(1310-12-25) Paths and Compromises
Summary: Eneas and Helene head east from the Stumbling Pony, and bad weather leads to conflict, and a heart to heart. [Warning: Mature content, some swearing, and non-explicit references to sexual experiences]
RL Date: 2019-01-08
Related: Shortest Day Disappearances Plot
eneas helene 

Eisandine Countryside

A day's ride east of Marsilikos in poor weather.

They have only been on the road for an hour and a half when they see signs for the first crossroads not far ahead, and therefore the first point of parting. To the south lies a sheltered harbour where a ship might hide, or a message be sent to them, and to the northwest, a path leading up into the foothills of the mountains. Ahead lies the main road to Caerdicca Unitas, likely their eventual route if neither of the others bears fruit. It has been drizzling, and then snowing as they move up in elevation, the snow coming down in heavy clusters that melt against the skin and barely accrues on the ground, turning the road into slush. While dawn occurred an hour ago already, the light is still diffuse and the land feels heavy and grey under the overcast skies. It is, quite simply, miserable, and tempers are already running high.

While Eneas should be used to misery, especially in regards to poor road conditions and the cold, that has been a few years ago, since last he was stuck on patrol duty in the Camlach mountains or even in the Unitas alpine passes. Some might argue the drizzle makes it worse, for the icy fingers of humidity seep into every crevice, every gap in cloak or garment, gnawing — seemingly — at the very bones in surprising quickness the moment they get out of what poor shelter trees and forests might provide as the road passes between them and out into the open fields where the gusts that come up from the shore can wash over them unhindered.

Nudging Polynieces forwards to step out of a particularly high mound of mud with a squelching sound, the d'Aiglemort soon pushes to stand in his stirrups, so he can rotate his frame to peer at the various men that are now in their retinue. "Let's pick up the pace, lads!", he calls out, the voice carrying despite seemingly not resorting to yelling, yet, though the tone might be a bit more gruff than he had aimed for originally. "You got your routes! Meeting at the crossroads near Toulon in two hours. Try to not delay too much. We'll not have much daylight to spare.".

Hélène seems to be holding up well, or at least, she seems to not be letting the misery come across on her face, but she is cold and her skirts soaked through, hair plastered to her face from those times when the hood of her cloak falls from her head in the wind. She wears gloves, but her hands are holding on like claws, unable to unbend any longer. There is little keeping her upright and from complaining other than sheer force of will.

She keeps her horse to the side of the mercenaries and guards, but pulls up in semi-formation to listen to him issue orders, then turns to look along the roads. The southern road, the one destined for herself, and Jean-Marc is the wetter route, the northern, the colder one. Another shiver causes her shoulders to shudder before starts to turn aside, Jean-Marc still listening and speaking with the other guards.

Does Eneas notice the state Hélène is in? It is hard to tell. Blue eyes do flitter back and forth, through squinted eyes when yet another gust swirled tiny droplets and bigger flakes across his features. There is a reason why armies do usually not move during winter.

Still, when his gaze falls on Hélène it lingers for a moment, a touch of worry perhaps to flitter over his features and yet, he does not say a word. There are ways to maintain morale and discipline and with adverse circumstances like this, the usual way is to power through, to not give room to one's troops to complain and voice their dissatisfaction but to keep them on task. Not when there is naught that can be done about such conditions anyway. So he turns his horse towards the northern road, not quite riding off, not yet, but subtly increasing the pressure to hurry up, to get arranged and arrayed, to speed up any last minute exchange of supplies or maps or what have you. But no goodbyes from him.

It is Jean-Marc who intercedes, all too aware at this point that the pair have been engaging in a game of competitive stubbornness for some time now. Leaving the group of guards, he rides up alongside Eneas and leans in, asking quietly, "Would you like a word of advice Lord d'Aiglemort? From someone who has known her longer than you I mean."

His gentle brown eyes turn to look towards Hélène's horse, which moves at a walking pace away from the rest of the group. Even as he watches, Hélène turns to the side, but not to look back. She simply unhunches her shoulder and squares them back to keep going.

Stubbornness? The two of them? Perish the thought! Ahem.

