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Stronghold 2 » Forums » The Sword and Buckler Inn » THE SCEPTRE AND THE FALCHION - Story Thread
Topic Subject:THE SCEPTRE AND THE FALCHION - Story Thread
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Civis Romanus
posted 09-13-05 15:20 EST (US)         


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



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).]

posted 10-27-05 11:13 EST (US)     26 / 108       
The queit murmur of voices came from the alcove as an unexpected meeting took place in a spot usually reserved for hidden lovers to touch hands and faces in a manner inappropriate in public, yet not so indecorous as to require private chambers.

"So," said the feminine voice, "was it as I told you? Did he win?"

"Oh, he won, My Lady, in a most outstanding way," responded the second, deeper voice. "He has gained himself a powerful enemy in the form of William Pearl, I think. Sir Pearl now sports a badly broken leg."

Cruel feminine laughter floated on the air for a moment. "I knew it! With a man such as this to do my bidding, I will be unmatched in power. He will wear my colors tomorrow, you will see."

There was no response from the male voice. "Do you doubt me?" shreiked the female voice.

"No, My Lady," responded the male voice. Anyone who might have overheard them would have known that there was, at best, little sincerity in the statement. However, the statement seemed to mollify the woman, for a moment later, she left the alcove, sailing more than walking towards the ballroom. In the quiet darkness of the hallway, relieved only by the torches, her face seemed bathed in elegance and beauty, in the way only a woman's face can be. For an instant, she seemed an angelic and lovely creature.

A short time after she went on her way, another figure, this one male, left the alcove and continued on his way in the opposite direction. Another shadow left the safety of a separate alcove where it had taken refuge upon hearing the woman coming and in a temper earlier, and slipped towards the ballroom. The second shadow hadn't recognized the man, but certainly knew the identity of the woman.

The question was, should a warning somehow be gotten to Andrew? Or wait to see what played out?

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 10-27-2005 @ 11:13 AM).]

posted 10-30-05 11:01 EST (US)     27 / 108       
Having awakened to a 'fine morning' less his painful headache, Jafo readied for the day.

His attire was ample a simple tunic and light cloak. Bright color's of red and green to
catch and hold the eye,and silver bell's to catch the ear. A simple sash held a hidden
suprise a coustille, it made him feel equal to any challenge that may arise, and made a
great prop for his daring stories and tales.

Hurriedly he made his way to a large crowd. As alway's,it seemed he was a little late for
the wonderful matchup of knight vs might this morn. Andrew had preformed well, and Jafo
cursed his luck on missing a chance to place a wager.

Pursuing Andrew he knew would sooner or later lead to lady Isabel, and Jafo got great
delight from watching him wriggle to avoid her clutches. M'lady certainly had great prowess,
much like a falcon to a dove. Andrew provided great sport, and new stories for Jafo to tell
were in the making.

Follwing as far as he could Jafo suddenly was overcome by the smell of food. Leaving off of
Andrew he entered the Ballroom. Almost at once he set upon Lady Isabel.

"M'lady, thy eyes are prettier than the stars, yet like the stars, are out of my reach.
I am a man, and thou art a goddess. For me to even gaze upon thy endless beauty, M'lady,
is more than I am worthy of." Jafo hoped she found more truth than humor in what he had said.

Lady Isabel let go a small laugh at his fine humor. Hoping Andrew would soon have those same
thought's of her. "You must join me at my table this evening", Isabel said, "You are most
entertaining". She had been very short, but alas an invitation to watch Andrew and M'lady
was an offer to good to pass up.

Jafo wandered off to find the smell's his rather large nose had found. "Ah the kitchen" he
thought was to the east. Making his way in that direction the aroma of fresh cooked mutton
grew stronger.

posted 10-31-05 19:13 EST (US)     28 / 108       
The Herald's staff landed once again with a powerful thump, "Viscountess Isabel Belvior," he shouted. It sounded like "vEYE-count-ess Eesabell Beevor," which was, of course, the proper pronunciation, if you were English. As of course, they all were.

Isabel paused for dramatic effect, enjoying the few eyes that turned her way. When she entered a room, not only her title, but her beauty turned heads. Which was to be fully expected. She carefully swept down the marble steps to the ballroom floor, conscious of the way that her blue and gold gown swished just right in a provocative sway. In what the other women of the court considered a gross display, she wore a heavy undergown gilded in gold. It didn't matter to her what the other women thought, they were merely jealous of her beauty, she believed.

Her entrance was, as always, carefully measured for timing and effect. When she reached the bottom, she was quite pleased to find that, to her credit, the handsome Earl of Devon immediately asked her to dance. His station was above hers, and even above most of the other Earls present.

* * * *

As Isabel's dance with the Earl of Devon was coming to an end, another woman appeared at the entrance to the ballroom. Just as the music ended, the Herald's strident rapping of his staff, and his echoing voice bellowed into one of those strange moments of silence, "The Marchioness Diana Nobel of Hampshire!"

All eyes turned in surprise at the words. The Marchioness, daughter to the Marquis of Hampshire, was well known for being nearly a hermit. Most present had never even seen her.

A very small, delicate woman stood framed in the doorway of the grand entrance. Standing at the top of the round marble entry dias ringed by steps, she seemed fragile and incredibly small. Her green and blue gown was simple, amidst a sea of gowns meant to flaunt power and wealth. The only concession to displaying wealth was the richness of the fabric, and the necklace she wore. Deep black hair tumbled in a braid down her back, peeking out from beneath a simple headdress, the simplest and smallest in the room amongst the women.

As every eye, even those of the serving staff and the musicians turned towards her, the tiny woman blushed. The silence continued for a moment before a startling loud sound came from the musicians, and conversation resumed.

Andrew couldn't help but stare at her. Something seemed not quite right about her, and yet she was compellingly strange and beautiful. Unlike the other women present, she was slender, even her dress could not hide the daintiness of her figure. No attempt was made to accent her chest, very little makeup adorned her face, her hair was unashamedly left in a simple braid, devoid of powder or other cosmetics. No gold adorned her gown, no lavishly brilliant interweavings or trappings, no frilly or poofy sleeves that were all the rage. No expensive lace anywhere to be seen.

And yet, she was magnificent. As Andrew watched, she made her way carefully to the table, apparently not noticing him standing there. He watched for a moment as no one approached her for a dance, or even to give her greeting.

He moved to her side, looking down at her, the top of her head reaching to his chest. "Pardon me, Lady Nobel, I wonder if I might have the honor of this dance with you?"

She turned to him in surprise, and for an instant... a flash of a second, he swore her green eyes glowed with a familiar brilliance. But then it was gone, and he smiled at her, trying to shake the strange moment. She blushed again, but raised her hand to place it softly in his. He found her hand to be cool, slightly rough, not soft as he expected. He tucked her hand into his arm and led her to the dance floor.

A graceful, athletic man, he was an excellent dancer, although he didn't really enjoy it. He was surprised to find that dancing with this particular woman was different. Although apparently very shy, she was an engaging conversationalist once he had drawn her out a bit.

He found himself disappointed as the music ended and he steered her towards the food area once again. He once more tucked her arm through his, and they walked back slowly, reluctantly.

She stopped suddenly, her face tilted up towards his, her green eyes (so pale compared to those eyes that haunted his dreams!) looked up at him, somehow pleading with him. "I would ask a favor of you, Sir Bruce," she said, using his formal title.

"What do you wish of me, Lady Nobel," he asked, although charmed by her, keenly unwilling to commit before he knew the request.

"I beg your forgiveness in being so forward, Sir, but I would ask that you wear my token on the morrow," she said, color once again staining her cheeks.

Andrew stared at her. He knew what it meant to wear a Lady's token. It was an honor for the knight, but it was also gave a man a feeling of having disappointed the lady in question, should he not win the tournament.

"My reasons for asking are not what you think, Sir. It is not my desire to beholden you to me, but to give you a gift," she said, once again flooding her face with embarassment.

He stared at her for a few moments. As the minutes began to drag, she looked away and turned towards the table. He gently grasped her elbow, "I will do it, Lady," he said, unable to disappoint her. He couldn't imagine how it might be that she considered it a gift, but he couldn't argue with her.

"I should not have asked it, I have disgraced myself," she said.

"No, that's not it at all," he replied, stung by the shame in her voice, "I simply fear that I might lose tomorrow, and dishonor your token, it is quite a burden for a man to bear."

She looked up at him, her eyes large and touched with hope. Then she smiled and he felt himself smiling in response without even realizing it. He saw that flash in her eyes again, and she looked away instantly. She pulled the small square of cloth from her sleeve, the brilliant green with a white stallion in the center, the crest of her father's estate. She handed it to him, her face composed once again. "I thank you, Sir Bruce," she said.

Propriety caused them to part as the next dance began, but Andrew found himself feeling light and happy. The feeling persisted through that dance, and right up until he saw the Lady Isabel Belvior headed directly for him, two other women with her.

