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Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 09-13-05 15:20 EST (US)         

THE SCEPTRE AND THE FALCHION

A Stronghold Heaven Community written story.

WRITING TEAM: Civis Romanus, Eruco Ellesar, Ibeliamoyes, Jasper Tudor, Johndisp, Lady Arcola, Micah Aragorn, Nimmanu, Wize1 and Yellek.

All members are welcome to join


________________________________________

CHARACTERS:


Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York "The Iron Duke" - 6 ft 1 in. mid-thirties, dark hair, brown eyes, muscular, skilled with most hand held weapons except longbow. Unmarried. (Civis Romanus)
Sir Andrew Bruce - simple knight. 6' 2" tall, green eyes, short cropped blond hair, skin darkened by the sun. A simple man of simple means, extraordinary with the sword or fist fights, but not very good at any other forms of combat. Very quiet, very calm, very "pacifistic" unless provoked past reason. Somewhat more than passable horseman, uncanny capabilities in tracking. 25 years old, unmarried. (Nimmanu)
The Monk - a monk. Always wears a gray frock, has taken a vow of silence so he never speaks. He also believes he is unworthy to be looked upon, so with much practice, has learned to skillfully avoid anyone seeing past the dark depths of his gray frock. Very helpful, very quiet, never ever gets on a horse. (Nimmanu)
Flint Aitkin - 5'6", fairly long, unkempt brown hair, fairly thin but toned, tanned slightly, skilled in archery and short weapons, prefers to live the quiet life, pacifist, excellent hunter and capable of surviving harsh conditions. 21 years old and unmarried. Can ride horses well. (Ibeliamoyes)
Harold Hugo (Armsman Hugo) - A large muscular man, with no educational experience. Never set foot in an academy in his life. A very creative man indeed. He uses his logic to do many things, which seems to get him by. Standing 6'1, this brute knows nothing but war. A past blacksmith, since he was a child. Great knowledge of weapons, their structure, range, capabilities, everything. Now at the age of 37, he serves the king in his struggles. (Wize1)
Isabel Harker: Blond & blue-eyed, 5'6, daughter of Viscount Harker, whose lands are the western tip of what is now West Sussex.
Jafo: 32, ill mannered, no holds barred humor. Goes both way's with interaction with others. Loves dirty tricks, sneaking around, stealthy pranks, etc. Likes to be picked on, and have others pull Evil tricks on him. (Yellek)
Nigel Alexander Stewart 24 years old, 6’1” with a lean muscular build, blond hair with hints of auburn, blue green eyes that twinkle with merriment that spills into his facial features. Expert fighter with sword and lance, riding and shooting the English long bow. Travels easily between England and Scotland, to landholdings in both, emissary of Scotland to King Edward III. Rides a dark brown war horse with a black mane. (Lady Arcola)
Elizabeth Stewart, (Nigel’s younger sister) 20 years old, very long auburn blond hair, blue green eyes that twinkle like her brothers with long black eyelashes, slender with a graceful strength, knows how to also fight but is a better rider than fighter. She rides a beautiful horse with a snowy white mane and deep caramel colored coat. She is in Scotland waiting for her brother to return from his trip to see Edward III. (Lady Arcola)

Edward III, King of England - Historical figure - King at 14 years; absolute monarch at 17 years.
Edward Balliol - Historical figure - King's advisor on military matters
Phillipa, Queen of England - Historical figure - Spouse of Edward III

________________________________________


Unless you are part of the writing team, please do not post in this thread. To communicate with writers or post your comments, please go to the Discussion Thread for this story. Here is a direct link to this story's DISCUSSION THREAD

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-16-2010 @ 04:00 PM).]

AuthorReplies:
Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 02-17-10 21:43 EST (US)     76 / 108       
The Duke muttered to himself, "The horse is calmer than the men at arms, and it's a mere beast."

Edward's lips twitched at the corners as he watched Roderick survey the scene below while muttering to himself. He called out to Blinn, "Come, come Sir Roderick. Don't keep your thoughts to yourself. What think ye, man? I should like to know."

Roderick turned around and surveyed the room, looking at each advisor in turn from the lowest to the highest, then paused a moment to position his penetrating brown eyes on Edward Balliol, who returned the Duke's look with only a slightly less forceful stare. "Methinks, your Majesty, that this endless debate over the Northumberland Treaty serves no useful purpose. It is but a parchment we feel compelled to honor, yet like all parchment it creases. We must find its crease and fold it out of our way."

"A marvelous metaphor, Sir Roderick, but how do you propose to do that?"

Blinn bowed slightly in appreciation for the King's complement. "Bard I am not," Blinn answered, "But what is all too clear to me is that time passes, the men who do not slip away in the night are becoming restless, and we must act or see our fine troop wither from lack of action."

"I have noticed it, York," Edward conceded. "Sir Andrew does as well as he can to keep them motivated."

"I am aware of his work and have aided him when I can, but it is more than the finest Camp Commander can overcome, this waiting. Thus, my Liege," continued Blinn, "we must act, and act soon. I suggest you dismiss this council and permit me this time to formulate a plan of action for your consideration."

"Balliol can assist you," Edward noted.

Blinn bristled. "If it pleases your Highness, I shan't need his assistance. It will only slow my work. I have my personal secretary for that labor." Balliol's face turned red as beets.

The King raised his hand to calm Balliol. "Sir Roderick, perhaps we all, indeed, need this pause before any more ill-considered words are spoken."

Blinn had made his point about Balliol, but realized he had nearly crossed the line with King Edward. He bowed. "It shall be as the King commands."

Edward frowned, knowing full well he had not effected any change in Blinn's growing disdain for Balliol. "The King commands this meeting of his royal council be ended. Sir Roderick, bring your plan to me before week's end." So saying, Edward rose from his chair, as did all others in the room rise from their chairs just as quickly as they could, deeply bowing and maintaining that position until Edward had passed through the chamber's doors.

Balliol, a substantially shorter man than Blinn, approached the Duke. "I shall not again sit so quietly and be spoken about in that manner, York. Remember it well. Only the King on this occasion remained between us. If not for his Majesty, I would see you in the field and have you graze upon your words." The Duke's eyes never left Balliol's, and his hand was ready to grasp his dagger should Balliol make an untoward move towards his own. But Balliol, having said his words, spun about on his heels and purposefully marched out of the chamber in the direction taken by the rest of the king's council members, all leaving in haste not wanting to witness what might happen between the two men.

Roderick snorted derisively and exited the chamber after Balliol, but turned to the hallway on the right, heading back towards the sleeping quarters where he knew he would find Nigel. Along the way he passed a slender young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, hinting of green, whose facial features seemed vaguely familiar though he couldn't place them in time or location. She stopped dead in her tracks drawing a sudden breath, her eyes opening wide at his sudden appearance. Then she remembered herself and curtseyed, lowering her eyes briefly.

"Greetings, Milord," she said in a voice familiar in its word formation but different in timber than his fleeting memory recalled. Rising again she looked at the Duke with hopeful eyes. But Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York was too focussed on his need to see Nigel Alexander Stewart and paid the young woman only a moment's notice by nodding in passing acknowledgement of the woman's courteous greeting. Thus, he walked rapidly on by, leaving Elizabeth Stewart in his wake.

Elizabeth watched him until he turned a corner and disappeared. Then she lowered her eyes and resumed her walk, but more slowly now. Occasionally, as the stones of the floor passed under her feet, one or another would be struck by a small drop of water from above. Though the small pools from which the water droplets came were blue with a hint of green, the drops themselves were quite clear...and salty.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-17-2010 @ 10:03 PM).]

Micah Aragorn
Archer
posted 02-19-10 20:10 EST (US)     77 / 108       
In Perth, Scotland.....

Thomas Randolph leaned over the table with hands clutching it's sides grinding them ever slowly back and forth. With his face wrinkled from concern, the news of Edward III and the pretender, Edward Balliol, at York was too coincidental to be taken lightly. His eyes glared over and over at the unfolded map laying on the table pondering what devious agenda would bring them that close to Scottish borders.

Randolph, his position as regent and "Guardian of Scotland" as the Act of Settlement proclaimed, had been necessary since the inherited crown by the young David II put Scotland in jeopardy. David was but a child of eight, unable to make mature decisions of state. His wife and consort Joanna, sister of Edward III and only three years older, was of no help in keeping from the sweeping hand of thieving, greed, and obedience of the English. The Treaty of Northampton was only a formality of non-crossible lines of which to seperate the two defining countrysides.

Randolph had helped to drive the English once before from it's lands under the banner of Robert I and the aid of Sir James Douglas. With determination and desire of Scots ruling Scottish land would do it again. But not alone! The Lords and Earls of the Highlands and Lowlands needed to aid should...Nay!...when the English break the terms of the treaty.

He must get word to Archibald Douglas, Sir Andrew Murray, Donald, Earl of Mar, Robert Bruce, and all others to be prepared. As he lifted his hands from the table and rubbed his fingers over the rough palms, his forehead wrinkled and his eyes squinted in determination at the task that lay ahead and then he called for a rider....

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 02-19-2010 @ 08:44 PM).]

Lady Arcola
SHH Seraph
posted 02-22-10 23:52 EST (US)     78 / 108       
Roderick gave not a second thought to the young woman he had passed. Aggravation at the happenings in the meeting still seething though him, he was now intent on reaching Nigel, with the guest rooms just around the corner he quickened his pace.

Coming from the other direction, Nigel was also distraught in his own right. Elizabeth had just left him in their room, after trying to quietly talk to him again. Nigel, being too worried, had shut her out and dismissed her attempt at conversation, so she turned and fled into the hall. Her lonely voice had trailed back to him, “I will not speak to you again till you can calm down and I can calm myself.”

He had heard the pain and despair in her voice then, but did nothing to stop her as she left. When she did not reappear immediately, he started angrily out after her. He had hoped their meeting with the Queen would have taken some of Elizabeth’s worries away. But Queen Philippa’s warm hearted meeting had only assuaged them for the time they were in her presence. Nigel knew she was scared to death at the situation they were in; but at the moment his anger at Edward III’s dismissal of the information he had, from his sister Joanne, was paramount.

What was he thinking! The chief member of the Balliol clan sat at the King’s side, did the information mean nothing? That thought brought Nigel's anger to the surface again. All the trouble of the past year was linked to other members of Balliol clan. Seeing Edward in such deep conversation with Balliol was…. He couldn't think. The thought made his head hurt. Would this tear his father's hard work apart? What a viper they had in their midst, did they not know? Nigel thoughts fueled his feet as he turned the corner; only to slam head long into an oncoming form.

Watch out of my way!” Nigel put up his hands to ward off the impact.

Nigel!!”

Nigel knew before he looked who that voice belonged to, and his ire died. He looked up as two concerned intense brown eyes bored into him.

Roderick… I… I…


Elizabeth had calmed her tears, only one or two spilled from time to time. She had wandered way down into the depths of the castle. At the base of the keep she was now well below her angry brother. She inquired of the guard at the gate to take her down to the stables. One young man with feed buckets was her guide. Out into the cool air and down to the stables they proceeded. The warmth of the animals swelled from the door of the stables and here in the main stable she had hoped to find her horse.

Nigel’s dark brown stallion came into view first; he was just being rubbed down by a stable hand. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom she searched for her own caramel colored horse and soon caught sight of it a few stalls down from her brothers.

Elizabeth ran to Wilwarin and buried her head in the soft white mane, “Wilwarin, my estel.”

The large horse nuzzled her. Her gentle greeting brought him down next to her as she laid up against the warmth of his coat.

Nigel will not find me here…Ach, Wilwarin… what will become of us?

Across the stable a form watched the newcomer with interest, hidden deep in the shadows and hidden by a deep hood eyes lit with interest as the young girl spoke the horses name again.

«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»
Seraph Lady Arcola
"I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." -Walter Winchell

~ BFME2 Heaven | Stronghold Heaven | Stronghold 2 Heaven~
«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»

[This message has been edited by Lady Arcola (edited 03-11-2010 @ 11:23 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 02-24-10 15:56 EST (US)     79 / 108       
Blinn managed, barely, to avoid the forthcoming collision with Nigel. "Lad! Calm yourself!" he commanded. He saw Nigel's eyes go wide and the young man immediately struggling to suppress his anger. An odd thought crossed Blinn's mind which might defuse the situation, so he quipped to Nigel's utter confusion, "Besides, Nigel, the Spring Ball is later this week and I haven't the time to give you a dancing lesson right now in the hallway."

Nigel screwed up his face into an odd expression of bemused confusion, then realized the import of Blinn's humor and its implied goodwill. Despite his ire and frustration with his sister, Nigel started to laugh. He then executed a perfect bow such as courtesy required between nobles of different rank. "Milord, forgive my carelessness. I was paying too little attention to my direction and too much to my sister and my own thoughts."

Blinn began to laugh. He extended his arm to signal a much warmer greeting was in order. "Nigel, you're as impetuous as always! But well met, lad. I'm glad you're here!" Nigel responded by grasping the Duke's outstretched arm in a firm, equally warm response, forearm against forearm. Childhood friends, reaffirming. Roderick finally released Nigel's arm. "I have much to discuss with you, my friend. Have you the time for me, this moment?"

"Always, Sir Roderick, and at any time you choose," Nigel replied.

"My name is 'Roderick,' not 'Sir' when we are alone," Blinn corrected. Nigel smiled at the unusual sign of friendship and bowed slightly in receipt of the complement.

"In my room, Roderick?"

"Yes, where we shall not be overheard." But in that moment a stray thought passed through Blinn's mind. "Your sister is here in the manor?"

"Why yes, Roderick, I think you might even have passed her in the hallway. She left just a moment before you and I...well...met each other here."

Sir Roderick frowned, and then looked over his shoulder as if the young woman he passed might reappear at any moment. "Auburn, maybe blonde hair and blue eyes touched with a little green... I should have known. Oh my, Nigel, indeed I met her, but I didn't recognize her and treated her like a stranger."

Nigel pursed his lips. "I regret to say, Roderick, that will not set well with her. She speaks of you rather frequently and always asks the Queen for news of you. And I was... Well, we had words just moments ago and she was very uncomfortable with what I said." He paused a moment. "I wonder where she has gone?"

"Shall I have her sought for?" asked Blinn.

"No, we've had these moments before. She will return." Nigel noticed Blinn was lost in some private thoughts. "Shall we ourselves return to my room?"