Eneas does turn eyes to peer at Jean-Marc and there is a bit of squaring his own shoulders almost reflexively. Project strength, right? Ahem. And yet, the hushed tone, the gentler timber from the older man? It gives Eneas pause, even as he turns his eyes back to the Lady he dragged into the cold, wet hell on the road. A light sigh is given, then a nod to Jean-Marc. "Go ahead…", he finally relents. Does he resent the suggestion he needs help with her? Perhaps. But Eneas does recognize an olive branch when it is offered. And the long-time guard of the Lady surely had little reason to be helpful to him so far, right?

there is a gentleness in Jean-Marc's eye that would suggest that somewhere, deep down, he is less opposed to Eneas' presence in Hélène's life than he has previously let on. Yes, he is protective, and the alteration in Hélène has been infuriating, but she is also clearly happy, and he would never deny her that. "I have known Hélène for twelve years, she will never tell you it herself. You are both a bit too pig-headed for it," he begins with a surprisingly wistful half-smile, "And Marie and I have together almost twenty already, so.." Some experience perhaps? "Talk to her before we go. And if you want us to take another guard with us, I'll support you, but she's is finding this harder than you realise. She's not used to riding out in the cold like this, and unless you say something, or do something, she'll catch her death out here purely out of will."

Eneas gives the man an semi-annoyed look at the pig-headed comment. And yet, surely he cannot be irate at him for speaking such obvious truth. If one thing, Eneas values forthrightness more than deference, and after a moment of swallowing his pride, Eneas finally nods. "I know.", he finally admits, pursing chaffed lips. "I was gonna send you up ahead to the next Inn at the reassembly, but…I know she would resent me for not letting her help.". Or so he claims.

A glance back to the soldiers that are starting to split up in groups, and Eneas nods his head. "Go ahead and pick who you think you can work with the best.", he tells the man, leaving it in the guard's responsibility. Delegation, right?

Which, of course, leaves him with the perhaps more difficult task. Nudging Poly forwards, the stallion snorts with some annoyance, but starts to move again to close the distance to the Verreuil Lady to bring his horse along side hers, before he ties the reigns against the horn of his saddle, pulling off his gloves, so he can reach over and take at least one of her hands from her own reigns, to try to pry her fingers and then the glove off her hand. "Come here…", he tells her, apparently trying to rub some warmth back into her hands, first between his own hands, then going as far as to stick it between his body and his arm under the cloak.

Hélène is hesitant, staying back until he takes her hands physically. They are like ice under his cloak. "You don't need to look after me," she nearly snaps back, trying to pull her hands away. She turns to Jean Marc and starts to call out, "Are we going yet?" The man holds up a hand to tell her to wait while he finishes speaking with a merc to join them.

Eneas might not quite have expected her to pull her hand back, and it slips from his grasp, before he can stop her. For a moment his hands do freeze, a flash of the suddenness of that move perhaps cutting deeper than the words, but he soon grits his teeth once more before he actually rolls his eyes at her. "Yes. Of course I do.", he lets her know. "You're out here with me. Under my care. You are my responsibility.". Technically all true, surely.

"I am not 'under your care' Eneas. I am here of my own accord, with my own security, for my own reasons," she answers back. "You are /not/ responsible for me. I am not your ward, or your property, or anything belonging to /you/." She grabs the reins and starts to edge her gelding back, green eyes flashing angrily. she wouldn't be this sharp without the misery of the weather no doubt, but as they are now, in this weather, and this stress, she is not really holding back. It is true, at least to a point.

It's one of those things, isn't it? Where words are just not precise enough to convey what is meant. Of course, with the pressure they both are under, perhaps they are giving in a bit too easily into the pettyness this morning, to deliberately pick the least favorable interpretation of the words. "My property?", Eneas echoes, eyes to narrow. "If you were, you'd be back save in Marsilikos.", Eneas retorts simply. And yet, he uses his thighs to nudge Poly along, to keep pace with Hélène's mount, even while he stuffs his hands back into his gloves. "You're here because I think you can handle yourself. With your own security and your own reasons, but that does not mean you are not part of my responsibility.", he adds then, perhaps to lessen the sharpness of the retorts.

"Oh of course, Commander," Hélène answers sarcastically, her eyes rolling as she turns her horse to the south, "do you want me to lick your bloody boots while I’m at it?" There is a rough laugh as she considers him having even tried to leave her behind, safe as he would say, even though it is a topic that has been tread before, and likely would be no safer in fact. "I am here because I chose to be, and not because you permitted it. I do not need your permission to do fuck all." It is not language she normally uses outside of the bedroom, and even Jean-Marc, now approaching with one of the mercenaries looks taken aback by her vehemence (and perhaps her volume.)

It is Jean-Marc then who approaches and rebukes her, "Lady Verreuil, I rather think your safety is both our responsibilities, the Lord d'Aiglemorts /and/ mine."

“Right, fine." She snaps abruptly at her friend as well, and pulls the reins to push her horse into a canter, yelling at them both, "I’ll be back when I'm done."