He found no way out, and resigned himself to the encounter. The Lady Belvior arrived, "Sir Bruce, allow me to introduce the Lady Mary Hamilton, and the Lady Sarah Brooke." After courtly introductions, Isabel continued, speaking now to the ladies with her, "Sir Bruce has agreed to wear my colors tomorrow, isn't that delightful?" She turned to look at Andrew, her eyes daring him to make the incredible social blunder of refuting her.

Andrew barely controlled himself from walking away from her then and there. "My Lady, I apologize most sincerely," he said, a plan forming immediately in his mind, "but I believe I have misled you unintentionally. I fear I have already accepted the Marchioness of Hampshire's token, and will be required by propriety to wear that in tomorrow's tournament."

He realized how it might be that a token from a woman of rank might be a gift in that moment. He watched as Isabel's face turned several shades of red, none of them complementary, and not a one brought on by delicate sensibility. "Yes, you certainly did mislead me, and I hope to not see such shameful behavior from you in the future," she finally snarled, and dragged the two women away with her.

Andrew managed to hide his grin, and looked around for his benefactress. He found to his keen regret, that she had vanished from the crowd. As he turned once more towards the interrupted food table, he missed Jafo's grin as the other man watched the spectacle without a word.

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 10-31-2005 @ 07:14 PM).]

posted 11-01-05 12:47 EST (US)     29 / 108       
On his visit to the kitchen Jafo had overheard much betting and other buzzing going
on about 'The BIG CHAP'. Seem's nobody knew where he hailed from or whom he rode for
in the tournament but he was fast becoming every peasent's favorite.

There was also a stir about why the city was under careful guard, Jafo mused at all
the gossip. War was coming, The King was threatened with assassination, Vikings had
demanded ransom or raid, many Royal's were to attend the feast, and Jafo's favorite,
security for some Nobel's Wedding one cook had mused. Everyone had an opinion it
seemed. The working class alway's were the last to get any new's. But gossip was more
fun to listen to than fact anyway.

Finding his way back to the ballroom, and to the table of Lady Isabel Jafo made himself
welcome. The other's already there waited for M'lady and he started his tale telling
almost at once.

Keeping an eye on all the goings on was almost all he could do, there were many guest's.
The music light and dancing by all. Andrew had been alone with his thought's when,
"The Marchioness Diana Nobel of Hampshire!" filled the air. It seemed as though she was
out of sort's but had purposely wandered toward Andrew upon entering the ballroom.
Jafo knew as Andrew approached her a fine spectacle was on the brew.

Jafo watched as Andrew danced and entertained the young lady, but was totaly shocked
as he accepted her token for the tournament. Lady Isabel had not been witness to this
open act of affection! For what end he wondered had Andrew made this descion?.
Surely he knew her not, but there was a strange familiarity between these two.

It was shortly thereafter Isabel made herself known, and Andrew withdrew upon himself
much as a turtle hides when cornered. Isabel was taken unawares as Andrew displayed
the token that marked him as champion for another.

Then Jafo rolled in laughter, on the inside though so as not to be seen! Andrew's action's
had made this day. Isabel had tried to force herself upon him again, but alas to late!
A slender green eyed Lady had usurped her. Wait Jafo thought, those strange green eye's?
He had seen them before, but where?

Had he not been so busy spinning a tale he may have gotten a better look at those eye's and
to whom they belonged to! But it was a Feast and Jafo was enjoying the evening, some Ale,
and much food!

The tournament played well on Jafo's mind as did many things, he had missed Andrew's prior
performance but would not miss the next! What action would M'lady take upon Andrew for
his insolent act? And now how was M'lady going to find a way to take what she wanted,
which was certainly Andrew? But mostly, what of those fantastic green eye's that were
stuck in his thoughts? Many question's and few answer's foretold of much excitement ahead.

Jafo just grinned!

posted 11-02-05 08:54 EST (US)     30 / 108       
Diana left the ballroom, the piercing pain in her head from maintaining the illusion of her human self amidst the sea of humans driving her out and towards the safety of the stables. At last, inside the coolness of the stables, she slipped swiftly out of her gown, and back into the robes of a monk. She pulled the cowl down and dropped the illusion.

She trembled with reaction still. Twice, she had let the illusion drop! Two times she had lost concentration and nearly lost everything as a result. Time was growing short, she would have to make a decision soon, and it all hinged upon Andrew.

As she turned towards the door to go back to the ballroom, she found Flint standing there at the doorway, leaning against it. "How does an elve walk freely in the King's ballroom amidst a sea of nobles and guards?" he asked.

Diana blinked at him a moment, and lowered the cowl so that he could see her sincerity. "I have the ability to disguise my features," she replied, looking him in the eyes.

"You didn't appear disguised to me," he said, his voice tinged with anger and suspicion.

"You know me, you have seen me. Your mind will never be fooled by my illusions. The magic relies on the human's desire to see what they expect to see," she responded. "Since you were originally unsurpised to see me, I would suspect you would never have been fooled. It is fortunate that you knew of me prior to my entrance to the ballroom."

"In fact," she continued, "You were a complete surprise, I believed I knew of everyone who knew of our existance."

"What of the Marquis of Hampshire? Clearly he is not your father," Flint countered.

Diana smiled, a smile of soft affection, "No, indeed he is not. He and I had a mutual arrangement, however. His daughter was very sickly, and in the end died. I approached him and offered to take her place. This allowed me a step into human life. It allowed him to have an heir, and I had agreed that if things didn't go according to my plans, I would marry a human and live that life and die that life. And I will still do so if things go awry."

"And what plans are those, exactly?" Flint asked, his voice as hard as the stone he was named after.

"They are of a personal nature, and mostly out of my control. The end choice will be another's, not mine. But I assure you of this, I did not come to interfere in the politics of your world," she replied firmly.

Flint weighed her identity against her seeming sincerity and finally accepted her statements for the moment. But he would watch. It was what he did best.

Diana pulled the cowl back over her head, and they headed back inside to the ballroom. This time, the Lady Diana Nobel used the secondary entrance instead of the one reserved for dignitaries and nobles of the court. Not a single eye turned towards her, not a man present caught his breath. Unheralded, unnoticed, she slipped in amongst the ranks of people.

The only political maneuvering she did was to listen to those around her as snippets of conversation passed the Lady Isabel Belvoir's table.

"Diana has only gotten thinner. She'll never find a husband, all scrawney and child-like." was among the kindest about herself.

"Did you see the Marchioness Nobel? She's probably dying of syphilis."; "Certainly not, she doesn't have the look."; "Well, it must be something else, but clearly she's not well."; "But she's got all of her teeth as far as I could see, which is strange by itself."

"Surely Marquis Nobel can afford to feed her better than that."; "I saw her at the dining table, and she is very choosey. The man probably has to beat her to get her to eat at all."

But it wasn't long before the conversations moved on to more interesting things. The fact that she was rarely seen had been enough to keep her in conversation past the normal amount of time, but speculations returned about the locked gates, and heavy guard. It seemed that not even the nobility knew why the high security.

No discussions were held about Sir Andrew Bruce's showing that day here amongst the nobility. Like most news, it didn't trickle upwards nearly as well as news trickled downwards. It would be to their detriment in betting the next day that the nobility so shunned the news of the peasants and commoners. But for now, it served Andrew well, and by extension, monk.

For the kitchen staff positively doted upon him, nearly fawning in their delight that he had put the vicious Sir Pearl out of commission for a time. Fewer beatings for being too slow to bring the man his "well deserved" favors, and no more need to hide the maids- at least for a time.

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
posted 11-02-05 15:41 EST (US)     31 / 108       
Jafo waited for Tom Perth to finish with the musician's and actor's, and after bidding all
a good evening left for the guild. It had been a wonderful set of act's, and the music was
a delight too.

Andrew had stepped out to get some air, and saw these two hapless soul's and decided to
follow along out of sight and strech his leg's a bit.

Along the way Jafo made a wager with Tom as to how well Andrew would perform.Tom thought
him too big to be effective against a 'Real Knight'. Tom had favored Sir William Pearl, but
now that Andrew had scored a 'lucky hit' he would favor any oppenent against Andrew.
Jafo smiled at this chance to win a good wager, Tom's blind faith would surely cost him.

Tom had been consumed with thought's of the evening when he stopped dead in his track's, he
exclaimed "Did you see the Marchioness Diana Nobel?" he continued, "I have been to Hampshire
in the past few year's and never have I seen any sign of such a lady. But she was somehow
very plain but absolutly stunning in some odd way". Jafo froze, hair's on his neck stood up,
and a very uneasy chill went up his spine. Who was this mysterious 'Lady' then? Now he was
puzzled even more than before. Did Tom just miss her as she was a recluse? Was this 'Lady'
an imposter? What pupose would this serve? Much thought was needed to reach some solution.
For now though this would have to wait, as Jafo's thoughts went back to the Tournament.

