed look if it was one that Lazare could recognize at all. That throb at the base of her throat was doing a calypso in double time. "Yes," came hushed under an exhale of breath and the next without thinking, "the showers," which they had for both men and women, separately. She knew she needed one and was the type to keep clean. It wasn't for a moment later that it dawned on her what she had said and quickly amended, "the Hall," which was the knight's hall. She had a room in the area of the castle for the Order of Athena who didn't have family here.

Since his undivided attention was currently on the Inductee to the Order, he caught the suggested destination and he chuckled. His hand lifted and he rubbed along the back of his neck, not sure how to respond to that. But then the lass corrected herself which was just as well, because, in truth, Carno, a man of many quick witted words, was not sure where to take the discussion from there. "I thought, at first, you might be suggesting the best course of action for me." Then again, maybe she was but the King's Man would, in no way, ever consider the future Dame as making such a recommendation other than by accident. Ellyn Royce, was just not that way.

Which had her smile slip probably because he was always smiling and no matter what faux pas there was humor instead of any other reaction to the negative. "Perhaps for us both," but then she got this picture in her head to tangle herself up in with the rise of color to her cheeks again. Amending quickly once more, "separately of course..." not sounding too sure about that for her thoughts. Oh Lord, let me die on the spot! She bit her bottom lip so nothing else came out that would dig her deeper into that hole she was doing very well on all by herself.

"At least for now." Carno added with a wink to the blushing lass. Even with all the sun provided by the outdoors training, Carno couldn't miss the fact that Ellyn might be embarrassed with her recommendation. And to clarify that 'for now' comment because Lazare wouldn't realize that the words might imply that they would bathe separately, at least, for now...he continued. "For now we will stick to seeing you to the hall. Shall we?"

What had Uncle Neale advise her? She couldn't remember at the moment. The talk had been a few weeks ago and the heat of the day was playing havoc. All she knew was that she was next to the man that made her heart race and her thoughts numbed other than being with him. Not that she was with him but she was near him. In a distance-way she heard herself say, "I've a confession to make." It was out, she couldn't take the words back even if she wanted to. It was make it or break it, her heart was pounding for what may come of it in the next few moments that she felt faint. She was not the fainting type. Well, not until she got near this man to at least feel that way even if she didn't. Shock.

He started, but with her 'confession' he paused, brows lifted as he looked down to her. "Oh? Well, I'm not a priest, but for lack thereof, please feel free to ease your mind." He scanned just beyond her then lowered his gaze again. "Would you prefer to go somewhere less open?" He would never wish for her to be uncomfortable, especially if she thought him worthy enough to confide in.

She had not noticed anyone around even if there were always ones around on the practice field. Most had left, some stayed, some of those left and some others came. It was rare the field was ever empty. Ellyn blinked with that notice, "yes.." as they moved away from the field under his guide. "Because.." she was working up the nerve with adding in a rush of breath, "I'mtheonewhosentyouthepresents." Amazing how one could mash all those words together into one.

They had just made the edge of the field when she blurted out what sounded to be another language. "I'm sorry?" Lazare responded at first, leaning in to better hear her, since he had been unable to understand at first. At first. But then, that blending of words started to separate, to manifest into meaning, to make sense. The King's Man straightened, his lips twitching with the intended smile, his head bobbing slightly as if he meant to lean down to hear her better just to make sure he was correct in what he made of that. "The...presents? You?" One corner of his lips pulled up in a crooked smile. "Well, I'll be damned." He muttered, not at all like Carno to slip so in front of a lady but, she had completely laid him out with that revelation. "You have good taste." He cleared his throat then, attempting to gather the wits that had been completely wasted by her 'confession'. "I mean, in gifts, M'Lady." By no way meaning in men! Well, maybe, in that too, but .. "And you are a gifted writer as well."