Oh, she goes there, does she? There might be cold and wet, and the instinct is to tuck in one's head and bunch up one's shoulders, but when she shoots off her little darts in his direction, the d'Aiglemort just lifts his chin that little. "I would, but barbed as your tongue is you'd leave scratches.", he shoots back freely. Oh, she knows that if his 'tongue is pulled', he will let it go free to give a lashing with it. Ahem.

Of course, that is when she snaps at Jean-Marc as well, and starts to ride off, and Eneas just growls, before he hollers back. Yep, now he is yelling. "About time you got moving! Might even warm you up, you ….", he stops himself just short, though surely the glower he sends after her leaves little doubt in what choice words he might have picked for maximum damage. Ahem.

Turning to glare at Jean-Marc, he just gestures, even as he yanks at his reigns to get Poly to turn, which does gain him a very annoyed neigh from the stallion.

Of course, by now they made a spectacle of themselves, surely there are quite a few eyes staring in their direction, and they make perfect targets to vent some of the ire. "What are you looking at. GET THE FUCK GOING!"

Two hours has been and gone, and Hélène has been to the town by the water and back. Yes there was a boat recently, but it was their usual supply run and nothing else. She knew it was a long shot not being one of the better prospects, and expectations were, sadly, met. While the rain and snow themselves have since ceased, the skies are far from clear, and the town gates where they met up with the guards who took the main road, and now wait are cool. She and Jean-Marc bickered for the first half-hour, but as time wore on, her answers grew less frequent, and less vehement, Hélène's head turning this way and that, peering down the road from the mountains. Forty-five minutes late now, and still no sign. It is Jean-Marc who, gently, suggests, that they give Eneas another fifteen minutes at least.

They were almost at the meeting point when the road winded through a ravine and with all the rain, it was a small landslide that blocked the path. So backtrack they did, him and the Mereliot guard that had to endure him grumbling and glowering for most of the first half of the ride. But as quickly as his ire can be raised, it tends to dissipate again, and by the time they make their way to the next crossroads, then swing wide to pass through the village they were meant to meet in front of. So it will take them pretty much the additional hour.

Of course the clopping of hooves is not exactly silent, but they are not galloping, walking their horses up towards the group that is waiting. It might be mistaken for just one of the guards pacing its own horse back and forth, perhaps.

As soon as that hour is up, Hélène urges her horse forward once more, making for road up towards the mountains. Jean-Marc does not stop her, merely follows as she urges her horse into a trot, then a canter, then a full on gallop as the panic begins to set in. She has to slow the gelding down at the turning, the road becoming rougher, and the horse needing to walk to keep its footing, but Hélène pushes him as far as she believes she safely can through the now heavy fog and rougher terrain, her eyes searching ever for signs of the men's trail. When Jean-Marc tries to speak with her at last, to interrupt, she simply raises a hand up, one finger in the air to stop him, and answers firmly, "Don't."

So it might be that Eneas reaches the guards shortly after the stubborn Lady is starting to canter off. A short conversation pointing out that she and Jean-Marc have backtracked, and Eneas nods his head, sighing. "Go ahead, lads. Two of you get yourself to a tavern, get some mulled wine and hot tea for all of us. Some hot stew if they have it, and we'll ride again in an hour.", he tells the men. Can't have them be frozen to the bone, right?

Spurring Polynieces, he then sets after the pair into the fog, along the road. He doesn't call out into the fog, knowing how disorienting it can be with it muffling the sounds and making it hard to pinpoint where such shouts come from. Not until at least one of them come into sight, at least. "You know, you don't have to take care of me, right?". It is a low shot, yes, but at least he seems amused, saying it with a tone of supressed laughter, rather than resentfulness?

Hélène pulls hard on her reins, turning her horse to the right until she faces the newcomer. The look that greets him is not one of laughter, or even her fury from before, but clear panic, her pale features turned white by fear. He can tell, any concern, any anger she had before is gone, completely overtaken by every possibility she could dream up to explain his absence. He might not have been ambushed in the pass, but in her mind he might have been, lying on the side of the road and bleeding out.

Even as the panic dissipates and she edges her horse forward slightly, she looks to him, then back to the road, asking tentatively almost, "But… how? I came that way." She turns again to look along the trail, then behind him, though the surrounding fog obscures the landscape around them. She pulls her horse up alongside his and reaches a hand up slowly, attempting to cup his cheek, almost as though to check he is real.