Blinn seemed elsewhere when he answered. "Hmm? Oh, yes, the matter can't wait." They began to walk to Nigel's room. "Speaks of me rather frequently?"

"My sister does, yes."

"A girl of 10..."

Nigel smiled. "A woman now, Roderick."

"And I, a self-absorbed noble snob."

"This moment she may be thinking that very thought," concurred Nigel with something of a devilish half smile.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-24-2010 @ 03:59 PM).]

Nimmanu
Archer
posted 02-25-10 10:34 EST (US)     80 / 108       
Diana slowly crept forward towards Elizabeth and her horse. Had she heard correctly? She'd been gone from home so long that even hearing her language in the rolling brogue of the Northlands was comforting.

Diana chuckled silently at the fact that Elizabeth had named her horse "Butterfly" in the old language. It was a lovely horse, to be sure, but hardly as flighty as a butterfly. As she slipped closer, careful not to let the other woman see her, she hoped against hope that she'd heard correctly.

She promised herself that she wouldn't do anything, wouldn't say anything. She would just listen. Even those two whispered words were enough to sooth her homesick soul. She hadn't gone through to home in many months, since the crush of people in the city was simply too much risk.

Creeping slowly towards the other woman, Diana didn't count on the horse's keen hearing and eyesight. She had helped with his care when he'd been brought in, and he had become immediately attached to her, as all creatures of this world were wont to do.

He looked straight at her and whickered a greeting. Before she could duck back or even cover herself, eyes the color of sun kissed ocean water locked with hers. Both women gasped at the same time.

"Lady Diana?" Elizabeth exclaimed, her surprise clear in both the look on her face, and in her voice.

Then those same eyes narrowed with contemplation. "What is an elf doing here, deceiving the queen?" Suspicion positively emanated from her.

Diana raised her hands and spread them wide in plea. "She knows what I am, and even how I'm living here, I swear it," she told the other woman. "There is no deception between her and I. I'm here to help her, to try to protect her."

Elizabeth's face relaxed slightly. "Protect her from what, then?"

Diana walked slowly into the stall, glancing around to ensure that no one was nearby. One stable hand was sitting at the other end of the stable, cleaning tack with a leather rag and some foul-smelling concoction that stung her nose even from this far away.

She sank down beside Wilwaren, a silent invitation. As Elizabeth sank down beside her, Diana explained. "I think that Isabel Harker is attempting to ensnare the Duke of York. If she fails, I fear that she will attempt to eliminate Phillipa. Her attempts to ingratiate herself to York have failed so far, but she has dismissed it as simply him being too caught up in affairs of state to notice her."

Elizabeth looked away. Diana recognized something in her look, and smiled. To her surprise, she was warming up to this young woman. She patted her on the arm, a gentle gesture that spoke clearly to the two women—both knew it meant that Diana recognized the sadness in Elizabeth's gesture. Both also knew that words would only bring sorrow, so none were spoken on the subject of Elizabeth's pain at having been unnoticed by someone she cared for.

Before long, Diana knew that Elizabeth was here alone as far as female companionship. As they talked, Diana's own heart eased. She felt a strong kinship with this woman, so much younger than her, and yet also alone here in many ways.

"So why are you here?" Elizabeth asked, her eyes assessing Diana's face. "I've never known the elves to interfere in matters of state before."

Diana chuckled, admitting the truth of it. "That's only because we've avoided getting to know people who dabble in them. I got to know Phillipa, so that changes things for me. It's not state to me, it's personal. I can't stand Isabel Harker."

"I see." Elizabeth sat watching her expectantly, and when Diana said nothing more, she continued, "That doesn't tell me why you're here."

Diana sighed. "Andrew," she said, looking wistfully out of the stall towards Horse's stall.

Elizabeth grinned then. The slightly impish expression eased all the tension from her face and her body, transforming her from pretty to quite lovely. Diana couldn't help but return the expression with a smile of her own. Affection bloomed in her towards Elizabeth, and the first tentative bonds of friendship were forged.

"It's more than that, though, really. I'm in the years of my el-derich," she said.

Elizabeth's eyes widened. "You must take a mate, then."

Diana nodded. "From the line of Neldorith, according to the seers. But they were nearly wiped out during the fourth elven war. All except one. She escaped to the world of Men, and bore a son."

"Andrew," Elizabeth said, her voice breathy, shocked. At Diana's nod, she continued, "He's half elvish, then?"

"Yes. His mother was found when he was small, and she's back home. Because she's the last of her line, though, they won't let her leave. She tried to call Andrew to come to our realm, but he didn't understand. She confided in me in private after she heard the seer's pronouncement. So I came to find him."

"You have to tell him," Elizabeth cried, agitating Wilwarin in her excitement.

"I can't!" Diana told her. "He's being followed by followers of the Roman's Holy See. Specialized forces whose sole purpose is to eliminate those of my kind—and his. I must protect him."

At Elizabeth's dubious look, Diana sighed.

"He should know that he's in danger, and why," Elizabeth said.

Diana turned away. "I can't. I can't tell him."

Immediately, Elizabeth understood. "You're in love with him already, aren't you."

Diana felt her lip tremble like a child's when she's about to cry. Tears stung her eyes. "Almost since the beginning, I think. It feels like I've always known him."

"And you're afraid of how he'll respond to your deception, and the reality of who and what you are."

When Diana's tearful eyes met Elizabeth's, her next words caused Elizabeth to pull her into her arms. "And I'm almost out of time."

"Oh, sweety," Elizabeth said, her brogue deepening in her compassion. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know," said Diana's voice, muffled against her shoulder. "I just don't know!"

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 02-25-2010 @ 10:37 AM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 02-25-10 16:38 EST (US)     81 / 108       
Now in Nigel's room, both men drew etched wooden chairs to themselves and sat across from each other at the small table which served as a writing place for its occupants. Daylight streaming through the slotted cross-like opening designed to accomodate an archer's bow was sufficient to illuminate the room and void the need for lit candles. The early spring chill was carried in on the strength of the light breeze, but their woolen clothing warded off the worst of it.

Nigel sat quietly waiting for the older man to speak of the matter on his mind. "You will swear to me, Nigel," Blinn began. "You will swear to me an oath on our friendship that what I am about to tell you shall remain a secret between us and shall never reach either Edward's ears or David of Scotland's ears or the ears of any of either kings' advisors. Not a soul, but between us. Not even your sister."

Nigel frowned. "'Tis a solemn oath you demand, Roderick."

"I assure you what I have to say is not a matter contrary to God or your family," Blinn reassured him.

Nigel hesitated, then decided. "I give you my oath on that basis, Roderick."

"Very well. I have these questions first."

Nigel nodded confirming Blinn should proceed.

"When you passed across the border, were Scottish regiments deployed there."

"I wouldn't know, Roderick. I didn't cross the Scottish border."

Blinn's expression changed to one of puzzlement. "But I thought..."

Nigel shook his head. "No, we travelled by boat. For us this time the roads of Scotland were not safe for my sister and I."

"But why? You have the goodwill of the Queen, and the King I presume."

Again Nigel shook his head. "But not David's advisors, or even young David. That's why we have fled Scotland. Friends who know we are neither enemies of England nor enemies of Scotland, but only seek peace for our merchantile business, warned us of foul untruths being uttered about us in the king's ears. These untruths associate us with all manner of conspiracies.

"But surely David's relationship with Joanne..."

Nigel sighed. "They are but children and trusting. David is only slightly more a king than Joanne is a queen. The advisors are who rule Scotland. Besides, David has not taken well to Joanne and the poor girl is very lonely. That's why we have become friends to her, to fill the place where her happiness has deserted her."

"Edward knows that and appreciates what you do for his sister," Blinn noted.

"I am happy to serve him in that humane manner. I am not happy to be in the vicinity of Balliol, though."

Sir Roderick was startled by that last comment. "Balliol, and why is that, Nigel?"

"His clan in Scotland burned my family's manor house years ago. We do not associate with them. We think they seek the throne of Scotland and are secretly at work discrediting us and spreading the untruths which plague my sister and I." All the while saying this, Nigel's face was becomming redder and redder as the familial hatred rose higher and higher in him like burning bile. "Edward Balliol is using King Edward and intending to obtain the throne for himself and his family!"

Blinn considered the emotional force displayed behind Nigel's words. Yes, he should tell the lad. "Nigel, you are partially correct. Balliol seeks the throne, but he is not in conspiracy with his family. They are avowed enemies of Edward our King and would harm Joanne, as well as depose David. Edward Balliol is blood sworn to our King and seeks the throne of Scotland to serve as a vassal of Edward of England and to save the life of Joanne. Of this, I am sure, Edward Balliol is not your enemy, though the rest of his family very well may be. I have no great respect for Balliol's leadership or his generalship, but apparently Edward does. I seek a way to place Balliol on the throne, for the sooner he is departed from England and our King, so much the better. That is the secret you now protect with your oath."

Nigel's face took on its most serious possible expression. "It shall be as you ask, by my oath."

Blinn's mind raced on. "You say the roads in Scotland are unsafe? You travelled by boat."

"Yes, Roderick, we did. We travelled lightly for we had few boats at our disposal and needed to accomodate goods, horses and ourselves. The passage was brief enough with a strong but nonthreatening wind. We landed in a port to York's east. I can show you on my maps." Nigel jumped up and walked swiftly to an open chest and yanked out a set of folded parchments and returned to his chair spreading the parchments out for Blinn to see. "Here to here," Nigel said, pointing to places of origin and destination.

"Where is the border?" Blinn asked as he traced the same line just traced by Nigel.

"Here." Nigel pointed and drew with his index finger a line between the two ports. Blinn nodded.

"And how many boats did you seen in this nearby port in England?"

Nigel's brow creased as he tried to visualize what he remembered seeing. "It was dark then, Roderick, but by the light of torches, lamps and the orb, it seemed to be by the twelves in various sizes from small to quite large."

"Thank you." Blinn lapsed into silence as a flurry of interwoven thoughts blended together to form an all encompassing idea. Then his overworked mind switched to a different tack. "Young Joanne is safe is she not?"

"For now."

"She is but a child, nearly 10, like your sister when..." Roderick blinked as a different thought interceded. Sir Roderick Blinn drew himself up into noble stature with back straight and stiff. "Nigel, in a few days time I will host York's annual Spring Banquet and Ball. As Duke of York, I think it my duty to ensure that Elizabeth Stewart, your sister, be shown proper attention. Thus, I should tell you that it is the Duke's command that Lady Stewart be allowed a meeting with me so that I may fulfill my duty and lead her in a dance."

Nigel stared at this suddenly transformed nobleman, and with the oddest of notions tugging at him, couldn't help himself in replying, "Oh for the sake of the Gates of York, Roderick, why don't you just say you'd like the pleasure of a dance with my sister."

Blinn's face turned as red as Nigel's had previously, "Well I, I mean, that I..." Nigel's bemused expression finally registered on Blinn. "Well, of course Nigel. Your permission, please."

"Granted, Milord," came Nigel's immediate response.

"We shall of course keep this our secret too, shall we not?" Blinn queried, his face still sporting a rosey glow.

"Many secrets to bear this day, Milord, but I shall do my utmost," Nigel confirmed.

Then unable to maintain the formality any longer, both broke out into the heartiest of laughs, such as neither had enjoyed in many, many months.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-25-2010 @ 04:48 PM).]

Lady Arcola
SHH Seraph
posted 03-02-10 14:03 EST (US)     82 / 108       
Passing to my fellow writers.

«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»
Seraph Lady Arcola
"I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." -Walter Winchell

~ BFME2 Heaven | Stronghold Heaven | Stronghold 2 Heaven~
«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»

[This message has been edited by Lady Arcola (edited 03-05-2010 @ 06:42 AM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 03-05-10 16:21 EST (US)     83 / 108       
Conversation between Blinn and Nigel then turned to other things.

"Are you refreshed yet, lad?" Blinn asked jovially. "I have much to show you!"

Nigel did a quick assessment and noted his former dark thoughts had dissipated adequately. "Aye! I think I can muster up the will. Where to?"

"The city, Nigel."

"Foot or horse?"

"Foot," Blinn confirmed.

Nigel soon found himself in the midst of the city's smithies, the ground broken up with muddy patches which both men navigated without appearing fixated on avoiding the possibility of being splashed. Those who saw Sir Roderick Blinn bowed in recognition, but knew it was to their work that Blinn wanted attention given and not himself. "See this weapon?" Blinn said as he selected a finished falchion from the stack lying near one smithie's shop. "What do you think of it?"

Nigel grasped it and then in an open space wielded it in various manners similar to other weapons he knew swordlike in design. "Hmm. Not too heavy like a broadsword, but weighted well at its extreme end to achieve a chopping wound. Sharp edge for cutting and the minor point at the end could penetrate and cause a bloody wound though probably not fatal, just painful enough to induce distraction. A fatal blow could be delivered through that haze of distraction. What man-at-arms would carry such a weapon?"

Blinn nodded appreciating Nigel's astute analysis. "Most likely archers and peasants. Men-at-arms would retain their current choice of weapons, or carry this new weapon which is called a falchion."

"Falchion," Nigel repeated. "The peasants can afford a weapon such as this?"

"More can than not, but not all. So the King will see that peasants have this weapon who cannot afford it on their own. He is that dedicated to victory.

Above them, the sky had finally shaken off its cap of cloudy grey. Nigel idly maneuvered the blade of the sword to catch the sun's rays. The resulting flash of reflected light shined brightly for a moment on the building near which began the area of butchering known as The Shambles. Blinn made a mental note of that lighting effect should it be needed in another place or for another purpose.

From time to time a whisp of breeze brought upon its back the scent of the slaughter conducted in The Shambles that day. It was pungeant, but not yet putrid. That would come in the summer light when the sun's heat does its worst and causes Blinn once again to issue his annual edict on clearing The Shambles of offal at the end of each business day or face a fine. Blinn never kept the monies fined. These he distributed to the poor who roamed The Shambles collecting the offal from the butcher shop floors. For the poor who assumed this task as their livelihood or their survival, if not for a coin or two from the fines to pay for a small bit of meat, they otherwise would never have anything but the offal they collected to make their puddings, soups and stews.