Had he known that Andrew was following not far off in the shadow's, and listening to the
amusing wager,and the yarn they were spinning. Jafo may not have acted so quickly as the thief
jumped from out of the darkness. Jafo was fast even though he had consumed a fair amount of
Ale, pushing Tom aside he drew his dagger. Andrew was impressed with the little man's speed.
He had almost intervened but now took great delight in observing this fine display of bravery!
The thief thinking them an easy target, was suprised by how such a large pointed object had
foiled his plan's. Dropping his small blade He ran off even faster than he had attacked!
Tom was in awe, never had he seen such boldness on these street's. He told Jafo it must
have been a foreigner, and they both shrugged it off and continued on thier way.

Jafo it seemed was very well able to take care of himself and other's too. Andrew picked up
the small knife with strange marking's and placed it in his boot. He had almost laughed aloud
at the excitment, and decided it was about time to end his outing. So he headed back, with
the vision of Jafo with his dagger playing over in his head. He was most amused.

As the other two entered the guild they went to thier room's and Jafo began to think somemore.
A great day was to be had, as he had been to a few good tilt's before, he wanted to witness
Andrew at the tournament. Knowing the only real Rule at tournament was to avoid hurting
the horse! Jafo had heard about how quick and agile Andrew was even in full armor.
His only regret was not having more than 5 silver coins to wager with.
They had laughed most of the way back, as each thought the other daft to make such a wager.

After a good night's sleep Jafo woke early, excitemnet driving his action's.

What a day, even the bird's sounded happy outside. Jafo dressed quickly and skipped his
morning tea! He hurried along as the sun rose, determined not to miss anything.

Street vendor's were just starting to set up thier makeshift shop's, and fire's were being
lit to warm and cook the food. Many sound's filled the air, the excitement could almost be
touched as it built up about the city.

Tavern keeper's were hualing in barrels of Ale, and carter's were busy bringing meat's and
cheese, and all other manner of good's. Much to do today, and even more to partake of!

There were many stranger's milling about, wager's being made, most of the peasents were
busy getting everything done early. They too wanted to see the tournament's, Andrew's name was
no longer a whisper, they bragged to each other about how he had almost killed Sir Pearl,
how he would be a criple for ever, and how he tried to kill Andrew in a most cowardly way,
and much more most of which was wild exaggeration.

Jafo made it to the stable's outside of The Full Mug Inn, out of breath but early. As he
entered Monk was already busy polishing armor, and grooming Horse for the tournament.
Monk spoke not a word, but when Jafo asked to help handed him a comb and pointed at Horse.
Having seen other horse's readied for a joust he began to work on Horse's tail and mane.
Monk never complained and worked very hard at his job of squire/stable boy. Horse seemed
to enjoy his attention for some odd reason too.

You could not tear Jafo from Andrew and Monk this day, he was more than happy to assist
Monk in his duty's. He waited for Andrew to show. Jafo asked monk "What of the 'Lady's'
token?". Monk just grunted and continued his work.

When he was done Jafo lent a hand with all the case's and armor pieces. He thought about
how heavy they were and wondered how Andrew could even move in his armor. Each piece was
unique, and seemed to be thicker than most he had seen before. It polished so well and Jafo
wanted Andrew to look his best today.

Andrew being a venant (or comer) may get to challenge for an opponent if he chose, Jafo
wondered if he had anyone in mind. Andrew was not here by shear accident. And M'lady Isabel
wanted a champion for her reason's too, but to what end? It was to prove an interesting
day no matter how it went. Monk seemed to be growing impatient and adjitated again.

[This message has been edited by Yellek (edited 11-03-2005 @ 05:33 PM).]

posted 11-04-05 16:57 EST (US)     32 / 108       
Diana had risen early, arriiving to prepare Andrew's armor. She wasn't really sure what to do besides polish and prepare, and was relieved when Jafo showed up and began to help, taking over currying Horse's mane and tail into the odd little braids that were all the fashion.

As she worked, she listened to his chatter, sometimes smiling under her cowl as he rambled cheerfully through his commentary on the nobility. After they'd finished combing and currying Horse, they sat down and began polishing the armor that Horse and Andrew would wear in the coming melee.

Jafo continued to chatter away. "Did you see the Lady of Kent, Marchioness Nobel? What of her token? Andrew accepted it for today's fights!"

Diana shrugged and let him continue on with his surprisingly insightful commentaries.

"Some rumors say that her brother ran away to come to London to the war. The lad's only aged 12, I think, though no one said as much. That's just what I recall."

Little did the man know the impact his words had on Diana. Diana had promised Marquis Nobel to be his heir, a situation of which she had been relieved twelve years ago by the unexpected birth of John Nobel. She deeply feared for the boy, who had turned out to have the fiery spirit of his mother, and the gentle nature of his father.

Unaware that her movements betrayed her agitation, she began scrubbing fiercely at Horse's armor. What was she to do? How was she to discover the truth for herself? She would have to abandon her personal quest and save the boy if he had run away from home. She simply couldn't conscience leaving him to run into trouble.

Finally, Horse's armor was done. She bridled and then began to saddle Horse, the first step in armoring him. As she took the heavy chest piece and began to buckle it onto him, a sudden sound split the air. "Fwthhhht crack!"

With a scream of pain, Horse reared, ears flattened against his skull. With a crash, the breastplate of his armor hit the ground. Seeing no other reason for his pain, Horse advanced upon Diana. He reared again, and Diana did the only thing a tiny little creature, cornered by a massive, infuriated beast weighing in at over a tonne can do....

She stood completely still and made small, inarticulate, terrified mewling noises. Her mind, blank with terror, saw no alternative but that. And Horse, just as terrified, but much better trained, saw in front of him an enemy.

But his keen ears told him a different story. For days now, that gentle voice had pampered him. It had spoken softly and gently to him during the quiet hours when no one else was around. It had petted him, and fed him, and cared for him. The terrified sounds Diana was making were what saved her life.

That, and the fact that Andrew had just arrived. His powerful voice cut across the stables, "Horse, Stand!"

Trembling, Diana and Horse faced each other down in the stall. Andrew ran inside, easing Horse back and looking at the arrow embedded just below Horse's neck. It had grazed Horse, narrowly missing his powerful neck... and his jugular vein. Just inches higher, and the mighty horse would have been felled. Inches lower, and Monk would have been. A moment's hesitation had been all that had saved monk from a death at Horse's hands. Or so Andrew believed- having no way to know that it was Diana's voice that had saved her.

Behind them, Jafo's mind was churning. He'd heard the soft sounds, and believed he understood part of what was going on. He'd once heard a man who'd had his tongue cut out trying to speak. Now he believed he knew why Monk never spoke. And part of the rumor he'd heard last night about John Nobel was that there was something about the boy that the father tried to hide. One speculation was that the boy was ill with the same disease as the daughter. But Jafo had discarded that idea- he didn't believe the woman was ill, simply slender.

Could that explain why monk had become so agitated? Could this be the very boy in question? It would certainly explain why the boy had attached himself to Andrew for protection. And Andrew hailed from Sussex, as far as Jafo knew. The boy being from Kent could easily have met him along the road.

Jafo's thoughts were interrupted by Andrew, "I'm going to have to get this chestplate fixed before the fight."

And it was true. Horse had landed quite heavily upon it, and it was nearly flattened. Monk's demeanor was visibly disheartened. Andrew clasped the small man on the shoulder, "It'll be alright. I can afford the fix, and it wasn't your fault, someone was trying to kill Horse. Why, I'm not sure, though. Perhaps it was a stray arrow from the practice yard." They all turned to look out at the bailey, just beyond the stall door. It was, in point of fact, entirely possible, if not even a likely scenario.

Pragmatically, Andrew picked up Horse's breastplate, and off they went towards the smithy district. Without invite, and as if they perfectly belonged there, Jafo and Monk fell in beside him.

As they moved through the city, the air of excitement began to spill over onto them, and their mood lightened. Monk actually stopped to buy a small pastry, splitting it three ways. Andrew laughed and bought two more, gently pushing the pieces back into Monk's hand. The three ate in pleasurable silence, savoring the honey flavored delicacy.

As they neared the smithy district, Andrew stopped short. "It can't be!" he said, noticeable excitement coloring his voice. "Harold!" he bellowed, his voice carrying across the small square. People nearby, though some of them were clearly not named Harold- unless their parents had wanted boys instead!- turned to look curiously at the trio.

Across the way, a man nearly as big as Andrew looked around to see who was calling him. Andrew waved, and Harold scowled. The three hurried over to him, Andrew grasping Harold's arm in a friendly handshake.

"I think you be bringin me work, ain't you, lad?" Harold said gruffly.

"Well, as it happens..." Andrew began.

"I thought as much," grumbled Harold. "You promised me ye'd take care of that armor," he said, scowling again.

"Was an accident, Harold, Horse stepped on it," Andrew said.

"So ye dropped it, ye klutz?" Harold said, and turned back into his shop without waiting for an answer. Andrew didn't correct him. Monk looked dejected again. Jafo grinned.

Poweful hammer blows sounded from within, and the three made their way across the way to the pavillion where a small faire had set up. By the time they returned, the dents had been hammered out as if they'd never existed.

"Thank you, Harold," Andrew said, and tried to pass the man some coins.

"I tell ye what, ye keep yer money, and ye remember me to the King when ye wins the tournament today," Harold said gruffly. He didn't wait for an answer, but picked up the previously discarded ingot of ore, and vanished into the interior of his borrowed shop.

