Phoebus moved smoothly with the horse below him as they cantered back towards the palace. He was no great cavalier, but he could stay in the saddle most of the time. This morning the pair rode easily, just a chance to let each stretch their legs and get outside the walls while they could. Dawn was just breaking, which is why they were headed back. Phoebus had duties to take care of, being the captain of the guard. He would probably even have to change attire, unless he came back to find the place in shambles. He was currently wearing just light leather armor and his own clothing, with his bow and quiver slung over his back. His sword was still on his belt, but had he encountered anything of concern, it would have been his second choice. But to be the Captain Bouclier, he would need at the very least mail and the king’s colors, and his bow would likely be retired.
His horse’s hooves clattered over the stones as he approached the main gate. The soldiers saluted him as he passed. Once inside the gates, Phoebus dismounted easily, pulling the reins over the animal’s head. A stable hand appeared and offered to take the horse from him, but he refused. Instead, he began walking towards the stables himself. He noticed that there was far more activity outside now than when he had left that morning in the dark.
As far as she was aware, Esmeralda had never lay in. She was always up with the sun, up with the birds, up with everything else that woke before the crack of dawn. When she was younger and this internal alarm woke her, she would be awed to watch the sun rising, the sheer beauty of vivid colours bleeding across the sky. Now that she was older, she rarely got to see that beauty, because once she woke, she was straight to work, be it tumbling and rehearsing with the rest of the troupe, or helping out in the palace. She made good coin as a performer, yes, but a little extra never hurt, so she would often seek out jobs to take before her time to practice. She’d been informed that a stablehand had become violently ill in the night, and an extra one was needed down at the stables for a few hours, to help prepare things for the day - well, it wouldn’t be the first time she’d worked with horses, and she didn’t mind getting her hands dirty while she worked. Fetching a dark blue skirt and bodice with short sleeves, she quickly laced up a plain black corset and slipped her feet into worn black slippers. Hardly a fashion trend the ladies would envy her for, but she had a strong suspicion her work would involve mucking out the animals, and so she wasn’t going to wear her best.
When she arrived, though, someone else had already been given that task, and she sent a quick prayer to God for it. She didn’t mind it, but the stench could be overpowering. Instead, she was assigned to feed the horses and she was in the middle of this when she heard the steady clop of hooves approaching. Lifting her head and setting aside the feedbag, she watched as the blonde entered the stable with his horse before lifting the bag of oats and approaching him.
"Out early this morning, sir," she noted, sounding as cheerful as she could - you had to. That was one of the first things she’d learned when coming to court. If you were below their station, you had to act as if they could shit on you and you’d still smile. She’d gotten very good at pretending to be happy around certain courtiers, though she couldn’t put a name to the face of this man. "Hope the air cleared your head. Need me to take your horse for you?" She offered, hoisting the feed bag. She knew this man, but she couldn’t match the face with a name. It was frustrating, but it didn’t matter much to her. Instead, she kept the smile on her face, waiting for a response.