His reaction eased her thoughts on something she could not help, any more than breathing itself. "Yes, I'm afraid I've fallen hopelessly in love with you." Her words coming calm in spite of the racing of her heart. He probably got to hear that lots of times from the many women who had fallen for him in such a way. "I'm sorry," well, she was and she wasn't. The one comment had her smiling brightly, "yes, I do have good taste." She certainly felt so. She cleared her throat in light imitation, "I mean in you." She didn't even notice them walking the while, "you inspired me. I never wrote before." Which had been true, she got to discover a hidden talent.

Hopelessly? Love? Yes, that had him nonchalantly scanning the area for any comrades before settling his gaze back on the Lady. They were alone near the cover of trees after all. Not exactly a good place to be espied as a secret rendezvous. "Well now..." What else could he say at the moment except that? He studied her features, this young woman set for the oath of the Order. "Why do you say hopelessly? When you love someone, there should be abounding hope. Perhaps you aren't, actually, 'in love' as yet. Although the emotions in that poem were rather intense. But you are an intense woman, Lady Royce, from what I've seen, in all you do and set your mind to. Knowing now it was you, it is no wonder the poem managed to intrigue all Four of us."

Her voice was quiet, reflective and perhaps a bit wiser for her age. "I have hope but..." how did she explain this but? "I am sure there are many women who admire you as I do," well maybe somewhat clueless there in how things worked. If there were others, they had not been brave enough to step forward. "You are a high standing, prestigious man.." well, she was blundering as green eyes lifted to meet his and hopefully convey what she wasn't doing so well in words with. Eyes widened with the last, HOLYMOLIE.. ALL FOUR. Blink Blink. She swallowed down any other thoughts except one, "will you tell them?" Fear settled in.

"Come here, sit with me." Lazare offered his hand to hers, down low, palm to her palm before he moved them to an obliging fallen tree that made for the perfect seating spot for this moment. He waited for her to get settled, then lowered to sit as well. "May I confess to you as well now?" He didn't wait for her answer, just nodded as if she would, and continued. "I am Lazare Nikolas Carno. who I am. High standing? Prestigious?" He shook his head to the negative. "Lazare...Carno. I am one of the Four. But I am only One ... that one, is Lazare. If it is the title that others are drawn to, the power of that title, the skill required to possess that title, then they will be sourly disappointed. Because, Lady Royce, in the end, I am ... but Lazare Carno. I sleep at night with my eyes closed. I eat..and eat..and eat." He smiled to her, his way of easing the seriousness of their discussion. "But I need sustenance like anyone else. I pull on my pants, one leg at a time. I train hard. I train long. I train with the best. But at the end of the day, when my body hits my mattress, I am Lazare. No man of high standing or prestige, no grand and noble warrior, no fourth of the powerful elements. If you or anyone would love me, then you would know...I am Lazare. I'm not who you see on the field, or hear about in battle, M'Lady."

Her hand slipped into his naturally, gently. Perhaps someone might see them, perhaps not. Certainly being seen together without a crowd around. Not much one could say in that? Not much one would say openly at least for the man she was with! She settled surprisingly comfortably by his side. "It is that Lazare I feel for, that my heart thunders in my ears and skips beats whenever you are near. That Lazare whose kindness went far that day in the Cave, understanding my fear of heights of which I need to overcome," but that was another matter. "Do I dare to hope that such a man could look upon me not only as a woman but one he could desire?" That was asking a lot in hope but it best be she continue that hope or dash it if it was something she got patted on the head, sympathy in his eyes but no desire like the fire that wished to be stoked in hers.

"You can cook, I'll give you that." Carno took up her hand, leaning as he did to press a light kiss to the top of it. His gaze lifted before his body straightened and he lowered her hand back down. He wouldn't say she was young. She wasn't young. She was the exact age for what she was experiencing in life. He wouldn't say she was naive. Experience in life came with moments of truth such as this. He wouldn't pat her on the head. Hell, that was for dogs or horses, not for Lady's of the Order. "Many such a man will do so, M'Lady. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever. You train. You devote yourself to your chosen destiny. You stay true to Ellyn Royce...and with all my heart I doubt not that all that is yours to be had, will come to you."