Andrew looked troubled, "And how shall I repay you if I lose, old friend?" he asked the doorway. Much subdued, he turned back towards the stables, his mini entourage trailing, unnoticed, behind him.

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 11-04-2005 @ 04:58 PM).]

posted 11-08-05 22:05 EST (US)     33 / 108       
Isabel's fan waved lazily in front of her face. "Who is he?" she inquired of the portly elderly woman beside her.

"T'would be Nigel Stewart, I believe," said the elderly woman. "I believe the Stewarts have dual holdings, some here, and some in Scotland, as well. No doubt, living amongst the savages, he has learned a thing or two." She sniffed disdainfully, making it clear what kind of... things... she thought that might be.

"Dual holdings? They must be powerful indeed," Isabel responded, her clever mind already considering the possibilities.

"Oh, indeed, the Stewart holdings are quite vast," The Lady Mirabelle said, not realizing what she disclosed in that simple statement to the devious woman beside her.

"Is he married, Lady Mirabell?" Isabel asked coyly.

"I've truly no idea, dear. I imagine he is, though." And the Lady went back to petting her small pomeranian. "Little pooky, mum's going to get you some nibbles," she cooed, and wandered off.

Isabel watched Nigel for a few moments before carefully arranging her dress lower on her shoulders. She wandered slowly towards him, greeting others who stood about the field waiting for the men who would participate in the tournament to arrive.

At last she reached his side, and, quite by accident, of course, tripped and stumbled against him. Fluttering her fan to show her distress at her foolish faux pas, she blinked at him and apologized so very sweetly. "I'm terribly sorry, so clumsy, I am," she gushed at him. "I do so pray you will forgive me."

"Certainly, ma'am, no harm done," he replied, then turned back towards the man with whom he was in conversation.

"I... my name is Isabell Belvior," she said, since he wasn't gentleman enough to ask. She bit the statement back, and smiled as he turned once more towards her.

* * * *

Monk left the coolness of the dark stable, and began to pull the mounting block to a more accessable position. Jafo, spying his obvious difficulty, came trotting out from the barn to help, his commentary carrying on that Monk should have asked for help the whole time. Finally, between the two of them, they had it turned. And just in time, too.

A clunk sounded from within the shadowed interior of the stables as the stall opened. Vague, ghostly shapes moved within as Andrew and Horse emerged from the stall. They moved towards the open doors, pale shadows amidst blackness. As they walked towards the entrance, Diana was once again struck by this remarkable man. A glitter of light shone from the black depths. Another step, and Andrew's boot was bathed in light. Light that glittered and shimmered in the bright morning.

The heavy tread of Horse's hooves mingled with the clank of armor as they emerged into the light out of the darkness. Everything seemed to narrow to this vision for Diana. The knight emerging from darkness. A vision she knew she would carry with her for the rest of her considerable lifetime. Her chest tightened and tears threatened as Andrew walked towards her, a surreal vision of the glowing hope that she held for her future.

Andrew grinned, "I see you two are ready," he said, and the spell holding Diana spellbound fled like a frightened dove. She was glad then that she wouldn't be expected to speak. She probably couldn't have at that moment, so large was the lump in her throat.

The pair followed Andrew as he headed towards the field reserved for the upcoming tournament. People jammed the streets, shouting and laughing. Children laughed and screamed, chasing each other against the odds through the press of people. Somewhere nearby a dog barked, a deep sound barely rising above the din of vendors selling their goods.

Scents of honeyed pastries floated past their noses. Then the smell of a tavern as they passed one- the moist scent of ale and the dankness of sweat. The sun was warm, but the air was cool, the stark contrast raised gooseflesh on their arms where shade sat.

They moved slowly through the crowd, but in a testament to Andrew's size, people moved, albeit reluctantly, out of their path.

"Andrew!" came a shout from a familiar voice. Andrew turned to raise a fist in salute to Harold. A ripple ran through the crowd.

"Andrew Bruce," the name zinged from person to person, until the noise level began to rise, and Andrew could go no further without accepting every few minutes, the well-wishes of the peasants.

"I've 3 pence bet on ye, Sir!" said one woman, her quavering voice making it clear that it was her life savings. She clung to him, her grubby hands and desperate eyes tugging at his heart as he passed on and she let go.

Children now ran along beside him and in his wake, a babble of questions rising in cacophanous jumble from their midst. As they reached the fighters' area, the children were forced to drop behind. After some disagreement, Monk and Jafo were allowed in, when Andrew called Jafo his squire and named Monk his kipper. Jafo barely managed to get beyond the guards before bursting into joyous laughter at the thought of being a squire. But he wasn't about to miss this, so a squire it was for the day!

A shout went up from the center of the field as the Marshall took his place, heading towards the fighters. The fighters crowded close to hear the rules.

"There are only a few rules, but you will abide by them, or lose your life," shouted the Marshall. "You may choose a weapon from the blunted practice weapons. Any death will be accounted for by your own death. Whoever wins and fells an opponent may take from them whatever they wish- but only one item of armor. Your kipper is allowed to render your opponent unconscious again if he refuses to yeild the item. Any death, again, will be accounted for by the death of the killer. Any injuries to horses will be compensated for by the one who injures it. If no compensation is available, the man whose horse is maimed will choose the fate of the one who wounded his horse, so beware!"

"Outside of that... the last ten men standing shall take the field and joust for the prize!" A great shout and cheering welled up, interrupting him. He waited for them to calm. "The prize this day shall be the winner's choice of a new sword, made by the smith of his choice, or money of value equal to a fine quality sword! So sayeth King Edward!" Another roar of approval sprang up, and then the fighters dispersed to choose weapons.

Andrew, knowing his great strength, chose two smallish blunted maces. He was not as good with maces, but he knew that he would be less likely to make the mistake of killing with them. At last, he turned, prepared. He waited his turn and finally climbed back onto Horse.

Once more, he and Horse towered over those around them. They stood, in the middle of a riot of colors, both placid and as calm as deep mountain lake on a still day. The smaller horses, favored for their speed, fought their riders, the stallions smelling mares, and the mares irritated by the nearness of the stallions. But Horse stood still through it all, his only movements the occassional dip of his great head, and the attempt now and then to swish his neatly braided tail. Light glittered off of them again, Andrew's brilliance unrelieved by any colored overtunic.

At last, they were allowed to take the field. The brawl began almost before they got there, one man being knocked from his horse by another. He was allowed to remount and enter the fray, and the wooden "gate" was closed behind him.

Andrew found himself jostled between three men as they ganged up in an attempt to quickly get him out of the melee. He reached over and simply pulled one of them from his seat. Once on the ground, a swift, hard kick to the head dropped him from the fight.

Andrew turned to face the other two. One of the men's stallion made the error of snapping at Horse, his faceplate striking Horse's neckpiece with a resounding CLANG! that echoed above the sound of blunted swords striking each other. The stallion reared, his nose bleeding. While his master fought him, Andrew took the opportunity to slam one of the heavy maces into the chestplate of the other man, who had stopped to watch his partner fight with his horse.

But it wasn't to be so easy this time, the man managed to keep his seat, though he now also had a bucking and uncontrollable horse for a few moments. Long enough for Andrew to bring Horse's weight to bear against the bleeding stallion. The other horse fell over, taking his rider with him. In a foul and underhanded ploy, the man attempted to strike Horse hard enough to break a limb. While he did manage to land a heavy blow, Horse was hardly broken by the attempt. But, angered by it, he snapped around and clamped teeth onto the man's gauntlet. A scream rose as Horse managed what the man had not, and broke the man's hand. Andrew pulled Horse back into the fight with a quick tug on the reins. He ignored the man with the broken hand completely, focusing upon his last opponent.

The third man was more of a challenge. His blunted sword had finally come to bear against Andrew, the man having dealt with his unhappy horse. They sparred for a few minutes, until someone took advantage of the other man's distraction with Andrew and pulled him off his horse. The two fought there, and Andrew chose not to pursue the fight, and left them to it.

Looking around, Andrew realized that this was just the beginning...

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 11-10-05 01:21 EST (US)     34 / 108       
Nigel turned back towards the woman who persisted at his side, narrowing his blue green eyes, he gave her a once over look.

Isabell was instantly taken aback by his unyielding gaze.

“Lady Isabell, I must ask your pardon. I have a message that must be delivered.” No malice, just a mater of fact statement from Nigel.

“No pardon is necessary, it is a pleasure to make your aqaintance.” Isabell had lost the coyness she had so deftly used a few seconds before.

Nigel’s voice had carried a distinct urgency at being interrupted and the gaze he had given Isabell had assured her he was in a hurry.

She watched as he again turned away from her back to the man he had been talking to when she had walked up. Her mind quickly raced what could be so urgent that he could not give her the time of day or pass a few seconds in her presence?
Still standing near she just heard the the statement,
“King Edward will see you now,”
drift to her over the noise around her. This really peaked Isabell’s curiosity.