The fat butchers of The Shambles didn't like this because, they said, it caused the poor to collect more slowly or not at all so there would be fines. Blinn suggested they clear it themselves then to avoid the fines. The butchers gave this a moment's consideration and decided the fines were not likely to be a problem if they happened at all. If necessary they would raise their prices to cover the possible fines. At that, Blinn shrugged. The rich who could afford the meat could afford giving a little unknowing help to the poor, upon whose aching backs the great fortunes of the rich were usually made.

None of this, however, was discussed between Nigel and Sir Roderick, as the Duke guided Nigel towards the military encampment outside the city's great walls.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 03-05-2010 @ 08:26 PM).]

Micah Aragorn
Archer
posted 03-05-10 20:14 EST (US)     84 / 108       
In the meeting chamber of David and Joanna.....

With a quizzical look upon her face at such a suggestion presented upon them, Joanna sitting beside David, addressed Thomas Randolph," My brother would never hurt David, Nor would he myself."

Randolph trying to reassure the children replied,"Of course he wouldn't want to see any harm come to you, Milady. But I cannot vouch for your highness. There are matters that go deeper than sibling loyalty."

David's face showed the child's fear with wide eyes and lips that trembled. He was holding Joanna's hand for reassurance but his age overruled any strength his position in Scotland might hold. Trying to sound as if knowledgeable on the state of affairs, David asked Sir Randolph," But doesn't the Treaty of Northampton provide for any such harm against us?"

Sir Randolph, bowing his head in acknowledgment of the question, tried to again ease the situation and put a rest to the fears of his young king,"Yes Milord! But it's an uneasy treaty that neither side wishes to be the first to break."

David still not fully comprehending the terms of the treaty looked at Joanna as Randolph continued," Some of your own countrymen, Lords and Earls alike, are loyal to Edward Balliol and would have him rule in your place. They side with England's Edward in an attempt to gain favor and your throne, highness!" Randolph continued," They have lost the lands because of past discretions and seek restitution."

Joanna trying to help find a solution offered," Can't we do something to persuade my brother Edward, that it's better to be on friendly terms with David and Scotland then with countrymen who are basically traitors?"

Sir Randolph replied," I wish it were that easy. For your brother and England still feel we should be one united country under English rule and uses Balliol and his followers to that end. I fear, Milady and liege, that will not change until one or the other of us is no longer alive." One could see the tears well up in the eyes of both children as their hands grasped tighter.

Randolph kneeling in front of them and putting his hand on theirs as a father would to a child to comfort said with conviction in his voice," Rest assure, my bonny lass and laddie, I will with my last breath make sure no harm will befall you. I pledge myself, my sons, with the faithful Lords and Earls to keep Scotland free."

Joanna wiped the tears that left a trail on her cheek and hoped her message given to Nigel Stewart for her brother would somehow bring Edward to her side. It was times like this that she felt the loneliness of not having family and especially the comforting companionship of Elizabeth Stewart and her brother, Nigel. For although David held her hand today to hear of their crisis he seldom sought her and kept to his own childish thoughts.

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 03-05-2010 @ 10:44 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 03-05-10 20:54 EST (US)     85 / 108       
Just outside the walls Edward's army stretched towards the river which attracted first the Angles, then the Saxons and finally the Norse to this area, to be replaced by the Normans and their Plantagenet kings. The army reflected this human stew, plus the additional ingrediants of Welsh, Cornish and even a few, but very few, Irish. These western inhabitants of the island generally were accepted with caution, as traditional enmity with the Welsh and the Viking-caused enmity between the English and Irish made these soldiers strange campmates among those who had to fight them in the past.

A particularly tall blond haired soldier, possibly a knight, caught Nigel's attention. Being in public, Nigel was keenly aware of the difference in their relative rank when he next addressed Blinn. "Milord, that tall man with blond hair seems familiar. Is he the knight I saw in London in the tournament, a Sir Andrew, umm, Bruce if I recall?"

"Yes. he is Sir Andrew. Shall we greet him?"

"By all means, Milord," Nigel agreed.

The crowd of men around the knight parted immediately, bowing very correctly, when they saw the approach of the Duke of York. All conversation became silent. Andrew had been facing away from the Duke, but turned upon seeing the men's reaction and bowed deeply. "Milord, I am pleased to see you among our soldiers."

Returning the courtesy, Blinn motioned for them all to cease their bow. "As am I to be among them, Sir Andrew. How goes matters?"

"Well, Milord. These men are all trained and ready for the King's command to march. In fact, Milord, they are most eager to receive that command," Sir Andrew said pointedly.

Sir Roderick did not miss the message hidden in the knight's reply. Andrew was telling him the men were restless and further delay was not going to be of benefit. "Aye, Sir Andrew, I can see that," Blinn acknowledged with his own underlying message. "I am pleased to say quite soon a plan of action will be put before the King and methinks that command to march will follow." Blinn raised his voice so all could hear. "Be of good cheer, lads! The King is as eager as you to solve the Scottish problem! With the weather becoming favorable, we shall be on the move just as soon as we can! Until then, train well, lads, and be well!" A great cheer arose from those in the vicinity who heard the Duke's words, and others came running at the sound of the cheers.

The Duke more quietly said to Bruce, "Come with me now, Sir Andrew, there is much I should like to discuss with you." He motioned to Sir Andrew to follow, which he did. "You remember Nigel?" he asked the knight.

"No, Milord, I do not."

"Oh, of course, you were in the tournament in London and Nigel who saw you compete was not at the Ball, so you two could not have met."

"No, Milord."

Introductions were made and some small talk exchanged as Duke Roderick, Sir Andrew Bruce and Nigel Stewart returned to the Keep and the discussion the Duke planned to have with them both about the strategic plan that was becoming increasingly filled out in the Duke's busy mind. Meanwhile, as these events unfolded in and around York, Elizabeth and Diana continued to find much in common as they kept the company of the horses in the Duke's stables.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 03-05-2010 @ 08:56 PM).]

Lady Arcola
SHH Seraph
posted 03-10-10 23:43 EST (US)     86 / 108       
It was now creeping towards late afternoon, Diana and Elizabeth had left the stables and were now proceeding towards the merchant’s row. Several shops were open and Diana knew right where to take Elizabeth to take her mind off the things bothering her.

The wonderful meeting in the stables had alerted Diana to the plight of the Stewart’s. She knew Elizabeth had fled Scotland with only the personal treasures of her home and only two changes of clothing. Nothing had been done yet to settle them into the great keep and she knew they were not far down the hall from her own room. On the request of the Queen she had stayed by her over the winter, that had been a joyful choice as a tiny baby was soon to be born to Philippa.

She intended to get Elizabeth squared away before she took her back up to the keep. She also secretly hoped to catch a glimpse of Andrew. Queen Phillipa would expect her to be there at the evening repast and she would need to have Elizabeth ready to dine in a room full of fellow nobles.

Dianna had asked Elizabeth about the death of her father and that is when she learned some very astounding facts. Nigel and Elizabeth were children of a Scottish Earl. She was shady on the whereabouts of their ancestral home but she knew from the geographic descriptions of the area that it was somewhere in the Northern Kingdom of the old realm. Diana had pressed Elizabeth on how and where she had learned the ancient language that so few mortals could now recall. It had always been spoken in their family it seemed and was passed down from generation to generation.

This had intrigued Diana as legend had told of the fate of the North and she knew the descendants had been the rulers of old and had produced a line of Kings.

They were nearing a shop that would give Diana the needed items for Elizabeth. She had been there earlier and had worked with the shop keeper on several designs for herself and the upcoming ball. As they entered the shop, every fiber of Diana’s being bristled. There before her was Isabel Harker.
Isabel looked up and dismissed the pair of them in one glance.

«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»
Seraph Lady Arcola
"I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." -Walter Winchell

~ BFME2 Heaven | Stronghold Heaven | Stronghold 2 Heaven~
«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»

[This message has been edited by Lady Arcola (edited 03-13-2010 @ 02:57 AM).]

Nimmanu
Archer
posted 03-21-10 09:36 EST (US)     87 / 108       
The York estates were, by anyone’s estimation, a wealthy and thriving province. The small village that nestled by the Duke’s castle sprawled hither and thither across the hills, and boasted more amenities than most larger cities. The Duke’s good will towards his people had assisted his merchants in finding great success not only amongst his own people, but amongst the other nobles, as well.

The Modiste here was particularly successful amongst the Ton, considering that the Mrs. Shelby who ran it tended to have fashion plates from the mainland well before any but the Queen’s own personal Modiste. Her seamstresses were also rivaled only by the Queen’s Modiste’s seamstresses.

Her shop was opulent, though not ostentatious. A warm, rich tapestry carpet covered the floor, while deep red divans were sprinkled about it. It was unusually large, especially given that its front façade made it look small, as if it nestled sweetly amongst the other buildings in its row.

Wall sconces accommodated the lack of lighting from windows, throwing their cheerful glow into the room. There was one large fireplace, in front of which was a richly-appointed sitting area. Here, the noble elite could sit and be shown fashion plates, dine on scones and crumpets, and take tea as they made the painstaking choices of which dress or cravat to purchase.

Another area was slathered in cloth of various colors. Rich brocades, soft silks, muslins, and various other reams of cloth littered one table, and lined cubbyholes in the wall behind it. Mannequins of wood and metal sported the latest fashions, suggesting bonnets or other accessories to go with them.

The lady who owned and ran the establishment was a large, businesslike, bustling woman. When she saw the Lady Diana Nobel, she immediately curtseyed to her current customer, Lady Harker, and rushed to the Lady of higher rank.

Diana smiled as Mrs. Shelby dipped into a much deeper curtsey in front of her, than that she’d offered to the lower-ranking Isabel. Mrs. Shelby was the picture of efficiency and courtesy, and Diana always enjoyed working with her.

Her pleasure at the sight of the other woman was spoiled slightly, however, by Isabel’s sharp voice.

“Miss Shelby!” she snapped, hauteur and anger clear in her voice, “I’m not finished here!”

“Begging your Ladyship’s pardon,” Mrs. Shelby (not a Miss at all anymore) told Isabel, “but the Lady Nobel is the ranking Lady in the establishment. I am obligated to see to her needs first.”

“True,” Isabel said, a vague sneer covering her face, “but I’m sure the Lady Nobel won’t mind if you help me first. After all, I’m in a terrible hurry, and it’s clear that she has nothing else but time.”

It wasn’t a direct cut, but it was as close as a noblewoman might come to calling another one “slow.” Diana took a deep breath, and then smiled warmly at Mrs. Shelby as a thought occurred to her. It would save the shopkeeper from embarrassment, but it would also put Isabel back into her much lower-ranking place.

“Mrs. Shelby, the queen has asked that you find a dress for the Lady Elizabeth for the ball two days hence. She informed me that you have recently received fashion plates from the mainland, and wishes for us to be indulged in viewing them immediately. She has asked that you overlook, this once, the fact that she has not yet seen them herself. She would consider this to be a personal favor.”

As Mrs. Shelby rushed to get them out of a locked cabinet, Diana continued, “We will happily look at them for the next hour while you help the Lady Harker.” Diana looked pointedly at Isabel, “We wouldn’t want to delay the Lady Harker any more than necessary, and I’m certain that she’s clever enough to conclude her business in an hour.”

It was, in the language of the Ton, a direct command from a woman of the Ton, to one of the common people. Mrs. Shelby would abandon Isabel in an hour, regardless of whether Isabel was done or not. And any retribution by Isabel would become a matter of personal account between her and the powerful Marquis of Hampshire’s daughter, the Marchioness Diana Nobel.

While in the stables, Diana was simply Monk, unassuming, smelling of horse and de facto squire to Sir Andrew…. Here, she was a powerful, high ranking woman whose word was superceded only by a duke or duchess, or the queen or king.

And although Isabel ranked over Elizabeth, the unmistakable insinuation that Elizabeth had the ear of the queen elevated her above the more “common” Isabel in any social situation.

Mrs. Shelby’s face showed her gratitude when her back was to Isabel, as she set Diana and Elizabeth up with tea in the sitting area designed for the Queen’s visits. The curtains were drawn around them, and they began discussing the fashion plates quietly as Isabel’s strident, angry voice fluttered around them like a disgruntled fly.

It had been only a couple of minutes short of an hour when the door slammed open. In rushed a breathless page, who demanded to speak only to Mrs. Shelby. When she arrived, leaving Isabel once again, because the page was the Duke’s own, the page began talking frantically.

Mrs. Shelby attempted to shush him, but Diana and Elizabeth could still hear him perfectly well, “The Duke wants a new coat for the ball, mam! He’s in a dither, he is. Says he needs it right away, and right smart!”

“Calm down, Eddie, lower your voice,” Mrs. Shelby told him, shushing at him. “He wants a new one, not the one we had planned?”

“No, mam, he wants a new one from the fashion plates. He says he’s got to make a good impression. He upset a fancy lady, and he’s gots to make amens he says—“

“Amends,” Mrs. Shelby corrected him absently.

“Amends, and he wants to show her that he’s a gentleman, not the commoner he acted like, he says.”

“Alright, Eddie, you run along and tell him we’ll have one to his measurements on time for the ball.”

No sooner was the page out the door than Isabel’s voice broke in, “Marvelous! That’s wonderful! Last year he practically gave me the cut at a ball. It’s clear that he has come to his senses, and he’ll begin calling on me. Oh, that dress must be perfect! Perfect, I say. Do you understand me?”

At Mrs. Shelby’s murmured assent, Isabel flounced out the door. The sounds of her excitement drifted back on the wind.

Catching Elizabeth’s eye, Diana saw the tear trying to escape her eye. She gathered Elizabeth into a hug. “Surely not, Elizabeth. Surely it can’t be her!” But she could hear the lack of conviction in her own voice. Isabel was immensely beautiful, and quite an accomplished woman. A good choice for a Duchess, certainly, if one discounted her hard personality.

Mrs. Shelby came in then, but in the way that women can have with each other, immediately understood the need for privacy the other women had. Quietly, she slipped away, and whispered with her seamstresses.

Some time later, Diana and Elizabeth left. Ironically, Elizabeth had been given a dress that the Modiste had prepared for Isabel from a combination of the new fashion plates and Diana’s design ideas. Isabel had refused to even look at it, but it happened to be perfectly suited for Elizabeth’s coloring and sizing. With only minor alterations, it would be ready by the next evening.

Mrs. Shelby promised to have it delivered to Elizabeth’s rooms well before the ball, and the pair set off to the castle.

