When he put his mind to it, Brycen could disappear very quietly and very effectively. For the past couple of days, he’d gone out to the stable and worked on cleaning up Bluebell, who was now ready to return to London with St. John and the children at the end of the month but today was too rainy and grey.
Flustering Philip with his flat refusal to dress as a proper gentleman, Brycen had nearly gotten into a yelling match with his valet over his insistence on a fisherman’s knit sweater and loose pants. The only reason it hadn’t gotten to the point of yelling was Philip’s well honed understanding of his young lordship and the valet had backed off as soon as he’d realized just how fractious his young employer was feeling.
Brycen had broken his fast in his rooms, surfacing a few hours later to eventually take himself down to his study, the door pushed shut with a clear message of ‘bugger off’ in the closing. Merrick had risked life and limb to slip in and start a fire in the hearth to take off the chill in the room but the steward had quickly retreated when an attempt to straighten a vase had resulted in Brycen’s voice exploding across the space. Byrony was advised to leave the study alone today and clean it tomorrow instead.
After yelling at Merrick, Brycen gave up all pretense of trying to work. Instead, he went to the sideboard and poured himself a stout glass of port and then settled in a tall wingback chair that faced the fire.
St. John’s leaving.
Virginia and Stonehaven and Felix
His banishment from Aevon for the holidays
St. John’s leaving
It all whirled about in his head until he felt the need to press the heel of his palm against his eyes and fought the urge to laugh mirthlessly. All these responsibilities and in the end… St. John leaving…leaving him alone, yet again.
Brycen was feeling restless.
Everything in the Hall seemed to be in flux and not in a good way. Despite his best efforts to walk his lover through the idea that Lady Avon's death was not the Marquess's fault, St. John would not be swayed and eventually, Brycen had realized he needed to step back and simply let his love grieve for the woman.
Things were still tense with Byrony's situation with a blistering letter coming down from London, from Birkshire, with the warning that the Lord High Chancellor was getting antsy for a resolution and sounded down right dire in his threats.
And closer to home....
Closer to home, it was getting to be Mary's time. Time for St. John, Edward and Elizabeth to leave the house and go join Mary for the birth of St. John's fifth child. This brought back to events surrounding the child's conception and also drove home certain points that had Brycen fractious; a fractiousness that was not being assisted by a certain set of circumstances in the younger lord's own life.
Nor by the fact that between his beat down from Stonehaven, followed quickly by Virginia moving in with Stonehaven, followed by the letter from Mary...well...their sex life had definitely suffered.
Well aware that St. John would not benefit from Brycen's doledrums, the younger lord had changed into his shirt sleeves, a commoner's sweater and headed outside to make the most he could out of the break in the weather. He and Robin had gone out into the backfield and hunted up a certain fat pony, who was in no way interested in being caught and after two hours of chasing said pony around a muddy field, they'd managed to pull Bluebell in to the stable. Brycen was currently on his knees, holding up a little pony foot which he was trimming up. He figured that St. John would take the pony and the cart back to Mary with him and it wouldn't due to send a muddy, hoof long little critter home in place of the sleek little Fell who had come to Brambleton.
Brycen...had his work cut out for him.
Brycen was a man in need of a sunbeam. He'd already had a hot bath but his body ached dreadfully from the beating he'd received from Stonehaven and he wanted a sunbeam.
So, with Philip's able bodied assistance, Brycen dressed in a loose lawnshirt -easier to get over bandages wrapped around broken ribs- and loose pants and his own thick dressing gown, then he leaned heavily on his valet as the man helped him down the stairs and towards the Garden Room. It took a little bit of negotiation but eventually Brycen talked Philip into moving one of the chaise lounges out into the garden in the warm Fall sun. In return, he stretched out on the cushions with a blanket wrapped around his legs and a tray of tea on a small table by his elbow.
Brycen had intended to look over missives that had come for him over the weekend. He...ended up falling asleep in the sunbeam instead.
Brycen saw Audrey and Virginia off to the ball then settled in for a quiet evening at the Hall. He ate with the children, catching up on where they were with their studies and after a lively conversation it was decided that they would all retire to the large library and try to find as many books as possible on monkeys.
This had kept them busy up until Miss Seabrook came to announce it was time for bed. After Byrony and Portia had settled the two children down, Brycen came up and took the role of story teller in Audrey's stead, even keeping to the Marquess's promise to tell Edward real life tales of adventures far away.
After this was done, Brycen spent some time in his study before sending a couple of packets on up to Audrey's rooms. A long, relaxing bath was just the ticket and as the house settled for the night, Brycen sent Philip and Thomas both on off to bed, before he ensconced himself in Audrey's favorite armchair, reading glasses perched upon his nose as he worked the older man's puzzles and sipped port.