But just as suddenly she was distrated away from the discussion Nigel was having as she heard the name,

“Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!” being chanted from the crowd.

Nigel quickly faded from her field of vision as she moved to a vantage point where she could see what the crowd was chanting about.

Nigel seeing the lady distracted, nodded to the escorts that came to take him up to King Edward and Queen Phillipa.

The small entourage wound it way up to the Royal box. Edward who had by now been notified of Nigel’s arrival, watched warily, as the young Stewart approached the box.

“What news would he bring this time?”

The usual good-natured look he was used to seeing on Nigel had vanished, serious was the set of the face advancing towards the box.

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~

[This message has been edited by Lady Arcola (edited 11-10-2005 @ 01:28 AM).]

posted 11-10-05 13:06 EST (US)     35 / 108       
Monk just kept to himself watching through the small gap in the gate. Ready to burst in he
carried a large rounded staff.

Jafo watched in wild eyed excitement, noise filled the air, and dirt and dust flew in all
directions. Seeing monks staff he thought how he would not want to recieve the punishment
it could inflict. He somehow hoped to see monk use it,now that would be a sight.

Jafo swore at his situation as he watched Andrew, had he a penny more to wager he would.
"I would wager anything again the brute" one man said. His mind raced, anything he thought.
He produced his only possesion his Coustille,"what would you wager against this?" he asked,
showing off the blade. The man startled looked it over hurridly, "10 silver coin's sir".
Jafo's head spun, that was more than he had seen in a month. He readily excepted the wager.

As soon as the wager was settled the man soon began to frown. "Andrew, Andrew, Andrew" went
up in a steady roar from the crowd. Men were falling one by one, and sometimes two at a time!

Monk shifted position as Jafo waited, was this it? With staff raised monk was poised! It
was an impressive sight to see. Just then the gate was opened!

posted 11-10-05 16:25 EST (US)     36 / 108       
"Do you never talk? You look like a fool!" Jafo said accusingly to Flint, who was staring intently in another direction.

"It is better to stay quiet and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Flint replied coldly, not averting his gaze.

"Yes, but..." Jafo began, but Flint raised his had sharply between them and cut Jafo's reply off. "I'm sorry," Flint sighed, "I haven't had a great deal of sleep. My mind has been on...other things..." Flint added turning his attention to Diana, who squirmed as she felt Flint's hard gaze on the back of her neck. How can she be around here like this? Flint thought. She is likely to get herself killed the foolish, senseless... but Flint's thought were broken by a hard thwap from Walther, who seemed to have felt the punch worse that the receiver.

"What is it?"

Walther gestured with his head for Flint to look behind. Flint swung his head around to see Lady Isabel standing with a gentle smile on her face and her hands cupped close to her chest. "M'Lady." Flint said bluntly.

"Oho. Dear Frank wou.."


"..ld you care to take a small walk with me. I feel I can trust you a great deal." Isabel simpered. It was apparant that she was forcing this sweetness.

"Sorry, I tied up with this tournament, can't you.."

"I said, would you care to take a small walk with me?" Isabel repeated.

Flint sighed deeply. "Of course I would," Flint snarled. Isabel cleared her throught gently. If looks could kill Flint thought. "...M'Lady." He added roughly.

"Good! Let us be off!"

They headed out into the sunlit cobbled streets and stopped nearby a tall signpost, out of earshot of the others. "I want to know what you know about Sir Andrew." she ordered.

"I'm afraid I know not of him. We only met on the way to London, and crowds generally follow him, to which is not my taste."

"And his companions?"

Flint hesitated. "I..I have not spoken with his companions for the forementioned reasons."

"Oh. That is a shame. I mean er that is satisfactory. Let us return. Oh wait one more thing. See that barn over there? It needs cleaning, good day to you." With that she flounced off back to the tournament leaving Flint looking daggers at her back.

My deviant art..Add me losers..

[This message has been edited by Ibeliamoyes (edited 07-20-2006 @ 07:05 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-10-05 20:17 EST (US)     37 / 108       
Before entering the box Nigel Stewart paused, his eyes seeking the gesture from the King indicating it was permitted for him to approach. Seeing Nigel standing at the entrance, Edward leaned to his left and asked the nobleman sitting at his left to rise and vacate the chair. The King's wish was obeyed instantly. Edward then motioned for Nigel to enter.

Stewart walked towards the King and at the appropriate short distance, extended his right foot, planted it and bowed to the King of England. Edward nodded and motioned to Nigel to be seated in the now vacant chair at his left. Eyes on the tournament, but ears attuned to Stewart, the King greeted the well-manored Scotsman. "You are well Sir Nigel?"

"Well indeed, Your Majesty, and appreciative of your giving me this moment to speak with you."

Edward smiled. "Advantage yourself of it then and speak to me what is on your mind."

"Majesty, I..."

A tremendous roar went up from the crowd as Sir Andrew unseated yet another combatant, a roar so loud neither Edward nor Nigel could have heard each other think, least of all speak. This interruption gave Edward reason to comment on the goings on of the tournament. "A remarkable combatant, that. Sir Andrew um, um... What be that knight's name, please?"

"Sir Andrew Bruce, Your Majesty," a voice in the back of the box confirmed.

"Bruce... Hm. Anyway, continue please, Sir Nigel."

Nigel Stewart primed himself to speak to Edward III, King of England, of the matter that brought him to London.

posted 11-10-05 22:06 EST (US)     38 / 108       
His mace caught the other man hard on the abdomen, the clang of metal against metal was followed by the squeal of the other man's horse as its bit was pulled roughly by its desperately clinging rider. The man backed away from Andrew, gasping for breath. Foam flew from his overworked horse's mouth, splattering on Horse's neck guard and arcing through the air to join the sweat, dirt, and blood already there.

Another man, seeing the chance, crowded his horse in towards Andrew. Andrew heard him coming up on his left, moving quickly. Without even looking, Andrew backhanded the other rider, throwing him immediately from his horse. The spectators, most of whom were now watching Andrew, roared with delight.

The other man, having regained his breath, came in again, trying to crowd Andrew, hoping to create a difficulty for him by shorting the reach between the two men to one more suited to his shorter arms. He realized his mistake too late as Andrew grasped him by his breastplate and yanked him from his horse... never losing his grip on his mace.

Andrew felt the familiar excitement flow through him. With it came the first twinge of guilt. He tamped down the guilt, and engaged the excitement. His blood roared through his veins, his muscles seemed invincible. Everything came to him with crystal clarity. An opponent swung at him, moving in slow motion, so slow, too slow.

Andrew easily parried the incoming sword, ignoring the mass of men around him who pressed against those few still on horseback. He was too deeply into the battle excitement to realize that a shift had occured. He parried and swung with only the keen edge of his physical thrill to temper him.

He also failed to recognize the point at which he unseated the last opponent. He and Horse stood tall and overwhelming upon the field. And around them, men pressed closer, and closer... they had found a common enemy.

The crowd was silent now. Not the quiet of a murmuring crowd, but the silence of an entirely enthralled audience. They stared, even the children, mesmerized by the incredible fury of the single man upon his massive horse.

But Andrew was beyond caring. This was his element, his destiny. And Horse, too, fought the encroaching soldiers. Since Horse's birth, it had been the destiny of his broad, powerful back to carry this man, to fight with him. Horse was born for moments like these. Men stepped back, trying to get past the horse, and at the man. But they risked snapping teeth, and hooves clad in steel and weilded by a monstrous, infuriated creature that outweighed them several times over. A monster clad in steel and ridden by a man they had come to wonder if he weren't something from the darkest depths of men's terrors.

Andrew's maces whirled and spun, and men fell back. At last, as if some unspoken message passed between them, the men all rushed at Horse and Andrew. It should have been over then. But it wasn't. Andrew gave a quick turn on Horse's reins, and the great animal began to turn. The men packed around him began to fall like children's toys stacked against each other. Those unfortunate enough to have crowded too close screamed as Horse's weight came down upon them as he turned.

Bookies began to take bets on how long he could maintain his seat. A fight broke out in the crowd between two over-eager betters.

Andrew finally, in a simple move of expedience, got down off of Horse. The fact that he got down by himself sent the crowd into a frenzy of joy. Screams and cheers echoed for several moments following his dismount. Maces swinging, Andrew waded into the crowd of men. His first swing struck the nearest man on the helm, knocking him down and out of the melee.

Andrew took a blow to his back, to the booing of the crowd. It didn't bother him in the least, he whipped around and slammed one of the maces straight forward into the cheating man's gut.

But his momentum was lost, and the combatants were gathering. Andrew felt someone against his back, and turned to find Henry there. "I figure if I fight with you, instead of against you, I've a chance at least to make the final fights," Henry said.

"Could be," Andrew responded, and went back to swinging the maces.

They were down to 17 now. And Andrew and now Henry were the focus of all 15 of the others. Henry hefted his sword, and Andrew dipped his maces. They were content to wait. The others would come. It was inevitable.

* * * *

Diana waited amongst the other kippers for the makeshift gate to open. At last, when the field had narrowed to 20, the gate swung open. She'd kept careful track of whom Andrew had felled, and scrambled about, dragging bits of armor from the men Andrew had dropped. A great deal of them were his "kills," because they'd all chosen to attack together.