Eneas might have a cruel streak sometimes. Some might have called that greeting he gave the pair cruel in their own ways, and yet, when she turns, and the extend of her fear becomes so painfully evident, the laughter fades. A few more steps is Poly pushed forwards to meet her, though when she stops beside him to reach for him, he just leans into her touch, covering her hand with his, to turn and kiss her palm. "A few miles that way: Landslide, Hélène…we had to take the long way around. We came in from the north on the village, not this way.", he summarizes, his voice much more gentle, before he adds. "We're fine. Nothing happened. We just had to trudge through mud a bit longer…", he tries to reassure her. A glance is given to the side, to Jean-Marc as if to ask if that is normal? Surely he has not seen the Lady quite so shaken.

Jean-Marc, for his part, is trying to be discrete, staying a few metres back and allowing the pair their moment. When Eneas turns to meet his eyes though, he gives a simple nod. There is relief written on his face, and an easing of the lines. No, this is not normal for Hélène, and the end of the short crisis could not have come sooner for the elder man. Another glance is given Eneas, and a slight tilting of his head towards Hélène, perhaps referring to their conversation of earlier.

Hélène on the other hand pays no notice of the exchange between her two protectors, the one she pays, and one who seems to have eslf-selected in the role. The relief spreads through her, and the tension falls aside, but is replaced by the shaking of her shoulders as the adrenaline leaves her. Of course, that also means there is a flood of other emotions, her hand tensing, and threatening to pull back. He can see it in her, Hélène fighting her urge to draw the hand back to slap him for putting her through that, though her mind wins over her temper this time. She knows it was not his fault. Instead she simply holds his hand tighter, and leans forward to nuzzle her nose to his cheek, eyes closing, as she whispers, "Never do that to me again Eneas."

The short non-verbal exchange between the two men is enough for Eneas to relax a little bit. Surely he would feel horrible if he had misjudged Hélène's character so badly and put her through all this when she would fall apart regularly. This? This he can handle. Or so he thinks.

Of course that is when her expression changes, wars with emotions like that. Does he know how close he came to being slapped? Perhaps not. And yet, when she leans in, over, so does Eneas so they do not fall off their respective horses, one hand to reach out to steady himself on her steed. Her whisper, however, is sighed at. "I cannot promise that.", he tells her, softly, but honestly. Yes, it is not what she wants to hear, but he will not give her false reassurances. "In fact, I can promise it will happen again.", he adds, before he turns to seek to place a kiss on her cheek. "Things go awry and not according to plan all the time, in the field. You…you of all people, should know that by now.". Okay, so he could not help reminding her of the scare she put him through.

Another, deeper breath taken, her scent inhaled, even if it is marred by mud and sweat and rain, before he draws back. "Come. The lot will have mulled wine and stew by now. You need something warm in you.". And there is not even a hint of innuendo in his voice.

Before he withdraws, Hélène answers softly, "I know Eneas. I've…. I've just never feared as much as over you." She gives him a soft smile, and breaths as he does before adding, "I would hate to have left things as we did this morning. I would never forgive myself if something happened and the last things I said were.." Her voice fades as she leans back, and turns her horse to follow his, only coming alongstride when they turn off onto the main road.
While she is quiet on the short ride back to the town, and the waiting inn, she does reach out to take his hand occasionally, and he can see a change in her. It might not have ended up in crisis, but the fear, the panic, and the shock have been enough to temper her rebellion slightly, and let him take the lead.

It is only when they are in the warmth of the inn, their horses being tended, and cloaks laid by the fire to dry, that she broaches the subject with him again. Quietly, she leans in, not to be overheard by the guards drinking wine, and taking their leave, and says gently, "Eneas? Can we speak a moment?"

Her little confessions? They make Eneas sigh, but she turns to leave before he may say more on the matter, and for once he does not pursue, perhaps sensing that the Verreuil will need a moment to compose herself, and perhaps does not wish to do that in front of Jean Marc.

The ride back, the occasional touches are accepted, and Eneas squeezes her hand tightly when she reaches of his. Of course doing that on horseback is never easy or for long, before the other hand is needed to steer the horse or they naturally drift apart as the horses pick their way across the ground.

The short break to warm up, to get some food in them, to chase some of the chill out of their clothes and change into dryer ones from their packs will make the hour go fly by in no time at all, but before he might call a stop to the break, she does lean in, her words drawing blue eyes to study her. A nod is given to her, and he leans in to nudge her nose with his, before he rises, holding out his hand to her, to lead her away from the group, to some quieter spot in te back where they are not in anyone’s way and may talk without even passersby overhearing.

It must have been on his mind the whole time, though, for once they stop to face each other, he does try to speak first, "I…I know you did not meant it. What you said.", he tries to let her off the hook easily.

No doubt the guards and mercenaries accompanying, if they had not been told beforehand, are by now well aware of the relationship between the two nobles who are leading them, and few eyes turn as they make their way to the quiet. Those that do turn are met with a glare and throat clearing from Jean-Marc that would quickly return their eyes to their drink.