As promised, he wore nothing but his lover's silk brocade robe.
Though it would probably have been a good oppertunity for James to spend some time in his own rooms, he'd retreated to Audrey's bed chamber to try to sleep. He hadn't slept well the night before, feeling Audrey's abscence keenly and though he'd considered another dose of laudenum to help him rest, he'd quickly shoved the drug aside.
The last thing he needed was to become dependent.
So, Friday night found him particularly exhausted. He'd worked hard in the stables, physically exhausting himself in hopes of helping sleep along. A warm bath and a towel scented with the soothing fragrance of lavender had been employed along with a snifter of warm brandy. He'd sent Philip off to his own bed and eventually stripped himself of his sleeping robe and crawled naked into Audrey's bed.
Curled up on his side in the center, Brycen hugged his lover's pillow to him, soaking up the other man's soothing scent as he slept deep, a small frown creasing his brow.
Night had fallen a couple hours back but Brycen pushed on, wanting only to get back to the Hall and to home. He had done what was needed for Birkshire and as was his wont had done it well and was woefully unprepared for what he was coming home to.
Gosphalen's head hung as he clattered into the courtyard, rousing Robin from his evening rounds. The head lad's face was grim as he took the gelding's bridle, Brycen going through the request for care for his horse on automatic pilot before it sunk in to him that Robin looked...really grim.
"Ye bes' speak wit 'is Lordship."
Grabbing his sword off the saddle, Brycen gave Robin one last quick glance then headed in to the house. Upon running into Merrick, the first words out of his mouth were to ask for the location of Lord Audrey.
It was Sunday night.
The children were asleep, Philip and Thomas had insisted upon staying behind until morning but with knowing glances had taken themselves off to sleep in that wing of the house so that Lady Elizabeth and Lord Edward could find them in they needed them.
Brycen had been plotting. He'd been plotting something romantic for Audrey and with a bit of finagling, he was ready to pull it off. He'd talked the older lord into releasing the lower house that evening, shooing off the stable lads and pretty much everybody except for Thomas and Philip.
He then set about his plotting. For the record, St. John could blame the moon. It was full, low and beautiful in the sky and Brycen was going to make the most of it. Packing up a little bag of wine and some bread and cheese, Brycen changed into breeches and his heavier robe and instructed Audrey to do the same and meet him down in the stables.
By the time Audrey got down there, Brycen had one of the shires pulled out of his field, wearing a halter and two leads, looking a bit perplexed but good nature enough as he lipped at Brycen's hair. The bags of wine, bread and cheese on one side and towels on the other lay across the animals broad shoulders and when Audrey appeared, James waved him over to the mounting block.
Grinning like a fiend, he slid onto the placid animal's broad back and scooted forward, encouraging Audrey to slide on behind him. The Marquess seemed to look intrigued and perplexed at the same time but in short order...they were off!
Brycen knew the lay of the Saint John land by heart at this point and even in the dark he picked a safe path along the orchard and down towards the wooded area of the property. Audrey, asked what the heck was up but James would only say 'it's a surprise' and make the shire jog in an effort to distract Audrey. It took some wending and weaving as the spot he headed for was by no means easy to get to but eventually they stepped out of the heavy wood and into a little sheltered glen.
A glen, housing a natural pool of water
created by an off shoot from the river which ran through the property.
The glen was naturally sheltered on all four sides but open at the top so that the moonlight shown down on the pristine water. Nudging St. John off, Brycen quickly followed and after he secured the shire in a tall grassy spot, he lay out the blanket he'd brought along and the food stuffs. Then, he stood up and began to strip.
"I know it's not sneaking into a dance illicitly but..." The younger lord murmured softly to his lover with a boyish, playful smile on his lips. Then he turned and neatly dove into the sun warmed water, naked as the day he was born.
After Elizabeth had been settled and Audrey ensconed himself with little Edward for a special story, Brycen carried himself off to his own rooms for his nightly bath.
He spent some extra time on the bath tonight, soaking his wounded arm and making certain the cut was still clean and not showing any signs of becoming infected. With Philip's help he rebandaged the limb, then changed into the black silk trousers and loose robe that he knew Audrey particularly liked. Brushing out his thick black hair, Brycen stared at himself in the mirror for a few minutes until a soft question from Philip brought him back to himself.
Smiling to the man, Brycen took himself from his room and headed back down the stairs. As the weather was still wonderful he had directed Thomas to serve the port and brandy in the Garden Room, leaving the doors open to the rose gardens beyond. The night air was a bit thick with summer heat but that only served to draw out the scent of the roses and they seemed to fill the gay little room with their pressence.