Each time she carted another piece of armor over to his pile, a roar rose from the crowd. Piece after piece began to pile up. Jafo hovered near the stack, his eagle eyes keeping hands off from the other side of the fencing.

A disturbance nearby distracted him from his duties, however. He looked over to find, much to his delight, that one of the men had decided not to relinquish his tribute piece. Clearly, Monk had taken offense. The walking staff had suddenly become a weapon. Jafo delightedly watched the interchange.

Diana was quite angry at the man in front of her. He was beaten, rightfully. But the man didn't want to give up his tribute. Diana determined that, if he wouldn't give it, she would take it. She raised her staff, and with a swift twitch, slammed it down, not against the blunted sword the man was swinging at her, but upon his hand.

As the man jerked back, instinctively protecting his tender fingers, Diana struck him with all her strength on the head. He staggered, and she hit him again. Laughter exploded nearby in the crowd, who had distracted from the main battle by the sight of a Monk beating a knight about the head and shoulders with a staff. And all this in total silence.

When the man finally put his hands up in surrender, the entire crowd cheered for the little monk and his staff. Diana, unlike Andrew, was well aware of the attention. She quickly grabbed one of the man's bracer, just as Andrew had instructed, and ran them to the pile. Andrew had told her to take a bracer, the cheapest and easiest piece to get replaced.

At last, all pieces were gathered from those already fallen. Diana stopped to watch the battle unfold... the field was down now to 12 opponents. Andrew and Henry needed only two more felled to be in the final running...

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 11-10-2005 @ 10:11 PM).]

Lady Arcola
SHH Seraph
posted 11-11-05 02:11 EST (US)     39 / 108       
The last two knights needed came at Andrew and Henry in a frantic rush.

Andrew primed for the attack of the bigger knight and Henry quickly dispatched the knight charging him. He felt Henry back away from him to allow Andrew to take the last knight needed out on his own.

The knight rushed Andrew with his sword intending to sever Andrews head from his body. Sidestepping, Andrew easily brought his mace into the exposed midsection of the charging knight. The yell of pain that carried out of his opponent in a ragged gasp brought the crowd to a quiet hush awaiting in anticipation the final blow of Andrews mace….


Nigel’s window of opportunity opened in that hush, quickly he pulled the royal document he had been carrying and handed it to Edward.

Distracted from the melee below Edward took the offered document and placed it in his lap.

“As soon as the herald blows his horn, Nigel, I will address this matter. That last knight will bring the two below into the finals and when he falls a horn will blow to announce it. A pause will come as the field is prepared for the finals.”

That statement did nothing to lessen Nigel’s somber look, knowing full well that the contents would most likely put Edward into a temper of his own.

Sir Andrew Murray the Guardian of young King David and his queen Joanna, had solemnly called Nigel on this journey and had given him the document from Edwards littlest sister Joanna.

Young Joan was in temper beyond consoling after overhearing a conversation Murray, Nigel and Lady Christian had been quietly having weeks before. She demanded that the document be brought to her big brother.

Nigel smiled for the first time since he had carried into England the somber document, remembering the document had one small brave message written in Joan’s youthful pen.

Nemo me impune lacessit!

The latin translated stated “No-one provokes me with impunity" Then with that bold statement a heartbreaking plea was written with it,
“ Edward if you love me at all you will stop this!
If I must be so far away do I also have to suffer your aggression against my husband and country that you sent me to?
Your sister,
Joanna Queen of Scotland”

Their network of contacts had brought news of Sir Roderick Blinn the Duke of York. The Protectors of the crown of Scotland were now fully aware that their neighbor to the north was preparing weapons for war. To Joan’s young mind that was a condition she could not tolerate! Why would her brother let war start between them?

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~
posted 11-11-05 12:37 EST (US)     40 / 108       
As squire Jafo tried hard to maintain his excitement, gaurding his masters trophies. But betting
was fierce, and Jafo could hear the coins already! 10 silver coins what a prize. He would have
trouble making as goodly a sum later at the joust he thought. But Tom had already wagered 5 coins
so all was not lost.

Monk was making quick and effective work of most men who had lost to Andrew in the melee. He
was collecting prize upon prize. Funny monk thought how such tough men yeilded to him. Had they known
the truth of his identity they may have put up a better fight. Monk grinned at the thought.

Two to go, Jafo was on his toes straining to see over the fence now that Andrew was afoot. Horse
must have felt as left out as Jafo now. But he stood tall and proud watching as it seemed, with as
much joy and excitement as Jafo.

As it was nearing the end all seemed to have but one purpose, to take Andrew. It did not appear that
they would have much luck in it, but they surely were to try.

Jafo began to let his mind wander and thought more about the tournament. Andrew wore the color's
of the Marchioness Diana Nobel and he knew full well Isabel must get redemtion for Andrews insolence.
Had she found a Knight to ride for her? What test, and deception's had she planned for Andrew.

Listening to the crowd a name came to his ears "Sir Henry Porter may ride this day for Lady Isabel Harker",
the man had whispered. He continued on louder "Get your bets with me, I have the best book in London"
It would seem M'lady Isabel could have indeed found a champion. Jafo did not know if he was an honorable
fighter or a cheater? But he may have found a book to take his bet, this one seems to take the other side.
Much promise if Andrew was to finish well here.

Jafo delighted at Monks fine deeds and Andrew was a crowd pleaser, what was to come next was sure
to suprise all of London. At least that was what he thought to himself as he smiled at monk.

posted 11-15-05 09:06 EST (US)     41 / 108       
The sun, barely below its zenith, smiled down upon the proceedings as a break was called. At the next tolling of the time bell, the jousting would begin. The Herald began the laborious process of deciding, according to colors and rank of said colors, which knights would first joust. Having no colors, despite carrying a token, Andrew would be last. This would give him time to rest and recover somewhat from the general melee.

During the interlude, barkers hawked their wares, the scents of pastries, cooked meat, and ale rose above the smells of sweat, blood, and dust. Andrew washed the taste of dust from his mouth with the weak wine that monk thrust into his hand. The sun warmed him in his heavy armor, but he barely noticed, more distracted by the trickle of sweat that worked its way down his back into a small scrape there, burning with salty intensity.

He listened to the sounds around him, they seemed distant to him as he remained in the haze of battle lust and weariness. He had prevailed, but it had cost him. He was tired, bone weary. He trembled with the beginnings of exhaustion, and knew that the next few hours couldn't revitalize him enough. And the rush that he always got during battles was gone, that energy from an unknown source that welled up inside him had ebbed at last. And now the last flickers died down to embers, then stilled.

He watched as the boys set up the jousting picket. He realized he needed to check Horse for injuries. Looking over, he saw monk already in the process, and smiled. He really needed to go get a squire, but he found himself reluctant. Monk was the most efficient squire he'd ever had... always there with what Andrew needed before even Andrew thought of it. Always up before dawn tending to what needed to be done. Andrew sighed. He was using the man, and not even paying him. He determined that after the joust, that would change. Monk would get paid for his help.

A trumpet announced the return of the King to his pavillion. The first two jousting contestants were brought upon the field. The knight in red felled the knight in blue on the first round. The crowd booed. Andrew wasn't sure why, and a look at Jafo revealed that he was a bit puzzled as well.

Two more uneventful eliminations. Then Sir Henry Porter, Isabel's father's rider (though Isabel made sure people associated him with her), was up against the red knight again. Henry was obviously the favorite in this one, the nobility roaring nearly as happily as the peasants had when Andrew was in the final 10, as he took the field.

Henry unseated the man on the third pass, jumping down to face off with him with the blunted swords. The red knight swirled his sword in an attempt to cause fear or hesitation. Henry waited for the other to finish his antics and come after him. Which the man did, predictably.

Henry stepped aside and swing low, slapping the red knight hard on the thigh with the flat of his blade. The red knight was favoring that leg now, limping somewhat as he turned, visibly enraged, to face his opponent.

His next flurry was wild, meant to intimidate. That was his style. Unfortunately for him, Henry was a veteran of many battles, and knew the technique for what it was. The man was covering up his weakness in close combat. Henry immediately closed on him and dispatched him with a sword pommel to the head.

The eliminations continued, until Andrew was up. He slowly moved towards the line, Horse walking his steadfast, unconcerned slow walk. Once more, they stood patiently, calmly, while the other man took his place. This knight wore white with a green chevron in the center. He bowed politely towards Andrew, then to the King, as Andrew did the same. He made no attempt to goad or to intimidate.

When the two rushed towards each other, the white knight's horse shied at the last moment, intimidated by the oncoming charger. Horse dwarfed the other animal, and it was frightened. Clearly it was newly trained and having difficulties. Unfortunately, its shying knocked its rider from the saddle. Andrew turned towards the King's pavillion.

"I beg you, majesty, let the man remount, and begin again!" Andrew shouted. The hum from the peasants became a roar of approval, and King Edward bowed his head in agreement of the unusual request. Andrew could have called for forfeiture, and it would have been granted, since the other rider had shied from engaging- albeit not willfully.