Yes, she could cook she found out because she wanted to for him. Another hidden talent brought to life. In the least this journey of the heart gave her gifts to be used. "I wish but one man, not many." The fact he didn't encourage her there was duly noted. She would not press. She cared for him far too much. So much for hope but best she face the reality of it. "I will devote myself to the order," sounding like becoming a nun! The kiss to the top of her hand was more like that pat to the head in a way but she smiled and would remember it fondly. She was tempted to kiss his lips so that she could take that with her instead as the token. She wasn't in any hurry to move for this might be the only opportunity to spend time with him alone like this.

Lazare inched closer to her, taking up her chin with his fingertips so that there was no chance she wouldn't look him in the eyes. "You better devote yourself to the Order, My Lady. Is it what you want? To be within that Order of Athena? Any man worthy of you, is and will be willing to wait for you to see to your dreams. Know this, Ellyn Royce. I wish for you to succeed and to achieve all that your heart desires. You should know, I am one score ten and six. Patience? I'm all about it. I would never expect anyone to be so patient as I am." Again that faint wink of kindness. "But don't be distracted, Ellyn. This path you have chosen is a hard one, especially at first, and it will demand your dedication entirely. Chose, M'Lady. You need to know if it is a life of wifely duties you prefer, or one of defending this kingdom. Our Princess, is both, but she made her mark on this kingdom first with the Order prior to making her mark on our Prince."

His gesture had her slipping the tip of her tongue between her lips to moisten them in a natural reaction. Her eyes held by his in a way she
couldn't break it if she wanted to. She didn't. "It was all and only what I wanted until you." Which was the truth of it. She was probably taken more in surprise by the fact she found desire in her heart for a man. Gave into it willingly. "I don't see your age either, Lazare. I see only you. You could be ten score and ten for all my heart doesn't care." There was slight twitch of her lips after that speech he gave her on Lazare. Not his titles.. and certainly should not be his age. "Women have married older.." which was true. "I will try my best not to be distracted," but that was like trying to tell a heart what it could feel and what it could not. She would attempt it. Then that daunting came but wait, "Princess Noirin does both." Why couldn't she? Well, there was that and it would mean her having patience. She didn't say anything more in spite of him addressing that issue of the princess. She only studied him, delved as much as she could, there in his eyes. Was he kindly putting her off? Most likely. She was prepared for it in a way but it didn't stop the sinking of her heart.

Was he putting her off? Or was he pointing her in the direction of her dreams. Where she should be focused anyway. Their gazes held, he wasn't going to look away. Not now. Not yet. This was important to him. "If...Ellyn...if I find that you are distracted. I will seek out our Princess myself." His hand stroked from under her chin and he thumped the top of it with his forefinger. "And women have married older?" He started to laugh. "You make it sound as if I'm ancient!" His shoulders shook slightly with his amusement. "I'm not. By any means." There was laughter in his eyes, but there was also compassion, and caring, and hope for her. He, more than anyone, realized that life progressed as it should. Ellyn Royce was a woman to be desired, and when she reached that point in her life that allowed her the liberty of distraction, then who knew? "I don't know you, Lady Royce, but I look forward to you progress in the Order, and then..." He shrugged a muscular shoulder, a faint squint to his eyes as he studied her. "and then." He ended his sentence in that way.

So she was given a thread of hope. As much as anyone could. Eyes still held until his laughter brought hers to dip there to his lips. Lifting only again with his words. This much she could promise. "I will save my distractions to my own time." Not on the field, not in training not where it could cause her any misstep when others depended on her. She had not so far and would not so the promise came with conviction. Eyes searched once more before the curl of her lips formed into a smile. "Then the future is open to any possibility to be embraced. If one wants to get to know another, it is in their grasp to do so." Which meant taking some initiative all in the right time and circumstances. At least getting to know her, if nothing more, was within his grasp.

To that, he dipped his head in a single nod with his agreement, never taking his gaze from hers. Carno reached over and took up her hand again, giving it a squeeze. " the hall. For at least one of us needs to take a bath, the other, may wish to. And sitting here, accomplishes neither." He stood and in doing so, helped her to as well. From here, it would be allowing fate to take her course. As it should be.


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