Their previously joyful mood was much muted now, but they soon were back to a fairly even keel. They found that they could enjoy the walk through the village if they avoided certain topics.

Evening found the Lady Elizabeth lying sleeplessly in her bed, and Monk once more curled up in the hay beside Horse’s stall, staring with overly bright green eyes at the wall beside her cowled head.

What could the Duke be thinking to be even considering that witch, Isabel, the Monk wondered as sleep claimed her at last.

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 03-24-2010 @ 07:56 AM).]

Lady Arcola
SHH Seraph
posted 03-26-10 00:59 EST (US)     88 / 108       
Elizabeth turned over again, gave up trying to sleep and gazed at the ceiling trying to pick out the pattern in the gloom of the darkness. It was no use; she was not falling asleep and try as she might nothing felt right in this bed she was in.

Pulling back the covers she let her feet down out of the warmth of the bed. She could feel the cold now, it seeped into her from the exposure of the cool night air. Pulling her fur lined cape from its hook, she slid it over her shoulders and pulled it tightly around her. Warmth trapped by the soft fur slowly made its way back into her chilly frame.

Elizabeth peered out of her room and sighed, “Nigel!” she softly spoke to the sleeping form of her brother sprawled out on the large bench by her room.

Nigel, go to your room.” Elizabeth gently shook him.

All that answered her quiet words was his gentle snoring. Exasperated Elizabeth moved out past him, drew a glass of water and stared around the room that had been her family’s quarters since her father had been young. Memories of happy times with her parents filled her lonely heart. She watched her brother sleep for a few more seconds and then moved to the door.

She had been 10 the last time they had all come to York. Her mother had filled her young mind with wonderful stories about York. Tales of excitement and horror were woven into the history of the stonework of the keep. Their mother had brought the history of the castle alive. Many stories were told and one of the favorite ones was how they had come to be friends with Roderick’s parents it had always delighted both children. Fondly she gazed over at her sleeping brother as she crept out of the room. Would she remember the way to the top of the keep. Years had passed since she had been the pesky tag- a-long of Nigel and Roderick and in the gloom of the night she was not sure she would remember their secret passage to the top of the keep. Ah that thought brought back memories. The last time she had ran after them they had threatened to throw her off the Keep.

Gently Elizabeth closed the doors. Glancing to see if she was noticed by the guard that watched over the guest wing she proceeded deeper into the hall. There should be a tapestry just ahead… there to the right was the beautiful hanging scene. It had been breathtaking when she was ten, and it still made her gasp in awe at its fine workmanship.

Elizabeth slid behind it like it was ten years ago, and she was that little girl racing after two put out young men that did not want her along. She pushed hard on the door hidden behind it and felt it open with her touch. Elizabeth smiled at that thought, and her eyes took on the twinkle that had been so long absent. Maybe it had been the day with Lady Diana; or maybe it had been the excitement of the new gown, or possibly but not likely, maybe it was just the fact that she was back in the Keep of Roderick, Duke of York. That thought caused her to laugh, for she now knew he could hardly stand to acknowledge her, and the sound of the laughter echoed upwards like tinkling chimes.

Quietly she spoke into the darkness,“Nigel, if you could see me now,” and laughed again. The stairs ended and Elizabeth pushed on the heavy door and stepped out into the cold night air. Darkness engulfed her and it took a second for her eyes to adjust to the rooftop lit only by the light of the stars. Shadows hid some of the roof.

Starlight and a gentle crescent moon graced the night sky. Elizabeth looked across the expanse of the keep and sighed in delight. No sentry seemed to be up here. As she walked across to the edge of the Keep nearing the crenelations she saw no one.
Odd, we always ran into one sentry up here.” Shaking off the odd feeling that crept into her happy memories Elizabeth moved to sit by one of the openings. Here she could see all of York below. Light’s twinkled in the crisp night air and here and there movement could be detected even at this late hour. It was peaceful and she felt the turmoil lessen as she gazed out into the night.

Looking up now, far into the night sky above she searched for the brightest star that graced the sky. The evening star. There twinkling above her it shown.

Mae govannen, Earendel. Thank you for letting me see you.” Putting her hand to her heart she swept it out in the elven greeting of old. “Watch over Nigel, Lady Diana and myself. For she does not know yet how we are bound to one another.”

Elizabeth leaned her head against the cool stonework and closed her eyes against the tears that threatened to fall again. All the elven lore her father and uncles had taught them spilled back into her thought process. The happy memories brought comfort to the worries that filled her and she felt herself smile. She felt the tiredness creep up on her also. “Just a few more minutes.” She told her self.
Auburn tresses spilled out from her hood and Elizabeth pushed them tiredly back in. She could feel her body giving in to the urge to sleep, as she fought to stay awake.

Across the roof and deep in the shadows watchful eyes kept her in sight as they roamed the expanse of York. The sentry hidden from Elizabeth’s view watched her with concerned brown eyes. They stayed hidden but knitted together in worry as she seemed to drift off to sleep.

So much for my quiet interlude and the peace of my watch.” Roderick suppressed the urge to laugh as he shook his head.

What would possess her to come up here? How did she remember how to get up here after all these years?” Roderick felt his unbelief build as Elizabeth slumped against the wall as her body gave into sleep, and watched as she melted into the stonework as sleep claimed her.

Elizabeth… you will freeze up here,” Roderick thought as she leaned against the keep wall in slumber. “Talking to the stars... I remember you doing that when you were 10… so many years ago.”

It did not take him long to close the distance from where he had been hidden. An hour ago he had dismissed the sentry and had taken the watch that evening for sleep eluded him. Not knowing who advanced up the stairs he had ducked into the shadows and he knew that she had no clue he watched her as she chose to view York and talk to the bright evening star.

Gently he tried to shake Elizabeth awake; but nestled in her warm cloak she did not respond. She continued to sleep in the opening of the crenelation. The trip had left her exhausted and now her slumber was extremely deep. As Roderick gently pushed back her cloak hood, he felt the sharp intake of his own breath, and fought to calm his racing heart.

The sight of Elizabeth bathed in the starlight took his breath away, her soft features and auburn hair were just discernible in the dim light of the heavens. Very quietly he knelt beside her gently lifting her into his strong arms. Nestling her cold form tightly against him, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, stood and started down the stairs with Elizabeth in his arms.

Quiet laughter threatened to loosen his hold on Elizabeth.
Never in a million years did he ever expect to see her up there. What would he tell Nigel when he entered their guest rooms. Roderick suppressed the next laugh bubbling in him as he neared the tapestry that hid the entrance to the stairs.

«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»
Seraph Lady Arcola
"I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." -Walter Winchell

~ BFME2 Heaven | Stronghold Heaven | Stronghold 2 Heaven~
«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»

[This message has been edited by Lady Arcola (edited 03-31-2010 @ 00:17 AM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 03-30-10 20:12 EST (US)     89 / 108       
Still the young, slender woman slept on as Roderick carefully picked his way down the stairs towards the small door hidden by the tapestry. Moonlight lit his way, for no torch burned on the walls, though sconces were there if needed. He realized something in that moment. Roderick realized that for the first time that day he held no thoughts in his mind about his plan for the Scottish Campaign. He was free of them at last, and it was this lady who had accomplished what nobody else that day could accomplish, not even her brother.

Her brother! The laughter within him died just that suddenly when he realized his predicament. What was he to say to her brother? He could not enter her room alone with her and either be seen or caught there. Her reputation would be sullied, he knew. His own reputation did not matter. What a Duke actually did and when, was generally well behind in timing compared to what and when others said the Duke did it. Roderick was credited with more "things" done than he had ever done, simply because he was the Duke of York. Be that as it may, he wanted Elizabeth to suffer no part of it in any way. He surprised even himself with these thoughts of deep concern for this woman in his arms.

The door was now before him. He bent his knees to allow his right hand to grasp the crudely wrought handle of iron. It unlatched and he stepped through the doorway. With his elbow he pushed the back of the tapestry away from Elizabeth so it would not wake her as he passed behind it. In the quiet of the night, not even the material of the tapestry could adequately muffle the noise of the door as he rather clumsily pulled it closed behind him and pushed the tapestry away at the same time. She stirred in his arms so he quickly walked out from behind the tapestry...only to be greeted by Nigel, sleepily glancing in his direction with a puzzled expression, then coming fully awake as he recognized who Roderick held in his arms.

"What is this about, Roderick?!" exclaimed Nigel, all thoughts of rank aside. "Why do you have my sister?!" At this, Elizabeth became fully awake. She saw her situation in an instant, from the swelling red anger in her brother's face to the growing red of embarrassment moving rapidly up Roderick's more darkly complected face. Her mind could not connect together all she wanted, but her instincts told her she must defuse the situation. "Nigel! All is well, brother!" she said, her Scottish brogue adding a burr to the "r" in "brother. "I am quite unharmed." She looked at Roderick. "Milord, I am able to walk on my own now. I need no more assistance."

Understanding the implied request, Roderick carefully set her upon her feet. "Thank you, Milord." She quickly checked her clothing for modesty and pulled the furred cape about her to ward off the chill from the castle hallway. "Nigel, if you'd awakened when I called you I would not have become a bother to the Duke of York, or distracted him from his work."

"Called me?" Her brother was more confused than ever. "Indeed, I heard something and that's why I arose to see if you were alright; and I find you missing from your room and in the Duke's arms. What am I to think, sister?" His face began to redden again.

"Brother, you should think the best of me. That's what you should think," she answered, adding a tone of hurt dignity to her words. "Sir Roderick will explain." So saying she turned to the Duke with an expectant look in her eyes that unnerved Roderick. He swallowed hard before answering.

"Nigel, as the Lady Elizabeth says, she is unharmed. I was thinking about matters of state in the quiet of our lookout point, the secret one you may remember behind the tapestry." Roderick noticed Nigel becoming uneasy once again so he hurried his explanation. "The Lady Elizabeth apparently sought some night air, ventured there, but didn't see me as I was in the shadows lost in thought. I hadn't the will to disturb her so I kept to myself as did she. But Nigel, the air if you remember is cold up there. It enveloped her causing her to fall deeply asleep, and so I brought her down from there lest she catch her death of cold or illness. I was on my way to bring her to you for her safety, but here we are met in the hallway instead of your chambers. That is the truth of it."

The sincerety in Roderick's voice had immediate impact and Nigel's anger ebbed rapidly, but he had to be sure. "Sister, all that Milord the Duke says, is it indeed the truth?"

"Yes, Nigel, it is the complete truth. Have you ever known Sir Roderick of York to lie to either you or me?"

Nigel looked at his sister, the pleading in her eyes, and then at the steadfast, confident look on Roderick's face. Making up his mind about the matter, Nigel bowed, "Milord, I thank you for the care you've given to the Lady Elizabeth. On our mutual behalf, I apologize for the trouble we have caused you this evening."

The Duke smiled as he saw fleeting evidence of good humor returning once again to Elizabeth's brother. "Nigel, you owe no apology. It is I who must apologize for giving you a false impression just this moment. And I must apologize as well to the Lady Elizabeth for my failure to recognize her early upon her arrival. It was a breach of etiquette my being so perfunctory in my greeting when passing you in this very hallway. I am most sorry, Milady." He bowed towards Elizabeth, making it her turn to generate a flush to her cheeks, reddening them more than had the cold air earlier that evening. "I hope somehow to make it up to you. But for now, as I have important business tomorrow, I must bid you all a good night and retire." At these words, Nigel and Elizabeth both quickly remembered their station and offered the appropriate bow and curtsey as the Duke walked off towards his personal chambers.

As he turned a corner he paused to listen to the soft echos of brother addressing sister. Are you sure you are unharmed. Yes. Why didn't you wake me? I tried. Nobody else saw you? Nobody, I'm sure. He was a perfect gentleman, Nigel. You have no reason to worry... Then a door closed and the hallway grew silent as all of the echos passed into the night. Roderick resumed his walk to his chambers, but accompanying him was the memory of her delicate lightness, her soft warmth in his arms, and the pleasant scent that he would associate from this point onwards with her alone.

Elizabeth finished her dialogue with her brother, who now seemed much relieved and in no way reflected anger at either the Duke or herself. Alone in her room with her own thoughts, she became aware that tonight had not been like those times 10 years ago when either Roderick or her brother had in exasperation lifted her off her feet and roughly put her aside to signal without doubt she was trespassing on their business. No, tonight was different. Very different. She could even allow herself, because of tonight, a small amount of hope; and in response, her heart beat rapidly as her mind pursued the possibilities while interweaving the words spoken to her that day by the Lady Diana.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 03-31-2010 @ 05:52 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-07-10 18:17 EST (US)     90 / 108       
The new day dawned cold but clear as spring continued its rout of the dregs of winter. Roderick rose early and broke his fast with only his clerk by his side, who Roderick designated should also be fed the same as himself. Their food was brought to Roderick's chambers and there they ate as Roderick reread the reports from his agents on the coast of Yorkshire and dictated observations his clerk dutifully inscribed on pieces of parchment. The course of action was ever more obvious to Roderick the more he pondered the reports, Nigel's comments, and the English position. Two hours later Blinn, Balliol and the King's advisors were gathered in the main hall, doors secured by guards, all awaiting the arrival of Edward III, King of England.

Moments later one of the two sets of great oaken doors was thrown wide and a herald spoke loudly so all could hear. "Please rise for Edward III, King of England!" All in the room complied and then bowed deeply as the young king entered and took up his uniquely formed chair reserved exclusively for King or Queen of the realm when in York.

"Seats," said Edward calmly, "We were last in discussion concerning the Treaty of Northampton, were we not?" Various responses essentially adding up to "Yes, your Majesty," were murmured and mumbled around the room to reflect in simple terms the disturbing lack of progress to date on the subject. The Duke of York remained silent, the set of parchments he brought to the council lying face down on the table.

"Permission to speak, your Majesty?" asked Edward Balliol.

The king turned to him. "Have you something uniquely different to contribute, Sir Edward?" King Edward asked matter-of-factly.

"In a sense, yes, your Majesty."

"Proceed," said Edward nodding in Balliol's direction.

"If it pleases your Majesty, I submit that the Treaty of Northampton should be voided and the boundary of the River Tweed be ignored due to continued Scottish provocations. I should be permitted to take the army assigned to me which is gathered outside this city's gates and proceed immediately to an appropriate crossing, advance beyond the River Tweed, and seize the crown of Scotland from that undeserving boy."