Hélène's hands reach for his as they settle, and even when he starts speaking she is already shaking her head, "No Eneas, it was wrong of me. I was angry, and arrogant, and cold, and I took my temper out on you when there was no reason for it. The truth is…" she pauses and takes a deep breath, eyes turning up to the ceiling as she prepares herself for something she hates to say, "The truth is that you were right. You are right. I've been careless and foolhardy, and I haven't taken how you feel into consideration enough. And now I know how must have felt when I missed dinner and was out in the harbour."

There, she said it. He was right, and implicitly, she was wrong. Deflating slightly, the difficult part over she looks to him again and adds, her hands turning so fingers entangle with his if he will allow it, "And, I will try to do as you ask while we are searching. You know this area, and what we are doing better than I do, so I will… follow your lead." A rare moment for her to eat humble pie, but she does.

With his hands taken into his, Eneas smiles in spite of all the emotional back and forth. They'll get whiplash like this, won't they? Ahem.

And yet, when she speaks of her many many wrongdoings, Eneas watches her, the way she peeks up at the ceiling to get the words out. Does he know what it costs her to say such? Probably, for he would have to pay a similar price, and when she looks back to him, he leans forwards to press his still slightly damp forehead against hers. "Of course, I was right…".

So perhaps that is not the best way to start that sentence, but Eneas can't help the mischief sometimes. At least he has the decency to add quickly. "…but so were you. It is what I love about you, Hélène. That you…are driven. And focused. And yes, I was furious that you did not let anyone know. But I can't fault you for giving chase when you thought you had our quarry in sight.". So he will admit that much at least, if only implicitly, that he might have done the same as she did.

"You are here, love, because…", and here it is where Eneas stops, hesitates. "…because I need you.", he confesses, even if he tries to quickly add the next part, perhaps hoping she has not quite heard it right. "I value your suggestions, your insights. I would never have thought of all the places to moor those ships. Or the way you brought those living on the docks to our side with offering kindness.". Blue eyes lift slightly to peer into her not brown nor blue ones. "I don't own you. I don't want to control you. That would…break my heart if that ever happens. But you are in my care. As I am in yours. For all the good that might bring us.".

Hélène leans forward, resting her forehead against his temples, and sliding closer in to his side. Whiplash does not cover it. There are people who have been thrown from a horse at full gallop who would have found it less jarring. "Thank you," she says simply, and he can feel her cheeks round with a slight smile against him. There is too much in there, for his apology, and his forgiveness, and understanding altogether. Hélène lets herself breathe in his scene for a moment before she answers back, "And, as my appointed protector, what would you like me to do Eneas? Do you want to keep splitting up, or to travel together?"

Hélène sighs softly again, and adds cheekily, "No promises when we are back in Marsilikos though. You only get to boss me around out here, and only east of Marsilikos. West is my territory. Am I clear?" She laughs brightly and leans back to look up at him, green eyes twinkling with mirth. "And do not tell Jean-Marc I ever obeyed you. I would never hear the end of it, not least from Marie."

They are contradictions in themselves. Clever, planning, scheming even in some cases, and yet, when the moment strikes all of it can go out of the window, bathwater and baby and all, to react on impulse, to leap on a hunch, not even looking while the do it, even less before.

"Appointed protector?", he echoes, snorting a little. "That's a lousy job. Look at Jean-Marc. The poor man has way too many grey hairs for his age…". Yep, he is going to complain now. Still, when she speaks of splitting up or traveling with him, he sighs, and when he leans in this time, it is to kiss her lips, softly, gently, but not long enough to give rise to cat-calls or teasing from anyone who might be looking on. Hopefully. "You'll be an icicle if we keep doing this.", he finally says. "You need proper breeches and boots. A woolen shirt and a jacket with fur lining. Those dresses…", he gives her attire a onceover. "..as alluring as they are…will get you frostbitten, dear. Perhaps you and Jean Marc and…one or two of the guards should ride ahead, make sure we have Inn rooms. Get yourself some proper clothes, if you can and…take more time to ask around if anyone saw the peddlers. Or anything else suspicious?". It would get her out of the cold, and out of immediate danger, without making her useless, right?

As she teases him about it being a secession in limited scope, Eneas narrows his eyes a little at her, even as she prods and pokes him more, and gives those conditions. "Careful, Hélène…", he tells her, smirking back at her. "…not only did you give me a way to blackmail you…", he points out, turning to give Jean-Marc a look, and dares to wink at the man, to scandalize Hélène, no matter if he happens to look his way or not. "..but that means all I have is to rent or buy a little Cottage here on the coast east of Marsilikos, abduct you to it, and you will do as you are told.". Does he dare to mrrr low in his throat, giving her look that is far from innocent. "Perhaps I will grow fond of some Valerian traits in you after all.".