They began again, and both Andrew and the white knight struck a solid blow. Andrew, however, remained seated, Horse grunting and snorting. The white knight was thrown from his horse. Both blunted lances snapped.

The sword fight was over quickly, the white knight already somewhat injured in the fall, didn't last long against Andrew's superior strength and speed. He took his loss with uncommon good nature, however. As he shook Andrew's hand, his grip was strong and capable. "You're a fine fighter, Sir Bruce," he said to Andrew as he left the feild.

The eliminations continued, until at last, Andrew faced his final opponent. The last fight of the day. Horse and Andrew stood once more, facing the field. The parting rays of the sun turned him and Horse to gold. They both glittered with an unearthly pale light, as if they wore the precious metal instead of steel. A ray of the setting sun cut through the space between the pavillions, highlighting the pair as they sat so still and silent.

A quiet fell across the spectators. The other knight stood nearly as quiet and still as Andrew. A coolness lingered on the air, and the scents of dust and food and fighting had given way to that strange smell of evening. The intangible something that hung on the air made goosebumps rise on people's skin as hair stood up. There was a breathless waiting, a still anticipation that hung like a haze in the clear air.

The last fight of the day. Two champions stood facing each other. Even the spectators were tired, many of the peasants sitting now on the hard-packed dirt. The barkers had closed up their wagons, children were exhausted and subdued. Everyone waited for the final fight to begin.

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 11-15-2005 @ 11:15 AM).]

posted 11-15-05 16:50 EST (US)     42 / 108       
Andrew was anxious. He couldn't help the constant awareness he had of the Lady Nobel's token. Feeling how weary and overworked he was, he berated himself for accepting it. How could he have been so foolish? Another part of him argued. How could he have known they would all gang up on him? He sighed.

That wasn't the worst of his problems, though. He felt the overwhelming pressure to win, but he faced someone he counted almost as a friend- certainly a man with such potential. He looked across the field- the picket had never looked so long!- and saw Sir Henry Porter sitting his smaller horse, also waiting for the call to rush his opponent.

The last fight, the final big battle, would be against a man who had stood with him on the field. A man whom, despite the short aquiantance, Andrew had a respect for. Now they would try to hammer each other witless.

Henry's squire handed him a blunted lance. Andrew looked down as Monk arrived at his foot, blunted lance in hand. Andrew accepted it solemnly, turning towards the King to bow. Then, he faced Henry, and it was just the two of them, man against man, arm against arm.

A shout, and they were off. The two horses seemed to move both too quickly, and far too slow. They came together in a clash, with a scream of metal and wood. They took place again, silence fell. Armor and hoofbeats thundered.

Crash! The two struck one another again, but this time, neither stayed horsed, both landing with grunts and shock on the hard ground. Both weary, they were slow getting up. The crowd didn't care. Whipped into a frenzy, tiredness forgotten, they screamed, jumped, and pounded each other on the back. Betting intensified.

Andrew and Henry faced each other again. This time, however, it was simply the requirement that they should fight with their blunted swords until one or the other fell. Andrew waited for Henry, and Henry knew it. He fell back, deliberately indicating that he wouldn't take Andrew's bait. Andrew started with a forward swing, a simple move to parry. He used the backswing to land a stinging blow to Henry's shoulder. And the battle was on.

Henry twice found openings in Andrew's defenses. Andrew found more than that in Henry's, but his blows were weak from exhaustion. Andrew was nearing his physical limits, and he knew it.

So did Henry. Henry realized that even with Andrew exhausted, there was no way he could win, except to continue to wear the other man down. And so he set out to do just that. As much as he respected Andrew, he couldn't fail. So he let Andrew press the offensive, and parried when he could.

It was to Henry's great misfortune, however, that Andrew was still far better conditioned than he was. When Andrew's mind quit leading his muscles, their innate memory took over. Often Andrew moved before he even realized it. And though Andrew was tired, Henry was also beginning to feel the creeping edge of exhaustion.

Time passed, spectators grew bored. Andrew and Henry often stood for moments at a time, facing each other, their practice sword tips in the dirt. They stood panting, each waiting for the other to swing.

Finally, King Edward would take it no longer. During one of these moments that Andrew and Henry took a breather, he stood, and shouted, in a voice that carried across the entire field, "Stop! Come before me."

The Herald spluttered, "Your Majest, this is most irregular, you cannot interrupt a joust!" Edward's cold look stopped him.

"I am the King, and this is my tournament. I will do as I wish," Edward said coldly. The Herald bowed and backed off.

"I'm sorry, My King, I simply... you're so young... you don't understand..." his voice trailed away under the heat of rage in Edward's gaze. "Yes Majesty, I..."

"Do shut up," Edward interrupted him, a behavior unusual in the generally mild-mannered young man.

King Edward then turned back to the field. "It would seem to me that the two of you are evenly matched. My courtiers are hungry, and I'm afraid I am, as well. So I have decided that you have both won this tournament this day." A collective gasp went up from the crowd. Immediately, Edward held up a hand to stop the expected questions and complaints.

"Sir Bruce," Edward said, and Andrew bowed. "Since you are the uncontested winner of the general melee, I have decided that it is you who shall determine which of you are the winner this day with regards to the betting. I would be remiss if I did not address it.

"I have here a coin. Chance shall be what determines which of you can be collected upon. When I throw it, it is your job to guess upon which side it will land."

With a toss, the coin spun, arcing through the night air, reflecting torchlight as it went. It was the first time Andrew realized how late the day had become. "Heads," shouted Andrew.

Edward looked down at the coin, and showed it to the man beside him. "And Heads it is!" he shouted. The nobility stood quiet, but the peasants shouted and waved, crowding the bookies to collect on their bets.

"However, because you take the bets, we shall first let Sir Porter decide what item he shall take for trophy from you, Sir Bruce. Then you shall take from him- and you may not reclaim his prize!" General laughter followed the last comment, and Andrew and Henry turned to each other, to determine the spoils of their battle. "When you are done, I shall announce the prize!"

Henry looked at Andrew. There was no piece of his armor that Henry could wear, all it was quite too large. "I know not what to take from you, Andrew," he said.

"Well," Andrew replied, thinking quickly, "I've had this sheild a very long time, and if I should somehow accidentally lose it, well... I believe I could then ask Harold for a new one."

Henry shook his head. He had wanted that shield from the start. It was light, yet very strong, and it had a simple emblem in the center. It was larger than his shield, yet also stronger- he'd seen the proof several times. "The sheild it is," he said. He accepted it from Andrew, and then held it aloft, to the delight of the nobility.

"And what of you," Andrew said, "what shall I remove from you?"

"Well," Henry said, a sudden idea coming to him, "I've these most excellent spurs, very fashionable."

"I do not spur Horse," Andrew said, frowning.

"Nor I," Henry said quickly, "I would never abuse an animal so! But you see, I cannot possibly lose these spurs, for they are a gift from the Lady Isabel." By this point, he was positively grinning.

Andrew laughed, and said, "Give them up, then, Sir Porter, and let's have done with this mess!"

Henry happily handed over his "prize" spurs. Andrew held them aloft, allowing the crowd to praise his new aquisition. Andrew and Henry gripped arms in mutual salute, then turned their attention back to the King.

"I have determined that you shall each get a sword, or whatever armor you need or desire, made for you, at the court's cost, by the castle Smith," King Edward proclaimed.

Andrew stepped forward. He was immediately overcome with nervousness, but determined to keep his promise. "Your Majesty, if I may make so bold?" He said, his voice cracking on "Your Majesty," a testament to his nervous state.

Edward's keen gaze fell upon him, measured him, looked him over. "What is it?"

"I would request, if I may, that my new sheild be made by the man who made my armor, a certain smith by the name of Harold Hugo," Andrew said. He trembled at his own boldness.

"Harold Hugo? I will allow it. And, considering how well that armor has withstood this day, perhaps I will call upon this Mr. Hugo," Edward said, and waved his hand in dismissal.

As the King left, Andrew sank down upon a nearby log, used previously by the squires. He pulled his helm completely off, and simply sat in silent exhaustion. Dully, he accepted the food and drink pressed into his hands, and ate. Beside him, Sir Henry did the same.

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 11-15-2005 @ 04:51 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-15-05 21:00 EST (US)     43 / 108       
King Edward's mind was a whirl of thought traveling varied paths as he walked back to his chambers. First in mind was the exciting conclusion of the tournament. Two great knights were just now saved serious injury. It made no sense to see them batter each other into uselessness for a piece of armor. They would be welcome additions to his service in their present state of good health and both with freshly constructed armor for the battles to come.

Another thought was the parchment in his hand signed by his dear sister. No, he wished her no harm. Then again, as King of England he could not let his love for his sister obstruct the duty he had to protect his own country and to retain his crown. His sister was given in marriage to young King David to prevent a clash of arms; but information from spies in Scotland informed him that the Scots place little value in Joanna's marriage to David and thus are choosing to ignore the familial alliance thus formed. If anything, such indiscretion discourteously aimed at his sister is deserving of punishment. As her brother, that would be his responsibility since her husband seemed incapable of dealing with his Scottish subjects.