"What provocations might those be, Sir Edward," the King inquired with no small amount of curiousity. "I have heard of none. In fact, other than some spies being in England, like ours we've placed in Scotland, there have been no provocations."

"Your Majesty, we have told our army of the Scottish threat!"

"Indeed, Sir Edward, there is always a threat and so that has been the truth; but I know of no provocations. Further, I will not become known as the King who dishonored his own father's word by trampling the terms of that damnable treaty. The River Tweed is the boundary and it shall remain the boundary, until Scotland and England are one and the same."

"Then I shall never gain the crown which I rightfully should wear, nor pledge my fealty and the fealty of Scotland to you, your Majesty." So saying, Balliol sat back in this chair looking for all the world like a defeated man.

"Ahem." Hearing this from the Duke of York, Edward turned to look at Roderick. "You have something to say, Sir Roderick?"

"If it pleases your Majesty."

"Say it and I'll tell you if it pleases me," replied Edward, punctuating his words with a disarming smile intended more to lighten the moment than anything else.

Roderick bowed his head to indicate he understood the King's mood and the meaning of Edward's words. "Your Majesty, Sir Edward and advisors, this simple question: Where may I find the River Tweed across the Channel and on the continent to the east of our island?"

The advisors looked at each other and then at the king, who remained silent as he awaited the outcome. Finally, one of the advisors replied, "Why, Sir Roderick, I would think you'd know that the River Tweed is not on the continent."

"Precisely, sir," Roderick agreed without any change in expression. "I have sought it in the channel waters as well, but it is not there. Do any of you dispute that observation?"

"No, Sir Roderick," most answered. One added, "But Milord, we do not understand your meaning."

"Gentlemen, we have been overly concerned with 'crossing the River Tweed' as prohibited in the Treaty of Northampton. Well and good that we honor its content as our Majesty advises. However, nothing in the treaty prohibits us from going around the River Tweed."

Balliol leaned forward, his eyebrows knit in concern. "Sir Roderick, if I may be so bold, there is no crossing to the west or the east of the river's run."

Roderick struggled to contain his disdain for the unimaginative Balliol. King Edward looked at Blinn quite sharply with a simple, visible expression of warning. "That is so, Sir Edward," Roderick confirmed, glancing briefly at the king to confirm he understood the king's wishes. "But may I point out, Sir Edward, that the River Tweed ends at the channel's shore and we technically shall not cross the Tweed if we travel to Scotland by the waters of our channel. Because we do not cross the River Tweed, we also do not breach the Treaty of Northampton."

Edward smiled inwardly as he noted Blinn's meaning. He had himself come to a similar conclusion days earlier, but desired the idea to come from his advisors for reasons of, well, his own. "I am intrigued, Sir Roderick. Please continue," the king entreated.

"Thank you, your Majesty. The Treaty of Northampton prohibits us from crossing the River Tweed, but says nothing about crossing the channel from a port in England to the shores of Scotland. Therefore, I propose we provision an army and sail it from Yorkshire's east coast to an appropriate location in Fife."

One of the advisors interrupted at this point. "We haven't ships large enough, Sir Roderick."

"True," Roderick conceded. "But we have enough vessels among the various craft on the shore of Yorkshire and south of us, my agents say, to form a flotilla of smaller vessels and ferry an army northwards. I suggest it consist of around 500 men-at-arms and about 1,000 foot soldiers, many being archers armed with long bow and falchions. I have recorded my findings and drawn up a battle plan in writings on these parchments before me."

"Show them to me, please, Sir Roderick," Edward said, trying his best not to display the overabundant enthusiasm he felt.

"Yes, of course, your Majesty." Blinn handed the parchments to Edward, who proceeded to scan them, a smile growing larger and larger the more of their content he viewed. "Most encouraging," he noted. Then he turned to Balliol. "I think Sir Edward, you may very well have your invasion and then your much deserved crown, only by a different road." King Edward turned to address Blinn. "I presume I may retain these for my study?"

"Certainly, your Majesty. I shall be most happy to answer any questions about them you might have."

"Very good, Duke Roderick. And I shall expect the council as well of Sir Edward," the King said pointedly to the Duke of York, before turning his head and nodding towards Sir Edward Balliol, who acknowledged with a courteous bow the wishes of the King. To his other advisors, King Edward noted, "This plan seems to have all elements of the Treaty protected. Can any of you find fault in the Duke's suggested plan?"

The other advisors hesitated while looking at each other to see who might object. The senior among them answered, "No your Majesty, other than concern over the number of vessels and the difficulty of navigating the channel."

At this the Duke nodded, "I agree with this as being a risk. Thus, we must consult our ablest Yorkshire seamen who know the whims of channel weather to advise us when the best time might be for sailing. That will be my task."

The senior advisor nodded. "Other than this, your Majesty, we have no reasonable objection to raise at this time."

"Very well," acknowledged the King. "Is there other business?"

Said the Duke of York, "Only this, your Majesty, a simple reminder of the Spring Ball at the end of the week."

Edward smiled. "Ah yes, another of your marvelous diversions, Sir Roderick. The Queen and I shall be delighted as always to attend."

"I am honored, your Majesty. And all others in this room are invited as well." Roderick deliberately looked at Balliol to ensure he felt included by specific reference. Blinn had already decided the King's viewpoint was of great merit regarding cultivating Balliol's goodwill, though Blinn had no idea what to do with it should he collect some. "I trust my clerk has presented yourselves and your ladies with an invitation?" All around nodded. "Good!" A ball and a battle to come, what more could we ask for?"

Edward chuckled, "A strange combination of diversions, Sir Roderick. By-the-by, which lady shall you be escorting, Sir Roderick?" Rumors have it Lady Isabel shall be the chosen one. She may even have said so herself, so it seems."

Blinn's face turned red as a radish. "Lady Isa... um, well... um."

"Oh nevermind, Sir Roderick," the King continued teasingly. "For a man of many insightful words at this council on matters of war and kingdom, you are remarkably short of them on matters of ladies."

"I admit the fault, your Majesty," Blinn agreed, hoping the topic would pass quickly. He rose from his seat immediately, noting the King was doing so at that very moment. He then bowed deeply along with the others. But as the King turned to depart parchments in hand, the King mentioned in a low voice so that only Blinn would hear him, "It is your only fault, Roderick." The King then exited the room and once more the room emptied in the wake of the King's departure.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-07-2010 @ 06:31 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-08-10 13:03 EST (US)     91 / 108       
Blinn of York mumbled to himself all of the way from the council chamber to his own chambers. "Hrumpf, Lady Isabel is it? By her own words? Of all the presumptuous, self-serving... By my father's beard, that woman is more than a man should bear!" Lost in these thoughts he nearly missed the fact Nigel Stewart stood silently in the hallway outside the Duke's chambers apparently waiting for him to return.

"Milord, a word," Nigel said, trying to get Roderick to see he was there.

"Oh, Nigel. Of course," answered Blinn, finally looking up at the sound of Nigel's voice. "Is it about...?"

Nigel smiled. "No, Milord. Not that. Something else."

"Very well." The Duke looked at the guards posted outside his chambers and nodded. They immediately opened the door and both men entered, the guards promptly closing the door behind them and assuming their original posts. Duke Roderick motioned Nigel to a chair and patiently waited for the man to speak his mind.

"About last night, all my suspicions are allayed, Roderick. I apologize for even thinking them."

"No apology required. In your place under the circumstances I would have thought the same. I have... I mean, I... Nigel, I have the utmost respect for Elizabeth. I shall never do anything to hurt her." Blinn hesitated and then frowned. "I thought this was not about last night, though."

"It isn't," confirmed Nigel, "But since you brought it up I thought I would close the matter once and finally. Consider it closed, therefore."

"I do. Now what is the other matter you wish to discuss."

"Roderick, as I am but a visitor to this shire, I regret I have not made the acquaintence of any ladies suitable to my station who I may escort to the Spring Banquet and Ball. My sister is spoken for and so it cannot be her, only until the seating at the banquet, if at all." Roderick agreed that would be the case. "And so," Nigel continued, "I have need of a lady or I shall have to appear alone. Have you a suggestion?"

"Do I have a suggestion..." Roderick repeated. "Perhaps, but first let me consult my clerk who has the list of invited guests. He may have a name on the list quite suitable to your needs. "Rest assured, Nigel, a lady shall be on your arm for the evening." And so their brief meeting concluded and the Duke returned to his thoughts on the battle plan to wrest the crown from David II and see it placed on Edward Balliol's head as the King of England desired. Also in his thoughts were Nigel, and the nut of an idea on how to deal with Lady Harker. In that respect, Nigel's announced need for a lady to escort seemed to the Duke to be a serendipitous opportunity.
Micah Aragorn
Archer
posted 04-08-10 13:24 EST (US)     92 / 108       
In the halls of Perth....

Joanna, followed by her ladies-in-waiting, shuffled her feet on the stone floor of the castle hallway. At the far end she could hear David playing some sort of a game with his appointed attendees. She had no interest in his company nor did he of hers. All the more contributing to her longing for the companionship of Elizabeth Stewart.

Pulling and twisting the lace ties on the front of her gown around her index finger, she drew upon the happier times of playful moods and near sisterly conversation she and Elizabeth would spend upon Winter nights and Summer soltice.

The others who attended her were friendly enough because of her stature but their constant attempts at keeping her well groomed and clothes wrinkle free left her feeling entrapped, suffocating, and unable to be herself. Elizabeth and Nigel, she knew, wanted the best for her by at least allowing her to breathe and make the mistakes a child of twelve would make and grow from.

She stopped her slow, methodical, shuffling steps to sit on a chair that was accompanied by a mahogany table adorned with a candelabrum, which when lit at night provided guidance down the long corridor.

Her ladies moved to adjust her gown from under her and smoothed the folds which annoyed Joanna, who squirmed and fidget until she had quite enough and told them,"Stop! That's enough. Go away! I want to be alone!"

"But Milady, someone needs to be with you."

Joanna snipped back,"No! Go away I say. I will be fine. I won't be long."

"As you wish, your highness.", and her attendees bowing slowly backed away and headed to the Queen's chamber to await her.

"Finally!", she said taking and releasing a long breath of relief and showing a child's smile at having no adult supervision. It was only her thoughts and a silent castle hallway. David and all having since moved elsewhere to play his games.

Still sitting, she laid her head back and stared at the castle ceiling trying to remember why neither Elizabeth nor Nigel were there anymore when the quiet was suddenly broken by the opening and closing of Lord Randolph's chamber door. His servant Ewan, carrying a tray of wine and fruit back to the kitchen, bowed to Joanna as he started to pass.

"And how is Lord Randolph?"

"He's fine, Milady.", surprised at her being there all alone. "But if I may ask, why are you here alone? It's not safe, Highness. Are you okay? Where are your ladies-in-waiting?"

"Oh, I'm quite alright. Never better.", her calm yet hesitant voice responded.

"I need to think and not be constantly reminded of my position."

Ewan lowered his head in acknowledgement and replied,"I understand completely, Milady." He started to walk once again to the kitchens.

"Wait!", Joanna cried out and Ewan stopped. " You were attending Lord Randolph when the Stewarts were told they had to leave Scotland. Were you not?"

"Yes, your Highness. I was bringing refreshments to the meeting chamber."

Joanna's eyes widened with excitement at the servants response, "And did you hear the circumstances for their leaving so abruptly?"

"Milady, I can't answer that being below my station and probable penalty."

Joanna frustrated at his answer replied,"I understand your concern. But as your Queen you are therefore obligated to tell me unless you wish to find out what penalty would await you should you not."

Ewan gulped, moving the tray he carried from one hand to the other, replied,"No, your Highness. What I heard was his Lordship telling the Stewarts that it was not safe for them to be in Scotland and they should immediately leave under cover of night for England."

"Did he fear that harm might befall them from others here in Scotland."

"No, Milady! It sounded like he was concerned that their loyalties lay with others and he feared for you and his Majesty's safety. I don't remember anything more."

Joanna's ears turned a red hue as did the flush of her cheeks. To herself she flooded thoughts of anger and mistrust. But not at Elizabeth nor Nigel.

"How could he! How could he send them away? What proof did he have? And by what right? Not safe! Not safe? Probably worried it was not safe for him."

Out loud in a childish angry voice, Joanna shouted, "I wish it weren't safe for him!"

Looking at Ewan and with gritted teeth said,"You can go. Don't worry I won't tell anyone what you said."

Ewan deeply bowed and taking steps backward finally turned and headed to the kitchens. As he did so he broke into a wide smile and gloated to himself of the said misinterpreted conversation between the Stewart's and Lord Randolph. For, in reality, it was the Stewart's safety Randolph feared as Balliol clansmen and the Stewarts were at odds over the loyalty to Randolph and the King and Queen. And he should know for he himself was a Balliol clansman, planted to gain knowledge and whatever else was asked to dethrone current royalty and put a Balliol on the throne as should be. And a plan in-fact had begun.

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 07-11-2011 @ 04:23 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-09-10 13:01 EST (US)     93 / 108       
Much of the week remained, and discussion long stalled in the King's Council by the issue of the Treaty, finally broke free of its constraint like a bursting dam, and the waters of myriad ideas flowed like a torrent. "Between 80 and 100 seaworthy vessels," confirmed Duke Roderick Blinn in reply to an advisor's question. "Comprised of fishing boats, coastal merchant craft, ferries and the like. They are scattered up and down the coast of the shire."

"But how will we form a flotilla?" asked one of the advisors, tugging at his own sleeve nervously.

Blinn looked at him. "Timing, sir. We begin loading at the southernmost port and as those vessels load, they sail northwards to meet up with the next group; and northwards both go to meet with the next. That is why we must carefully inventory the number of vessels at each point of embarkation and allocate correctly the number of men we send there for boarding. We are in that process now."

"Such an endeavor would seem very visible to the Scottish spies," observed another advisor.

"True. We shall say that the army is being disbursed for defense and move them towards the south during the day, but begin our boarding and advance on a bright night."

"When, Milord?" this same advisor asked.

"When the King commands," replied Blinn, who turned and bowed his head briefly in deference to the King's authority.