Not sure how long Audrey would be with Edward, James went ahead and poured himself a glass of port, then rather than taking up his nightly work papers, he found himself headed out of the doors. There was a soft breeze that brushed across the pale flesh of his bare chest, velvety as if a petal from one of the roses stroked his skin and Brycen smiled softly as he took a deep breath of the night. It was a new moon so only the light from the stars above and the amber glow from the house behind him illuminated the path but Brycen had strong night vision and as such was sure in his steps as he moved barefoot across the trimmed lawn.
Coming up to one of the trellis with the climbing white roses, Brycen leaned his shoulder against the structure and looked out across the far fields across the way. Lifting the glass to his lips for a sip, he crossed his arms and let his thoughts roam as they would while he waited for his beloved.
The sound of a cannon going off in the distance roused Brycen slightly as he lay, curled contentedly in his lover's arms, asleep.
"Mump?" Audrey made a noise, roused more by Brycen's shifting than the noise of artillary.
"Nothing love, go back to sleep." Figuring that he had to have heard wrong, or who the hell knew, maybe Stonehaven was being a lunatic again, Brycen lay his head back down and prepared to go back to sleep.
He was just about there when he heard the crash of St. John's outer door slamming open, the patter of little feet and a plaintive young voice.
Without even pausing to think, Brycen rolled right out of bed, hitting the floor hard enough to rack the hell out of his naked cock and balls, before he rolled under the bed, just as the inner door blew open and little Edward Highcroft careened into the room and scrambled up into the bed with his father.
"Papa!?!?! Papa!?!?! Wake up!!!"
Early Sunday morning, after he left St. John's deep bed, Brycen bathed, shaved and dressed for riding. He took a small breakfast, teasing little Edward who was also up with the birds before heading on out of the house and down to the stables.
"Morning, Robin." Brycen called out cheerfully.
"Morning, Lord James. You need me to get him for you?" Robin asked, standing up from where he was cleaning out water buckets.
"No need, Robin. I'll take care of it."
"Yes, my lord."
Ducking into the room where they kept the tack, Brycen grabbed a double bridle off the wall and slung it over his shoulder. Taking up a dandy brush as well, he headed down to Gosphalen's stall. Cleaning the gelding up and picking his feet, Brycen put on the intricate bridle and then lead the gelding out of his box stall, bridled but with no saddle.
"I'll be down on the lower lawn if anyone needs me!"
"Yes, my lord."
Grabbing a fist full of mane, Brycen leapt up on his restive perch and the gelding cantered smartly out of the cobblestone courtyard, hopped casually over a tall post and rail fence and headed away from the stables.
James rode down to the bit of lawn he had claimed as his own for training purposes with Gosphalen. It was a nice bit of land especially with the lush shade of the overhanging trees from whence he tended to dangle the little targets he liked to snag with his sword but today was not about those games. Today was simply some ground work, going over the very basic foundation of Gosphalen's battle training with high level dressage.
Starting easy, Brycen simply asked the gelding to become supple and obedient to his legs and hands. Putting Gosphalen on the bit with circles and varied speed of trot, gradually horse and rider worked up to the point where Gos's nose came down to his chest and his neck arched beautifully,his hindquarters tucked up deep beneath him. From that point James lifted the level of the work to alternating flying lead changes and eventually the impressive charge where Gosphalen drove forward, powering from behind, his front end kept light so that he could strike out at invisble foes.
They worked up a respectable sweat with the ground work and from there, Brycen moved them into the airs above ground movements. Starting simple with a classic levade he sat lightly on his horse's bare back, in no need of the stirrups as he and Gosphalen moved almost as one creature through the intricate steps. This was the true beauty and grace of dressage, Gosphalen's rare and utter obedience to his rider's subtle as silk cues, actions that upon the field of battle could save a man's life. From the levade, Brycen next asked for a Mezair with Gosphalen rocking back into the levade but then striking out with his forelegs before bringing them down and going up again, slowing and inexorably moving himself forward, clearing out any ground troops in his path. The next level was the Courbette, Gosphalen rearing up, hind legs held together as he leapt forward, forelimbs slashing at the air, deadly to anyone ahead of him, mounted or upon the ground. Finally, Brycen cued Gosphalen for the Capriole where in the gelding seemed to fly through the air, Brycen balanced carefully atop his back as Gosphalen lashed out with his hindlegs in a battle movement that was devestating to any enemy trying to come up behind him.
It all looked quite beautiful when done against the serene green of the lawn but the movements had a purpose beyond their ballet like grace and anyone who had ever seen a well trained war horse in battle could recognize the deadly precision of the acts and probably understand why Brycen kept the ill tempered Gosphalen for as long as he had.[ooc: For images of what Gosphalen is doing, check This website and also This website there are some wonderful images to enjoy.][ooc: For byrony_bradford if she desires to come and talk and also lord_stjohn who is also good for talking to ;)]