Hélène laughs and shakes her head, jokingly pushing his shoulder away. "Only when there is clear and present danger from soneone other than you," she amends her former statement. While at first she looks as though she is about to protest going ahead to the next downship, she catches herself thinking on her recent promise, and nods instead. "This time, I will go ahead and ask around, and see if I can't purchase a more suitable shirt and coat. My breeches are fine, just the skirts weigh down on top of them." They are really only there because they are expected a woman after all, even if she has opted for easier riding gear beneath.

Jean-Marc does glance over occasionally, and raises his glass to Eneas, happy now to see Hélène smile, and looking perhaps a bit nostalgic to his own earlier days. When Hélène sees Jean-Marc see the look that Eneas gives her, she flushes, her cheeks turning a deep red as she looks away and bites her lip. Certainly the guard would have seen the flash impishness and of… ahem, interest, that the more daring words elicited in response.

Hélène leans in and half-jests, "A cottage? I'm certain I'll have enough time in the next township to prepare a room at the inn. You can sit there smugly over breakfast when everyone in hearing distance knows you tamed me?" Her eyebrow rises. She only waits a beat though before delving further, "Before we split up, I should tell you what to look for at the next inlet." It is certainly her way, playfulness and focus on the task at hand, moving back easily from to one another. They are a pleasant distraction, more than a distraction for one another even, but there is still work to accomplish before they meet up again.

"No, no, it is too late now to make amends to your promise.", he tells her. Leave it to Eneas to play up the rogue in himself, the robber-'baron' that threatens to blackmail the Lady, only to then remind me of her honour of promises given. Yep, he grins at that no less. As for the relenting to go ahead, if reluctantly, the Mercenary does nod his head in approval. "Chances are they are seeking shelter in this dreadful weather, too. The wagon probably only has a simple tarp. They want their … cargo…alive and well. If they freeze they will not get whatever price they hope to gain.". That does put a momentary damper on Eneas' mood. For as miserable as they were on horseback, surely, wrapped in a rug under a tarp, the women would have a much worse time if they did not find warm shelter somewhere.

Still, when Hélène flushes so hotly at that little jest, the suggestion of taming the green-eyed vixen before him, blue eyes widen a little, lips to curve a little more. Oh, he had expected her to be outraged by his suggestion, if only in jest, but apparently, there was a nerve he did hit with such a scenario, as her mind spins that tale further, even. "So…you would rather it be at an Inn? Where you would blush like you do now, sitting across from me?", he wonders, studying her, and lips curving upwards and for once those eyes, that expression betrays little. "You would never willingly admit it to anyone, would you. Least to Jean Marc, but if you could not contain your cries like that, you'd have me to blame to have made you scream out the secret, hm?". Oh, yes, he is getting perhaps more insight in the stubborn Verreuil here than she had planned to give. And yet, Eneas is not through with tormenting here, leaning in to try to kiss her cheek, to run lips to her earlobe to whisper, "…So, silk, hemp or leather". Well, he did notice her heightened reactions the night before when he held her down.

Of course, he lets off for now, when she tries to bring the topic back to the task at hand, and he nods his head, still smirking, smugly even. "Please do, Admiral.", he encourages her. And prods a bit fun at her calling him Commander earlier. Hey, turn around is fair play, right?

Hélène shifts uneasily in her chair, her legs crossing at the ankle giving a perfectly clear indication of what she thought of that. She glances to Jean-Marc, and smirks, answering back, "I'd say he's complained about his own lack of sleep, but I rather think he appreciates my docility when you wear me out." Her smile grows more impish before she continues, green eyes alight. She accused him of sitting around breakfast looking smug, but in reality, she might be the one to do so. There is certainly her usual pride in making him lose his composure, and the effect she knows she can have on him. Where is sweet, kind, proper Hélène, whose sense of duty occasionally alienates her? Certainly he brings out quite the opposite in her. And tying her down? That certainly is eliciting a further reaction from her. She is not a Valerian, not in any true sense, and they play at power back and forth between them, but there is something deeply seated in her that she desires him, in particular, to be the one to claim her, and to give herself over to completely. He has earned her vulnerability, and her loss of control, and that, from Hélène, is a very rare gift.

She takes a few breaths to compose herself and then answers, "Look for evidence of recent moorings. That would mean large vacancies on any docks that have regular bindings next to them. Ask around for anything that held off the dock, or only sent a row boat in. Ask any merchants if there have been supply runs of late, or recent, unexpected ones. It would be easy to disguise the transfer as just a supply stop. And if there is a ship you can see, possibly held back by rough waters, learn, if you can, if it is regular, and whether the locals know the crew."