King Edward III, who silently observed these proceedings, nodded in acknowledgement of Blinn's gesture. He took the moment to ask a question that had troubled him since reading Blinn's parchments. "Sir Roderick, it seems to me we risk the Scots being alerted and their possible concentration of men-at-arms on their eastern coast upon word you've sailed. Have you a remedy?"

"I have, your Majesty. Sir Edward Balliol shall lead the main body of our remaining force to the River Tweed and thus divert Scottish attention to that point. I shall lead the seaborne invasion into Fife. Scottish forces will be split and weakened. Upon victory, Sir Edward shall cross the River Tweed under escort from a body of my forces sent there from Edinburgh, and shall be crowned King of Scotland. The Treaty of Northampton will still be honored in that fashion."

Edward Balliol's face reddened immediately, but King Edward raised his hand and what words were on Balliol's tongue died there. The King spoke instead. "Sir Roderick, I believe I've made it clear that Sir Edward will lead any force stepping foot on Scottish soil. Therefore, unless you have reason to question my decision, it stands that he will lead the coastal force, and you, Sir Roderick, may lead the force that approaches the River Tweed. Is this understood?"

Blinn looked at the face of his king and read without any doubt that Edward III meant exactly what he said. "It is understood, your Majesty," he answered, knowing full well there was no other possible answer to be given that day or beyond. "I shall make all plans accordingly."

"Very good, Sir Roderick. I am glad for it. Now, may I inquire if you intend to command the main body of troops at the River Tweed? I should be most grateful, Duke Blinn, if you would, as I see necessity for wise, strong command to be exercised should our adventure fail and the Scots retaliate against the northernmost shires, including York."

Roderick immediately understood the King was trying to soften the effect of his denying Blinn command of the invasion force. "As my King commands, your Majesty."

Edward smiled at this. "I do not command it, Sir Roderick. I request it of you in light of the briliance you've shown in this endeavor."

"My King speaks too highly of my simple ideas," replied Blinn. "But as I've always been and shall always be in service to my King, I am bound to say 'yes' whether commanded or requested."

"Good. That is settled then," the King said pointedly. "Now, onto other matters."

And so progressed the plan of invasion and the overall strategy aimed towards placing Balliol on the throne of Scotland. Sir Andrew continued his drilling of the troops, who were led to believe that with the ripening of Spring action would soon be at hand. But King Edward III and his advisors knew that the appropriate moment had not yet occurred. Something happening in Scotland would be the event shining light on the appropriate moment to begin their campaign. However, no such event was in the offing and so supplies were gathered, boats inventoried, seating counted, weapons forged and troops drilled, but nothing else.

There would be a hunt that week and later the Duke's Spring Banquet and Ball. The men as usual went about their business quite prepared but blase' on the matter of the banquet and ball, though Nigel looked forward to the hunt. The ladies however went about their usual preparations with unconstrained excitement. Elizabeth's enthusiasm waxed mid-week, but waned when she was advised by one of her ladies in waiting, provided by the Duke, that she would be escorted to the festivities on the arm of her brother. It took all of Lady Diana's considerable powers of persuasion to convince Lady Elizabeth Stewart that all had not come to an end in Elizabeth's life, and that attendance at the affair was socially necessary, even if an unhappy moment in time.
Nimmanu
Archer
posted 04-16-10 09:13 EST (US)     94 / 108       
Lady Isabel Harker stood in front of a polished sheet of metal in her suites. Because of its over-flow of excellent metalworkers, York castle contained many such modern amenities. This particular mirrored metal showed an elegant, curvaceous woman in a warm brown brocade gown. The bodice sparkled with gold thread, while the skirt opened in the center, held back by gold ribbons.

Her flaxen blond hair was down, falling down the back of the gown. She contemplated what she would do with it. "Shall I wear curls, Betsy?" she asked the young maid hovering around her.

"As Milady wishes," the unfortunate Betsy said.

Isabel's eyebrows drew together and she nailed Betsy with a hard glare. "Don't be coy with me, girl. Am I more in style than the other ladies?"

Betsy took a moment to consider her response, "The other ladies seem to have stepped somewhat away from the London fashions, mam." It was as close as she could come to telling Isabel that she was making a dress faux pas.

But Isabel was too caught up in her plans for the conquest of York—particularly its Duke. "So they are going to take foolish risks, are they? Excellent. They will look like fools beside me."

She looked it over again, finally satisfied that it had been made exactly to her specifications and that the fit over her corset was perfect. "So what news of the castle today?" she asked as Betsy began to help her out of the dress.

"There will be a hunt, milady," Betsy pulled out another lace. "Before the ball, I believe. Though I'm not sure on what day it is to happen."

"A hunt, you say?" Isabel's eyes gleamed with speculation. "Will the Duke be attending?"

"Yes, milady, there's word that all of the men in the Ton who can, shall be in attendance."

"Well, well, well," Isabel said. She pushed Betsy's hand away as she coiled her hair up onto her head, and changed it. "You must find out when it is. Day, time, place. I must go with them!"

"Milady?" Betsy said as she tried to cover up the fact that she was undoing the change Isabel had just made. She couldn't bear for her mistress to go out with her hair in such disarray. Her work was her life, and the other servants would never let her live it down if her mistress were to go about looking like a green young thing had done her hair. "Are you sure you wish to do that?"

"Oh, definitely. I must give him opportunity to invite me to the ball. And, perhaps, if I play my cards correctly, I may get him into a compromising situation. If I can get him alone, he will be forced to marry—"

Her gleeful words were cut off from the doorway. Both women had been so caught up in their own thoughts that they'd missed the chambermaid opening the door to bring in Isabel's breakfast.

Isabel stood up and swept over to pick up one of the hothouse strawberries that graced the breakfast table. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at the chambermaid. "Don't you dare breathe a word of this to anyone. If you do, no one will believe you, and I will ensure that you never work in polite society again. You will be destitute."

She swept back towards the polished metal looking-glass. "It will be the word of a servant against the word of a woman of breeding. Such is the power of good breeding, and I suggest that you keep it in mind, if you dare waggle that tongue of yours." She began studying herself again. "You are both dismissed."

Betsy and the chambermaid curtseyed and left the room, the chambermaid visibly shaking. When they reached the hallway, the chambermaid said softly, so softly that Betsy barely heard it, "If that's breeding, I'm glad I don't have it!"

"Me, too," Betsy whispered back.

Betsy then hurried towards the stables. She had a few hours before she would be needed again. And she liked to go down to the stables and talk to her new friend there. He was a wonderful listener, and since he couldn't talk, he could tell no tales, either.

Betsy knew there was no one she could tell about Isabel's intended machinations who could do anything about it. But she had to unburden her soul to someone. She would take her friend monk some fresh scones, and pour her heart out to him.

He couldn't tell her what to do about it, but he could listen. And right now, she really needed to talk.

Plus, Monk was like her. He didn't have "breeding," and he wouldn't mind if she ate an extra one or two of the scones she was taking to him.

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
Lady Arcola
SHH Seraph
posted 04-21-10 20:57 EST (US)     95 / 108       
Elizabeth toyed with the food on her plate, glanced up at her Queen and toyed with her food again. Philippa watched the young woman across from her as she pushed the breakfast around and ate little.

“What is bothering you Elizabeth?” The concern in her dark eyes was genuine and the question was filled with kindness and warmth.

Elizabeth sighed and looked up from her plate. How much could she trust herself to tell her long time friend and monarch?

Philippa had matured from the young girl she had met a few years ago when they both were in their teens and Philippa was newly wedded to Edward.
They had spent the summer at Woodstock Palace and she had been introduced to the young queen,Philippa, by her mother. Philippa, who was far from her home had bonded instantly to Elizabeth who was also far from hers.
Now years later a young woman had replaced the young girl that had married Edward but as their eyes met Elizabeth knew the bond formed years ago still held. Philippa radiated a persona that was much older now than her actual years. Her kindness and concern had always been a trait that Elizabeth enjoyed. She never had to pretend with her, Philippa just knew, as had Elizabeth for her. How long had it been since the summer at Woodstock? Five years… maybe more. Elizabeth had lost track of the years for sorrow had followed her summer in Woodstock with the death of her mother then not long after their father.

She watched as Philippa swept her young son into her arms, little Edward giggled and reached to touch his mothers face. Laughter from the young queen and her son filled Elizabeth with warmth and she was caught off guard when Philippa repeated the question.

“What is bothering you Elizabeth?”

She felt her face flush deeply as the queen put down young Edward. Philippa laughed again and looked at Elizabeth with a twinkle in her eye.

“You are acting just like Rodrick did last evening when I asked him where his mind had drifted off too. His discomfort was just a visible as yours.”

“Only his thoughts are probably about a certain Isabel Harker.” Elizabeth grumbled quietly to herself, though she knew in her heart that the grumble was most likely untrue. She studied her plate, unable to meet the kind eyes that were watching her.

Philippa laughed outright at that mumbled remark. “Now that is one person I know he would not be thinking of.”

Elizabeth looked up at her with hopeful eyes, the blush creeping back out of her cheeks.

“Edward will be here soon, I believe your brother... Nigel, is going with Roderick today to prepare for the hunt. While the men hunt for boar, we will be hunting with the royal gyrfalcons. Do you remember the silver one your family presented to me at Woodstock?”

“Ilsa?”

“Yes, the one you named, you said its name meant the mystic name of sliver in your fathers language.”

Elizabeth stared at Philippa in unbelief, that falcon had been her gift to Philippa years ago. She had not dared to think that it would still live.

“Oh Philippa, may I see them and Ilsa?”

“Certainly, Elizabeth." Philippa bent down and lifted little Edward. "Let me summon a page to take you down to the stables. The falcons are kept behind it in the aviary.”

All Elizabeth could do was stand speechless as her eyes shown with joy. Ilsa, had been raised for her mother and she was ecstatic to know he was alive. A few minutes later, after a joyful and heartfelt goodbye to her Queen, she was descending down and out of the keep. The cool spring air still held the scent of the rain from the night before and the birds sweetly chorused their morning song. They soon reached the stables, here the page stopped and told her to ask for the one they called Monk. He would take her out behind the stable to the aviary. Elizabeth nodded and smiled, “Thank you, I have met Monk. I will look inside.”

Stepping into the gloom of the stable she could hear a
feminine voice floating over the sounds of the stable. “Odd, I know she would not be talking... No... that is not her voice I hear.”

Closer to her own horses stall she stopped. She could see Monk a few stalls down with a young woman whose voice carried down to where Elizabeth stood.

“...And, perhaps, if I play my cards correctly, I may get him into a compromising situation. If I can get him alone, he will be forced to marry—... then we were walked in on. That is what my mistress said. You can see why I came down to talk to you. Who would believe she would do that to Lord Roderick. No one... that’s who, no one would believe my word against hers. I know she will try something... of this I am sure."

Elizabeth could see Monk's head nod sympathetically along with the gentle pat the young woman received from Monk. The second she heard Rodrick's name she felt the ire rise in her, was this maid one of the staff for Isabel? Just a few quick words would be all she would need to have with her, to query as to the why,where and when this would take place. She started to move out towards Monk and the woman but was stopped dead as she heard Diana speak as if she was in her conscious mind.

“Darro!” the elven command for halt sounded in her mind.

Only her great uncles could communicate like this and her eyes flew wide with surprise. The command halted her next to her horse. The next, "Stay by Wilarwin and I will come to you when Betsy leaves..." was exasperating. For questioning was something she knew Monk could not do.

Elizabeth pretended to busy her self with her horse as she strained to catch the rest of the conversation. But only a word or two drifted back. The flow of words seemed to stop now and then as Betsy stopped to take a bite before punctuating her tale with what appeared to be a scone in her hand.

«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»
Seraph Lady Arcola
"I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." -Walter Winchell

~ BFME2 Heaven | Stronghold Heaven | Stronghold 2 Heaven~
«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»«..»º©º«..»º©º«..»

[This message has been edited by Lady Arcola (edited 05-22-2010 @ 11:34 AM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 05-17-10 18:27 EST (US)     96 / 108       
York's fortifications had all of the features of a Norman-style castle, though it was build on a foundation and enclosed within sections of walls built hundreds of years earlier by an ancient people called Romans. These people of the Mediterranian from a city called Rome on the peninsula of Italia at one time dominated the entire length and breadth of the southern half of the British Isles. North of York stood remnants of their once heavilty fortified stone wall named after one of their Emperors, Hadrian. Within York's fortified boundaries was sufficient room to house many craftsman of the village, fortified structures such as towers and the Keep, the Duke's fortified central administration structure, and near the walls and gate, the Duke's fortified residence. Some of the craftsman's structures spilled out beyond the city gates, but that was typical for cities of York's size.

The Duke kept his kennels and his more personal quarters in the manor. Also located there are his personal stables. These housed the horses for guests who arrived without mounts. Public stables and other such stables scattered within and without York accomodated visitors and others in York on business. With so many there from Parliament and from the King's entourage, the stable situation in York was strained to say the least.

For security purposes, King Edward and the Queen were located in the fortified central administration structure as were, intially, the Stewarts. But Nigel and Elizabeth were asked to reside in the Duke's fortified manor as they were not intimately engaged in the running of the Kingdom. As these were considerable duties at the moment, the Duke spent many hours and nights in the central administrative building with the King. If the Duke could not be found at his administration structure or fortified manor, unless he was in the village crafts areas, he was most likely not in York at all. The pending hunt would originate near the Duke's fortified manor, not the administration structure, as his invited guests dutifully were told. So the hunt posed something of a dilemma for Nigel.

In an annex to the his fortified residence the Duke kept the various clothing and equipment in multiple sizes and weights needed for the hunt. As a matter of courtesy and convenience, the Duke always maintained this annex well supplied because it had been his experience that guests unaware of an imminent hunt weren't always prepared for it. Nigel was one of those guests. Oh, the availability of a horse was never the problem, just possessing the right clothing and weaponry for the particular prey of the day. It would be wild boar on this occasion as the galley needed boar meat for the ensuing banquet and ball. Weaponry for the men included bow and arrow, crossbow or spear and sword. One did not directly approach the wild boar with sword except as a last defensive resort.

The hunting hounds in the nearby kennel always set up a howling and barking serenade whenever they saw someone enter the annex, as it usually meant a hunt was imminent. They lived for it, and for the food that came each day to keep them healthy. Nevermind that on occasion their meal of that day was their last. They didn't know it, of course, nor did they suspect it. Only the wild boar, driven from its hiding place mad with fear, knew which of the hounds that hunting day would not return to the kennel. The boar's yellowed tusks waited for its unknown tormentor's body, to either rip its hide off its ribs or gore it deeply enough to tear at its inner organs in a desperate attempt to end its own torment. The boar never sought this vicious confrontation, but hounds didn't care and so the tormenting would begin. Usually, it was the boar who became the final victim, and the hounds would eat as always and live to hunt again.

"Louder today than usual," noted Nigel as he and Duke Blinn passed by the kennel on their way to the small stone structure containing clothing and equipment Nigel could possibly use. A servant accompanied them, prepared to take Nigel's selection to the cleaning maids to be sure it was properly cleaned and brushed for the hunt.

Roderick nodded. "We have signaled a hunt by going this direction, and this is the first of the season. They are quite ready it seems."

"Indeed," Nigel agreed.

The stout wooden door creaked on its cast iron hinges after Blinn unlocked the crudely fabricated padlock and pulled the heavy door widely open. Inside were racks of clothing of various colors, weights, furs and sizes. Bows and arrows were here as well. Boar spears too. More limited in quantity due to their expense and general sameness were sets of chain mail in various sizes.

Nigel foraged among these items for what he needed. He selected warm pants, a leather jerkin and furred overcloak. The thickness was necessary to ward off the morning chill and to provide some insulation from shrubbery. He selected a bow and a quiver of arrows, then tested the weight and balance of various boar spears racked in stands to keep them straight. He selected one he particularly liked. "Well, with spear, bow and my sword I should be ready."

"Not for boar," Roderick observed. He pointed to a set of dull but rather well cared for chain mail. "Take that too and wear it over your clothing but under your overcloak. This is boar we are hunting, Nigel, if you recall."

Nigel opened his mouth to protest this slur on his obvious manliness, but before saying something rash he stopped and thought a brief moment, his eyebrows knitting. "Boar is it? Not rabbit or fox or fowl... Hmm, methinks you make a good point, Roderick." He reached for the chain mail set pointed out by Roderick and handed all of his selections to the nearly overloaded servant waiting outside. Then Nigel motioned to Sir Roderick to hold a moment. He had something to say the servant need not hear. So the servant was sent on his way, and Roderick turned to Nigel expectantly.

"This hunt tomorrow, Roderick, I am told will include certain ladies besides my sister."

"Correct," Blinn confirmed.

Nigel nodded. "The Lady Isabel Harker is to be among them as well as Lady Diana, my sister's new acquaintence?"

"Yes, so my clerk has told me."

"Are you aware, Roderick, that the Lady Isabel has her aim set upon you like a hawk on the duck?"

"Ahem, well, ahem..." Roderick had not expected this particular topic. "I am aware of the lady" he finally admitted.

"Yet you seem interested in my sister, but are being pursued by Harker... I mean no negative inference, Milord, but what am I to think, least of all Elizabeth to think if she sees you continuously in the company of Lady Isabel?"

A hint of a smile crossed Roderick's face at Nigel's use of the formal "Milord" when just addressing him. The man was quite serious, and still perhaps a bit suspicious. Ah well, such is the way for dukes. "First of all, Nigel, Elizabeth, your sister, should think nothing at the moment as there has been nothing passing between us just as was said the other night. Secondly, Elizabeth is... Well, she's... Nigel, I shall be frank with you because of our long friendship. I find her the most interesting young woman I've met and I like her as a person more now as a young woman than ever I did when she was a child, though I had no dislike for her then. I have much to think about regarding your sister, and her welfare is becomming an important part of my thinking.

"I am relieved to hear it, Roderick," Nigel replied. "There are times when her talk of you makes me worry that she'll do something rash, like... Just something rash."

This puzzled Roderick. "Her talk of me? What talk?"

"I shouldn't have said that, I think," Nigel frowned.

"Say it, please, and more if you'd like."

"Roderick, she never stops talking about you. Ever since those years here. Then she goes stone silent in your presence unless obligated to speak. And I hear her crying afterwards. Yet for the life of me I cannot see when you have ever hurt her. It's mystifying."

The Duke pondered this a moment. "Crying means many things when it's a young woman who is shedding tears. It can be sadness, fright, fear, dismay, confusion and even joy. They are emotional creatures and tears flow readily." Nigel nodded. He had a sister and a number of female cousins. It wasn't a revelation necessarily. Roderick continued. "Yet, I cannot think of anything I did except once to not recognize the woman from the child I used to know. I too am puzzled. Perhaps, at the ball..." Roderick went silent as his mind roamed the corridors of speculation. "We shall know what it is in good time, my friend, I am sure of it," Roderick concluded, cheerfully.

"Then that, Roderick, brings me to my last comment. I advise you based upon what I hear to have a plan to deal with Lady Isabel Harker. You may be hunting wild boar, Roderick Blinn, Duke of York and my good friend; but the Lady Harker I very greatly suspect will be hunting wild duke. Do not find yourself alone with the lady or she will be sure to find a way to notch her cupid's bow as a result."

Roderick laughed, but didn't miss Nigel's point. "I shall be on high alert, I assure you," he said. Then both left the annex only to be greeted by another serenade orchestrated by the pack of hunting hounds. Roderick smiled and said in an aside to Nigel, "If I set them loose I can't be sure if they'll chase wild boar or hunt the fox. And I don't mean the small red ones."

Both men laughed at this on their way back to the manor's main structure.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 08-26-2010 @ 07:28 PM).]

Nimmanu
Archer
posted 06-01-10 19:08 EST (US)     97 / 108       
"Lord Balliol," Andrew said, bowing low before the higher ranked Duke.

"Relax, Sir Bruce. I wish a word with you, if I may?" He gestured for Andrew to join him, and the pair began to stroll the grounds of the military complex of York's castle.

"I have need of your assistance, Sir Bruce. I am uncertain as to Duke York's intentions. Granted, he didn't take the opportunity to attack, as we feared on our way here. However, things are not what they appear. There are..." he paused for a moment, his lips pursed in contemplation, "...undercurrents, in the Ton."

Andrew, uncertain as to his own standing with the Duke, simple nodded, waiting for the man to continue. But he felt uncertain hearing his own curiosities spoke aloud. As if they seemed either more real in the light of day, or completely unreal. He wasn't sure which. Unbidden, his hand moved to the pommel of the sword that lay easy on his hip.

"I simply wish for you to watch him during the hunt. If he should go off by himself, or if he should do anything curious or out of the ordinary, I wish for you to report it to myself." He raised his hand to stop Andrew as he began to speak.

"Nothing of a personal nature need be reported, Sir Bruce. Simply anything which might compromise the security of the crown. I am aware of the... appetites... of young men. I expect nothing less than that he should be courting the attendance of a chambermaid or even an attractive scullery maid. So have no fear, I am not seeking dirt to hold over him. I am seeking only to secure and protect the interests of the crown."

He stopped walking and turned towards Andrew. "Is that acceptable? Will you do it?"

Andrew swallowed. On the one hand, it would give him the right to do as he already desired. On the other hand, it felt somehow dirty to spy on someone, especially someone who seemed as respected and worthy as the personage of the Duke of York.

But no less a personage stood before him, requesting his assistance. What could he do? He nodded, and shook the Duke's hand, before striding away to take a long, hard ride on Horse.

He was restless for the next few days, discomforted by strange dreams of green eyes, interspersed with dreams of the Duke of York brandishing the Royal Crown. The dreams often blended together, sometimes it was the Duke of York, and other times it was Balliol.

When the morning dawned, it was cool and early. The dew clung to the grasses beneath the hooves of the fussy hunter he had borrowed from, of all people, the Duke of York. The very man whom he found himself in the uncomfortable position of spying on.

He was tired, irritable, and out of sorts. The day of the hunt had so far gotten off to a very bad start for him. But just as the flighty hunter under him dodged away from another mount, he was greeted by the last voice he would have wanted to hear.

"Oh, Sir Bruce. I daresay, can you move the mounting block over away from that tree? I fear something may fall from it and strike me." The overly loud voice belonged to none other than the Lady Harker, who was clearly trying very hard to draw attention to herself. She looked coyly in the direction of the Duke of York as she patted a blond curl, as if to replace the perfectly placed curl.

While he moved the mounting block, Andrew noticed that she was dressed in a manner entirely unrealistic for any person on a great Hunt, much less for a woman who would have to be in a saddle for several hours. Unlike the other women, she wore a tightly laced corset that creaked with her every movement.

With a sinking feeling, Andrew mounted the gray Arabian he'd been given for the hunt. He thought it was named something like Pepperjack or Applejack. He wished he'd paid more attention, because he was starting to feel like it may well be his only friend for the day. And worse, he was pretty sure that at some point, he would be sent to escort the Lady Harker home, and have to miss the majority of the hunt.

It wasn't that he minded missing the hunt; it was more that he couldn't fulfill his agreement to watch over York if he were sent to pander to an overly pampered woman. Not to mention being forced to listen to her all the way back to the castle.

"Lady Diana! Lady Elizabeth! How good of you to join us!" Nigel's jovial greeting to his sister and the Lady Diana stirred Andrew out of his doldrums.

He looked over to see the two ladies joining the other three women, and Lady Harker. Feeling considerably cheered as he met the Lady Diana's eye and tilted his head in greeting; he turned to join the other men.

Perhaps what time he might get at the hunt that day wouldn't be entirely unpleasant, after all.

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 06-04-10 19:05 EST (US)     98 / 108       
The day of the Spring Hunt dawned cold, overcast but free of rain except for the occasional drop of water from something overhead calling attention to itself by shedding excess morning dew. The Hunt was organized in groups, with each group having its leader, guests, animal handlers and pack of hunting dogs. This was appropriate since too large a party packed together would certainly result in all being in each other's way. Thus it was that the other groups were sent off to various sections of the outlying forest by a pre-determined geographic plan from a point of origin in the field lying before the Duke's fortified residence. The Duke's own hunting party was patiently waiting for him at the field's edge near the gate which would give the party access to their assigned section of the forest. It was difficult to tell which was the more eager to begin-the horses, the dogs or the hunters and their ladies.

Duke Roderick raised up his hand to signal his need to speak to them all. They ceased their excited chatter immediately. The Duke first looked around to assess those who had joined him. Nigel, of course, was at his side dressed in the clothing he'd selected from the Duke's collection just a few days before. Near him was Sir Andrew, dressed similarly in chain mail and warm woolen under and over clothing. The ladies were present in all of their finery: Elizabeth, sister of Nigel; Lady Diana, the friend of the Queen; and by some manner of influence, somehow, the Lady Isabel Harker hand managed to be part of the Duke's party instead of the others. How does she do it, wondered the Duke. Well, of no consequence. He knew what game was afoot, he reassured himself.

"Guests of York," the Duke began, "we shall start in a moment our Spring Hunt, but as it is the first of the year I should like to address a few matters of protocol before we begin. When the hunt begins, the dogs shall be released by their handler. The game we seek is wild boar and the dogs are conditioned for this prey. They will pursue rapidly but will slow or stop from time to time to find the scent. We shall change our pace accordingly with the purpose in mind of maintaining the dogs in the lead until they find what they seek.'

'The boar is called wild for two reasons. The first is because of its choice of cover, and second because though docile when undisturbed, if in fear of its life it can be quite unpredictable and dangerous. The beast is quite large and horses in particular do not take well to the nearness of a beast driven to panic. The horse itself may panic. Thus, we must take some precautions.'

'We men shall at all times stay between the dogs, the boar and the ladies. Sir Andrew, I charge you with being the one who defends the ladies from the boar should it charge them or get passed Nigel or me and head in their direction. Ladies, I must ask that you remain behind us at all times." Roderick looked over at the four mounted servants who comprised the rest of the party, one of whom was the handler of the dogs. "Master of the Hounds, you know your duty. Members of the York household, you shall stay at all times with our party and should anything untoward happen, you shall use your weapons and horses to divert the attention of the boar towards us, even if it risks the wellbeing of your horse. We shall make the kill."

The Duke paused here to look around to make sure all were paying keen attention to his words and decided to his satisfaction that they were. "May luck be with us!" he exclaimed. "Let the hunt begin!"

The Master of the Hounds let loose the hunting animals in the next instant after being greeted by the animals' excited approval voiced in a cacophany of barks of various volumes and timbers. Then the animals went silent as they worried the ground and nearby vegetation first with obligatory doggish territorial markings, and then with their noses as they sniffed and snorted all about for the scent of wild boar. This could take some time and so the ladies felt comfortable closing the gap between themselves and the men. A few clicks of their tongues, a light tap from their riding sticks and a slight snapping of reins and the horses obeyed, bringing their riders on side saddles over to where the men eyed the dogs for signs of discovery.

Elizabet Stewart did no differently than the others, but remained silent as, not surprisingly, Lady Harker spoke first. "Milord Duke, was not the King and the Queen invited?" she asked in her usual voice, pleasant to hear but seemingly loaded like a crossbow with wordly weapons.

The Duke bowed his head slightly to acknowledge he was being addressed by a lady, albeit one of a lower social class. "The Queen is indisposed as you know," Blinn answered, reminding them all that the Queen was with child again. "The King declined the Hunt as he has matters of the Kingdom which prohibit him from partaking of the pleasures of this hunt, and your ladyship's company." This made Harker blink, but didn't dissuade her from continuing.

"I could not see Sir Balliol among the other parties either," she noted pointedly.

"Your eyesight is as keen as always, Milady. Sir Balliol is with the king on the matters of the Kingdom which must be addressed. But I shouldn't worry much, Milady, as I'm sure Sir Balliol will learn of our achievements today to a degree of detail as if he were here himself."

Sir Andrew's pale white face turned red as a radish. Did he imagine it or did the Duke just glance his way after saying that and turning his horse around? Is there suspicion or does he know? Andrew worked hard to bring his emotions back down to a level consistent with excitement of the hunt instead of other things. The Duke, if glancing at him before, did not look his way again. Instead, Sir Andrew saw only the back of the Duke's head and missed the odd little smile on the Duke's face visible only to Nigel nearby. Looking Nigel's way, the Duke of York winked. Nigel struggled to keep a straight face.

Suddenly, one of the dogs began to bark excitedly. The other dogs lifted their heads and raised their ears to key on the one among them who seemed to have a certainty. The barking dog changed its call to a howl and the others bounded over to confirm with their barking what it found. The congress of hunting dogs reached consensus all at one time and the howling not only intensified, but multiplied; and then they were off and into the forest. The Master followed immediately, while the men hurriedly broke away from the women and followed, the women not far behind urging their horses on with taps of their riding sticks.