Oh, they go back and forth once more, and while she does — as he said she would— not admit that he is right about his speculation, yes, that squirming in her chair is all the answer Eneas needs. As for Jean-Marc and him quietly thanking Eneas of making her more docile? "More docile? Ah. You have to put up labels on that crate, my dearest.", he tells her, giving her a look. Well, surely, given the yelling and storming off they did today, her version of docile is someone else's hellcat? Ahem.

Still, Eneas peers at Jean-Marc for a moment, then smirks. "you know…I think you might end up having … Marie…bake you a nice thank-you cake the day after you bring him back home…", the mercenary dares to predict. Oh, he just peers at Hélène sidelong, but surely he expects the implications of that to once more make the Lady blush. That she might serve as inspiration to the older couple. Ahem.

As she brings her breathing back under control, to bring her mind back on task? Well, there is a certain pride that he can make that sharp, focused mind of hers scatter with thoughts. Still, he nods to each point she makes. "Got it. A ship moves cargo. If it does not, that is a red flag.", he condenses it, his own mind not the slowest either, to say the least. Of course before he might say more that lean forward comes, the whisper, and he once more brings blue eyes to search hers. "Well. Hope I am not late then…". Risky to make fun of her fear? Yes, perhaps, but he leans in to try to brush her lips with his again, to lessen the sting, hopefully. It is his way to deal with those darker thoughts: If you cannot laugh and jest about them, they have too much power over you, or so he would say, if those lips were not otherwise occupied in that moment.

Hélène chuckles softly, her head shaking, "I rather think she already owes me one. As much for getting him out of her hair as in it," she teases back, herself amused by the jibe about the older pair.

The piece about her so-called docility goes unmentioned, if only because it would be the pot calling the kettle black so to speak, and so she focuses on the task at hand instead. She places a finger on the table and begins to trace the outline of the next harbour from memory, pausing to think where the high points will be. She points to an area just inside the harbour, "There should be a hill on this side. You won't have a full view of the harbour from the town site, but if you ride up here you will be able to see the more protected coves as well in case anyone is hiding out there." As for moving without cargo? She nods. "Or just resupplying themselves apparently, plenty of ships need to stop min poor weather, but it adds days to their journeys so they usually resupply."

She leans in to the kiss for a moment then her finger jabs back on the table, "This is important Eneas. There will be time tonight, I promise. And I intend to make the most of it. I… I know you will likely be occupied for some time after we find them."

Reprimanded for a kiss? Eneas might normally even pout at her, but he draws back only a little. "Trust me, I know it is important.", he points out. Okay, there might be a flicker of guilt to pass his features, both at the levity shared. At the memory of the night before. And the prediction of the future that he knows is accurate enough. A hand lifts to cup her face, to brush her cheekbone with a thumb, before he nods. "Hill. Just inside the harbour. I heard you.", he lets her know, drawing back then, before he glances to the group huddling in front of the fire. Their little miniature army to look for two needles in the rug-stack. "Be…honest.", he says then, before his eyes slowly turn to look back at her. "…if they make it onto one of the ships…even if we knew where they were sailing…? How likely is it we would catch up with them?".

Hélène pauses, her head canting to the side he just touched, trying to steal a kiss of his palm before it is taken away, and giving herself a short delay to consider. She sighs and tells him gently, "There are different outcomes possible Eneas. If I can get a description of the ship, an idea where it is sailing, and at this time of year the routes are fairly set. No one takes too many risks with open water. It… If the port in Marsilikos has opened, and our fastest ship is waiting for us in the next major port, and we have a description, and they are travelling on a larger cargo vessel, like a galleon, rather than one built for speed.. We will catch them up. No idea if we will be able to board. We are merchant vessels, only armed enough for defense, not for boarding. There are a lot of /ands/ and /ifs/ there as well. I hope… I hope they are still travelling on, land, and then we can get them onto a ship home, which will definitely be faster than taking the overland route." She sighs, leaning in against his shoulder as she goes through the options, the things that would have to line up for the sea route to have any hope of success.