In their eagerness to find their prey, some of the dogs ranged rather widely on the perimeter of the path which seemed carved into the ground by hoofs and paws, most likely by deer or other such inhabitants of the forest. Instead of staying close to the dogs, the riders kept their horses on the path to prevent injury to themselves or their mounts from brush or branches. The idea of the hunt was to have the dogs bring the boar to them; not they themselves go to the boar.

Now and then Blinn looked back to make sure their party was together in good order. He took that opportunity this moment and swiveled in his saddle. Indeed, all were there as they should be: Nigel nearby; Andrew behind them and in front of the women; and the women close together in single file directly behind Andrew. A new fit of howling in the forest returned Blinn's attention to the hunt.

The Master of the Hounds turned in his saddle and signaled to the Duke that the dogs had found prey and were maneuvering it towards them. He silently pointed to the side of his horse corresponding to the side where the men stowed their boar spears. Roderick, Nigel and Andrew promptly withdrew their spears from their holsters and checked their swords for proper looseness in their scabbards. This would not be a day for archery as the path was too narrow and obstacles too plentiful. The barking and howling seemed to grow louder.

Lady Diana turned to her companions and noted, "Not much longer now, ladies. The question is how many of the creatures the dogs uncovered. Will it be a solitary boar or will it be the entire lot of them?"

Isabel sighed. "Well," she muttered, "I should hope it will be as many as needed all at once so we can get this done and get on with the day." Her plan and she both suffered from impatience at a task not yet done; but she would not have to wait very long as the barking and howling of the dogs was soon accompanied by the squeals, grunts and snortings of wild boar in distress, and no small amount of anger.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 08-24-2010 @ 05:56 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 06-07-10 18:10 EST (US)     99 / 108       
The Duke looked at his Master once again to see if he had more to signal. The Master was staring intently into the forest and seemed to be straining to hear something. Suddenly, the Master turned his head and raised his hand, his finger jabbing the air straight ahead of them. Blinn knew this meant the dogs were driving the boar onto the path, but at a location farther ahead from where they were at that moment.

The men put spur to horse and moved them forward at a fast clip. The ladies followed. A hundred meters of this or so and then the Master raised his hand to signal they should slow to a trot. The dogs were making a racket now as were the prey. The strong morning breeze brought not just the scent of the forest, but also the odor of the boar on its edges. They were close now, very close.

The edge of the forest erupted in a blur of dogs interspersed with boar. It was indeed the majority of the sounder discovered by the dogs. Sows, piglets and immature males comprised the majority of the sounder; but somewhere yet to be seen was the boar. The animals were greyish, haired, muddied, and the immature males showed the beginnings of tusks. The boar's tusks would be twice as long, twice as thick, yellow and used by the animal with little concern for its own welfare, only for the protection of its sounder.

Nigel quickly struck down a male. Andrew too saw an opportunity and speared a male which had paused a moment too long to assess what danger the path would bring, and thus experienced the very danger it feared. The Duke preferred to hunt the boar and so left his guests to their hunt and saved his spear. The boar couldn't be too far ahead. It never left the sounder when danger threatened. Indeed, the boar was present; but not in front of them. It was behind them.

Chased by two dogs, the wild boar, leader of the sounder, tore through shrubbery and onto the path directly between Andrew and the ladies. Startled and unnerved by the sudden appearance of the boar, the three horses lost all discipline and decorum. Lady Diana's horse reared up as if to threaten the beast with its hooves. Lady Elizabeth's horse bolted up the path, and Lady Harker's horse quickly backed up to the far edge of the path and nearly stumbled on a depression it could not see with eyes wide with terror focussed on the boar alone. Staggering, the horse did not fall, and Lady Harker quickly gained control of her mount just inside the beginnings of the far side of the forest split by the path. From this vantage point she could see the disaster unfold.

The wild boar stood in the middle of the path glaring at the harrassing hounds with small, dark, lidded eyes, sounding piggishly squealed warnings to the animals to keep their distance, or else. Its head was lowered and its jaws were opened to display as much of its tusks as it could. The hair on its back was needle stiff and sticking almost straight up, its muscles from leg to back tense, poised, ready to propel it towards its closest threat so it could rip it with its tusks. The more it stood there the greater the stench reaching the nostrils of man, woman and horse. The animals poor eyesight and distraction by those surrounding it gave it no opportunity to see an escape. The corpses of dead boar around it fooled it into thinking the sounder was there.

Andrew wheeled his horse around drawing his sword in his left hand and reached with his right hand to pull his spear from the corpse of the dead male. The wild boar suddenly shifted position to see what this new movement might mean. If a boar could aim, its tusks were targetted on Andrew. In one swift, smooth move, Andrew hurled his spear at the boar intending to strike it just behind the head. The spear struck the boar in the shoulder instead. Squealing in pain, the boar instinctively charged in the direction from whence came his newest torment. Inches from the foreleg of Andrew's mount, the boar made as if to jerk its head upwards and tear into the horse's leg, but it stopped dead in its tracks before it could do so. The hilt of Andrew's sword stuck out of the place where the spear was meant to go. The wild boar collapsed to the dirt with a second, but much more abbreviated squeal.

As Elizabeth's panicked horse flew by both he and the Duke, Nigel promptly forgot all about the hunt and pressed his horse in pursuit. One of the servants closely followed Nigel to lend assistance, but was called back by the Duke. The other servant hurried over to Lady Diana's steed to help calm him, all while Andrew was dealing with the wild boar. The Master of the Hounds was busy trying to bring order back to his pack. By this time, all of the necessary hunting was done, and the fortunates who escaped the spears would be sought after at a later time. The dogs did not understand this limitation and thus they were barking and howling expecting to be let go once again by the Master; but he signaled them otherwise, and they obeyed, just the way they were bred and trained to obey.

The Duke never let loose his spear. Prey wasn't close enough and the chaos too widespread so as to make a throw from that distance too great a risk to the hunting party and too little to the boar. Immediately upon the demise of the wild boar, Blinn quickly guided his horse over to the place of the slaughter to check on his guests. Andrew called over to him as he approached, "Milord, will you not pursue Lady Elizabeth's horse?"

"No, Andrew, Nigel will catch it. I've seen this before and the horse will slow very, very soon and recover its calm. Nigel is an able horseman as is the Lady Elizabeth, even from youth. They will be back momentarily."

"Very well, Milord," answered Andrew, not sounding completely convinced.

"Milord?" This came from Lady Isabel, who had guided her horse back onto the path amidst the slaughter. The horse was calm enough, but not appreciative of what it saw or smelt. "I think my horse has become lame."

Roderick looked at the horse as it walked and it seemed that the animal was favoring a hindleg. It did not seem serious, but it was not wise to ride a horse in that condition lest it worsen the problem or cause the horse and rider to suddenly stumble. "A moment then, Milady. Do not further move your horse." Lady Harker complied. Opportunity seemed to beckon and her mind raced through the potential the situation offered.

Farther up the path, Elizabeth Stewart finally gained control of her horse. A moment later Nigel's horse and rider galloped up to her side. A very concerned Nigel asked immediately, "Are you injured, Elizabeth?"

"No, Nigel, I am well. The horse became frightened, that is all. I must have given Roderick...I mean...both of you quite a scare. You followed me, but not Roderick?"

"Yes, me alone."

"Thank you, brother." Elizabeth looked away while she continued to calm her horse by patting its shoulder. "I suppose the Duke had more important matters..."

"Don't think upon it that way, Liz. The Duke knew I would find and collect you safe and sound. He has other charges besides you and I."

"The Lady Harker, I presume," Elizabeth muttered, her eyes tearing up increasingly.

"Come. You have had a scare, whether you admit it or not, and you need comfort back in York. I'll bring you back now."

Elizabeth looked at Nigel, a tear rolling down from one eye and then the other, as without speaking she turned her horse about and tapped it with her riding stick to make it trot alongside Nigel. She spoke not a word to him at all, not even after they rejoined the group.

Roderick looked up quickly to see if both Elizabeth and Nigel were well. Nigel nodded to signal all was good. Roderick nodded back and turned his attention to Lady Harker's horse once again. Isabel stood close beside Blinn seemingly intent on her horse's hoof as well, but actually hoping the heat of her proximity and the flavor of the scent she chose that morning might gain a modicum more attention soon than the horse.

Elizabeth looked at Lady Diana, who was reading Liz's thoughts in her face like a scholar reads a parchment. Lady Diana simply shook her head to signal there was nothing that could be done, and Elizabeth struggled to make sure tears could not be seen by her brother, other ladies, knights, servants or nobility.

Andrew approached them and said, "Milady and Sir Nigel, by the Duke's order we are to all go back to York together. The Duke and Lady Harker will follow. Her horse is injured and should not be ridden. The Duke will escort her back."

At these words, Diana and Elizabeth saw Lady Harker studying them over her shoulder, the unmistakeable look of triumph on her face. Elizabeth could have pulled each of Harker's hairs out by the root in that moment, but her body would not cooperate. Instead it slumped in defeat as she allowed herself to be guided back to York, along with the rest of the conquered prey.

Duke Blinn worried the horse's hind hoof and leg a little more, looking for signs of swelling, as the rest of the hunting party disappeared towards York. The last of them they saw was Andrew turning around in his saddle and looking at them. Then the knight waved his farewell and he was gone too. Harker smiled. Time to begin.
Micah Aragorn
Archer
posted 07-19-10 16:46 EST (US)     100 / 108       
"I do hope he is not injured too seriously",said Lady Harker, a look of concern on her worried brow. It would be a shame to have him in misery. He performed well ! Don't you think, Lord Blinn?".

"Considering all Milady, he did. It's not serious but on the cautious side we will have to walk him back." Roderick grabbed the reins of he and Lady Harker's horses and leading them started walking back to York.

The forest seemed quiet and serene again with a slight breeze blowing that swayed tree limbs and brought back the forest scents. Quite a difference from the dogs barking, boars squealing, and horsemen spurring thier mounts witnessed just moments ago.

Isabel was standing beside her mount but immediately took the advantage to move closer to Roderick while trying to keep step by step or at least as much as possible considering her garments were not made for riding but to allure. Roderick's quick glances attested to that but not unseen by Lady Harker who looked away grinning with minor glee. She manuevered closer and coincidently bumped against him.

Lightly touching her right hand to his left forearm and saying in her most apologetic voice," I'm terribly sorry, My Lord! I seem to be unable to keep my balance. May I use your arm to aid me?"

Lord Blinn, looking down at the smooth pathway, knew full well her intention. But because noble chivalry forbid being rude offered his arm to steady her. He saw her triumphant smile and her now coincidental perky and steady pace. To himself he remarked," This will be a long walk back!"

Isabel, her arm now wrapped around Lord Blinn's, took a deep breath and remarked," I do so love this time of year. The weather is still pleasant and the forest scents are refreshing." Thier path was leading them into a slight growth of underbrush and thickets which made visibilty ahead difficult. None the less this didn't stop Lady Harker from continueing her conversation. "This is a great time to also have a Ball. I'm simply looking forward to the music and dance. May I ask if MiLord is attending?"

This is what Blinn had hoped the conversation wouldn't develop into but couldn't refuse her an answer so he replied, " Yes, MiLady."

"And will you be accompanied by a lovely companion?",she coyly asked.

"I have not really had an apportunity to ask anyone but do have possibilities. And yourself?"

Why I wouldn't miss it, but alas, I too am without companionship." Now was the right time to initiate the final touch to her plan without anyone or anything interfering. Stopping and turning to Blinn she put both hands on his arm and with puppy dog eyes and an alluring smile asked,"If it pleases you MiLord, I would be greatly honored if you....."

She was unable to complete her plan as out of the bushes and thickets and onto the path two men came, weapons drawn, and one saying,"I'd be happy to go dancin' with ya!"

"Aye! As would I!", said another voice from behind the Lord and Lady. Another man stepping onto the pathway.

Roderick pushed Isabel behind him with his left arm and pulled his sword from it's sheath with his right hand.
Isabel, looking quite annoyed, crossed her arms and stomped her foot as a spoiled child at the demise of her plan before realizing the danger they were in.

The burliest of the men with ragged clothing and dirty faces addressed Roderick,"Now, we wish ya no 'arm. But if ya would hand over your mounts an' valuables, my lads and I would be grateful. You certainly don't need what I want."

Roderick replied,"You certainly don't expect me to just give them to you and you certainly don't know who you are dealing with." All the while with sword still drawn, Roderick moved his left hand back along his mount's saddle searching for the base of the spear.

"As do you. You leave us no choice then most noble sir.", the man behind him stated and moved forward.

With that the three brigands advanced. Blinn, with his left hand, pushed his mount sideways to intervene between he and the advancing front two thieves. He switched sword hands and in a fluid motion grabbed the spear shaft from his mount, bumped Lady Harker to the ground and threw the spear at the rear man and found him rolling on the ground with the spear protruding from his laboring chest.

As he turned to meet the other two he felt the sting of a sword cut on his arm while dodging the blade before it could land full blow. Roderick keeping himself between them and Isabel, who was screaming loudly at every thrust or miss of a sword, took a defensive stand and once again awaited an attack to which the thieves obliged him. Blocking the first man's blow and pushing him back, the second was able to swing low and cut through clothing and gash a leg. Roderick crying out from the sting.

Once again the brigands attacked. Roderick, whincing in pain and blocking thier blows, stumbled backward to his knees. An enemy sword raised to finish him but a quick thrust of his own found its mark causing the thief to fall to the ground, dead. Seeing Rodericks exhaustion, the last thief started in to finish the job.

The small silence was enough to hear mounts coming up the pathway from York and caused the thief to rethink his position. He looked at Roderick then Isabel and then back to Roderick and decided to be a thief another day entering the bushes and disappearing.

Isabel, recovering herself, got up and rushed to Roderick's side to help him up as Nigel, leading several mounted men and two fresh horses, appeared. With few questions Nigel and the others aided Roderick back to York to attend to his wounds. As they entered the courtyard, Elizabeth could see that something was amiss as Roderick was being helped down from a horse. With concern she rushed down to the courtyard.

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 03-12-2012 @ 07:19 PM).]

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