Eneas does not evade the kiss, even though surely the mood has suddenly shifted. At times it happens so fast between the two, though to be fair, Eneas is known to be sometimes a touch mercurial and manages it quite on his own. Her explanation is taken in, though those blue eyes dim the more she ambles along, tries to phrase the news in a positive way, when clearly the trend is pointing one way. Even when she leans against him, he sighs. "So. Bad chances.", he finally summarizes what he took away from all this, eyes to close for a moment. Pressing his lips against her head, her hair, he draws another deep breath. "I…I know this is keeping you away from a million things you need to do.", he finally half whispers. "I know you are here on your own volition… But…", he draws back enough to peer at her, even with the odd angle, "…if you need to return to Marsilikos for your trade deals…or…", he trails off twisting his lips a little. Oh, he has not forgotten what state her father is in, merely pushed it down so he could deal with one crisis at a time. "You already did more than anyone could ask for…".

Hélène nods slowly as he understands what the odds are, despite how she chose to portray them, or perhaps because. she reinforced what needed to go right, thereby implying how much could go wrong. When he changes the topic, brings up her work instead, she shakes her head, "No, things can wait. Things are waiting, at least as far as contracts go until further into spring when trade resumes full force. Once we know how the barge transfer is proceeding, we can plan further. January is our low month. That is part of why it is convenient to travel home around my birthday. And I… Papa would be disappointed in me if I came early. His chirurgeons say he is doing well. He lost his hand, but they saved the rest of him. He just has to agree to take it easy." Of course if he is anything like his headstrong daughter that is unlikely.

Hélène edges in once more, the mood shifting as he spoke, from playful, and teasing, to serious, and now to the deeper intimacy they share. "Unless I become a burden, I am not going anywhere. I leave soon enough for Siovale, and I… as I said, I know your time will be taken with Gwenaelle after she is found, but for now, I am happy to share this with you, and help you where and how I can. There is a very guilty part of me that dreads the end of this… adventure, or quest, or whatever you would call it. We may have fought, and it may have rained and snowed, and it may just be the most stressful thing I have ever tried Eneas, but I would not trade a moment of it away." She takes a breath again and adds, her voice lowering, "Because I have shared it all with you.”

There is a part of Eneas who will forever believe he can beat the odds, no matter how horrible they are stacked against him. And that he is here, now, is proof that he is usually right. In a way, that Helene is here, proves it too. How are the odds that one lover would help so steadfast to find the missing other? Ahem.

So while he is factoring that into the next steps, and perhaps already contemplating what he might require if he was to follow the ship to whatever shores they are headed to, to continue on foreign soil the chase if it cannot be ended on this or on sea.

Still, when she speaks of her father, he cannot help but to smile a little. "He sounds like a formidable man. Your father. I look forward to meeting him one day, when he is better.", he says. Of course then she continues, opening a can of worms they both have been kept closed for now. Eneas shakes his head a little at her. She should mark that day in her calendar, for it seems she has the mercenary — for once — at a loss of words, at least for a while. Long enough to once more lean against her, for eyes to close. When he speaks, he does it quietly, whispering. "I will be forever grateful that you are here, now, Helene.", he admits. "Yes, she might need me around if we find her, yes. But do not think things will just end.". He reopens his eyes then. They had the talk before, did they not. On that night before the Longest Night. "You'll come back from Siovale, and things might be changed, but they are not going to be so changed that you will not recognize them anymore.", he tells her.

As he speaks, Helene's hand rises to his cheek, her thumb tracing a path along his jawling, then up to his temple. She isghs softly, "I know, and it only a very small part of me that feels it my love. And I know." She smiles gently, "That you will be needed, and I respect that. She will need /you/, and you would not be /you/ if you did not answer that." There is a gentleness and an honest in her expression as she continues, "And I know things will not just end. I have no fear of that. Too much has happened. Too much has been shared for me to fear that at all."

She leans up to meet his lips with her own once more, kissing him gently for a few long, slow moments before withdrawing enough to say, "No, not so much that I do not recognise you." There is an impish grins before she adds, "And find you the moment I return. Track you down wherever you are." Helene sighs, again, and the stillness of the room, the atmosphere of waiting weighs heavily on her as she lets go. She looks around a moment, a touch guiltily, at the small group of guards and mercenaries, and nods, "We should go. They are waiting on us."

The gentleness in the touch? For once Eneas accepts it without snarky remark or jest to make light of it and he nods his head. "That does not mean that I don't…feel some guilt over it.", he admits, leaning in to accept the kiss. There is a faint smile there then, though whatever caused it is not shared with Helene at the moment, at least. Perhaps she distracted him with that impish promise, and he chuckles, in spite of everything else. "Now now. I am sure you can manage a few weeks without being brought to screaming completion, can you?" Yes, he dares to go there, after all. Of course, when she brings to attention that the room has gone quieter, the guards and riders filled their bellies and hashed out their next assignments under Jean-Marc taking up the mantle of sergeant in their little outfit? Eneas nods. "We should. Ride safely…".

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