"Ah me, the duties of kingship," Edward sighed. There was no help for it. He must protect the English crown and see that his family is given the respect it deserves. Joanna will come to understand the necessity when she matures. He shall have to explain it to her, most likely, when he is standing in the center of Edinborough Castle with his Scottish subjects nearby bowing to him. Then he will take time to settle Joanna's impulsive thinking and decide what to do with her errant husband, David, no longer King of Scotland.

That brought his thoughts to Parliament and the need to protect it, himself and his family in these trying times. York it will be, he concluded as he climbed the stone steps to his chambers. Two guards stiffened at the sight of his approach and made the necessary movement to give the impression of strict attention instead of casual stance. The sound of two pikes striking the wooden plank floor echoed up and down the hallway. Edward paused before the more junior of the two guards. "Guard, call my Secretary. Tell him to be ready for dictation."

"Yes, your Majesty," replied the guard. He promptly began a brisk walk to the Secretary's chamber on the lower floor. The Secretary shortly afterwards reported to Edward in the King's chambers.

Edward sat in a high back chair replete with English symbols of nation and governance. "Scribe this, please," he began. Then Edward dictated his message.

Greetings from His Royal Majesty, Edward III, King of England to his loyal advisors in Parliament.

Brought to my attention is a risk ye face by your continued presence in London. Sir Roderick Blinn has advised me of plots against yourselves as may this moment be planned in the Kingdom of Scotland. In his well considered opinion he advises temporary departure for the King and Queen and Parliament from London. He invites us to accept his protection in the great city of York.

In light of developments in the Kingdom of Scotland, I accept the foresight and wisdom of Sir Roderick's advice and hereby announce that the Queen and I shall be traveling to York in the very near future. It is your King's desire that Parliament as well shall travel from London to York with all possible speed. Sir Roderick has already begun arrangements for our arrival.

Therefore, I request that Parliament convene within two days on this matter and begin its preparations for travel to York.

Edward affixed his signature to the parchment at the same moment when elsewhere in London three men on horses, swords drawn and murder on their minds, bore down on Edward Baliol, also mounted and sword drawn and desperately trying to escape his three pursuers.

Four sets of horse hooves echoed off the now dark, narrow streets of London, moist from night mist. Unfortunately Baliol's horse was slower than the others' and they caught up to him before long. Baliol halted his mount and turned, sword ready to face his attackers.

Deft and strong, Baliol managed to knock the first from his horse with a well directed blow from his blade. As its edge cut into the man's belly, Baliol knew that one at least was dispatched. The other two pressed him hard, but one of them sought too eagerly to gain advantage and a sweep of Baliol's sword brought gushing blood from the man's severed jugular vein.

The third man thought better of pressing the attack alone. In a deep voice and obvious Scottish brogue the man shocked Baliol with this parting comment before he put spur to horse and fled the scene of the assault: "A greeting, Baliol, and a warning from our master, Sir Roderick Blinn. Do not adventure to the North or your life shall be forfeit."

His mind stunned into confusion, Edward Baliol sat upon his horse staring silently in the direction the horseman had fled. This was something the King should know about... Or perhaps it was not. Baliol considered his options.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-15-2005 @ 09:13 PM).]

posted 11-18-05 12:41 EST (US)     44 / 108       
Watching with monk, it was all Jafo could do to restrain himself from laughter at the bartering
session between Andrew and Henry. Andrew had collected many fine pieces, and Jafo wished they
had brought packy along today. Finding a carter would be easy enough so Jafo wandered off toward
town to fetch one. Monk remained vigilant at the large pile of winnings.

Upon his return with the cart Jafo and Monk loaded up all the prizes and wondered where they
would put it all when they returned to the stables. Tom lent a hand and walked back with them.

What a fine day it had been, Jafo thought. 10 coins from the melee and the 5 he stood to
collect from Tom. As they unloaded the cart Jafo noticed Tom muttering to himself,it was strangely
amuzing. "A coin toss and I'm out 5 silver, It's not right" Tom said as Jafo neared. Being
a good sport, Jafo announced to him, "A fine dinner and much drinking tonight Tom, and it's
on Me". Tom smiled now knowing all was not lost, and the two set off to see just how far the
winnings would go.

posted 11-28-05 18:20 EST (US)     45 / 108       
Andrew's exhaustion was so deep that he simply allowed himself to be led on Horse through the streets towards the Inn. Beside him, Henry Porter sat on his horse, just as lost to their surroundings. Reins in each hand, Monk walked between them. Thus it was Monk who first saw the Lord standing silently in the street, starting down an alleyway with a surprised look.

It was a moment after the horses stopped that Andrew raised his head. A moment more before he realized that they weren't alone. But the moment was short before he recognized that the man was indeed a Lord.

"My Lord, our apologies, we did not see you. We will, of course, give way immediately," Andrew said, as much to clue Monk in that they should move out of the street to let the Lord pass, as to acknowledge the Lord himself.

"Wait," said the Lord, "you're Sir Bruce, aren't you?" At Andrew's nod, the Lord continued, "I am Duke Baloil. You made a fine showing at the tourney. Lost myself a handsome lot of money to you, I must say. Enough money that I think an escort to the castle would be in order."

"My Lord Baliol, I'm afraid I'm in no shape to be of any protection for you. I fear even a wee girl could probably sweep me from my saddle should she decide to pounce," Andrew said.

Lord Baliol laughed. "I'm certain that should such an incident occur, you could find some use of the lass besides falling from your horse!"

Andrew chuckled, "I'm afraid I'd even be too weary for that. Until the morning, of course." Little did either know, their coarse male talk was causing a tremendous blush on the hidden face of the Lady Diana. To stop the conversation, she moved forward, leading both horses still.

"I will be happy to accompany you..." Andrew's voice trailed off. "What's that? Monk, get me that dagger, quickly." When Monk handed it up to him, Andrew looked it over for a moment before pulling the other from his boot, where he had forgotten it long ago.

Lord Baliol watched Andrew, noticed the likeness of the workmanship of the two weapons. He frowned. His frown only deepened when Andrew asked monk, "Which way did Jafo take back to the inn?"

Monk pointed and held up three fingers. "Three blocks over from here? Well, there goes that theory, then. Coincidence, I suppose."

"Whatever are you talking about?" Baliol asked. He knew perfectly well that one of the men who had attacked him had dropped the dagger taken from the ground.

"Strange things are afoot, Lord Baliol. A few days ago, our company was increased by one jester. I followed him one night, to ensure his safety on his way home through a rather unpleasant neighborhood. Along the way, as one might predict, he was attacked. When the attacker was overcome and fled, he left behind this dagger. The workmanship is unmistakeable. And I had feared, seeing another dagger so like it, that perhaps the first incident was not so much coincidence. However, he went another route, thus my suspicions are unfounded."

Edward Baliol pondered the implications of these revelations as they all turned towards the castle. Soon after that, they reached the bailey, and Lord Baliol went his own way. Monk carefully saw Andrew and Henry to their chambers. Shortly thereafter, monk left the Inn.

* * * *

As Diana crept carefully down an alley, she kept to the deepest of shadows, a darker shadow amidst pitch blackness. Little did she know that she was followed. Flint watched the little shadow darting in and out of alleyways, and was surprised at the speed with which she could travel. He kept up quite easily, however.

Before long, they left the crowded streets of London. Over a wall, Flint amazed that Diana had the strength to climb it, her small hands gripping small indentions in the stone. He was hard pressed to follow her.

But he managed, cresting the top of the wall just in time to see her step into a flash of light, and vanish. She had gone home to the world of the elves, he knew. He wondered if she would ever return. He was almost afraid she would. He was almost afraid she wouldn't. He sighed and shrugged. What business of his was it if she returned or not? Regardless, he found himself hunkering down to wait.

It was nearly dawn when the strange flash of light flickered again, and the Lady Diana stepped out of it. He followed her again, until she reached the castle. He watched her disappear into the stables, and emerge once more a Lady of the court. He followed her inside, through hallways she walked with obvious knowledge and confidence.

At last, she paused at a tapestry, looked carefully around, and vanished behind it. Flint's eyebrow rose. A hidden corridor in the palace? He wasn't surprised, just surprised that it was so easily accessed. He slowly crept forward, and slipped in behind the tapestry himself.

"Stop following me!" he faced a quite irritated elf.

"What are you doing?" he asked, his voice accusing.

"If you must know, I am going to see the Queen, and warn her about Isabel," Diana said.

Flint grinned, "You're jealous of her, I think."

Diana scowled. "Not everything is about men, you know," Diana huffed. Flint only grinned bigger.

Diana's scowl deepened. "Listen. Isabel's amibitions are currently held to becoming the wife of a duke. If she were realize that she cannot achieve that, I believe she would next turn her eyes upon becoming Queen. And all it would take would be for her to become friends with the Queen and simply poison her. It is the way Isabel works."

Flint's smile had vanished. He sagged back against the wall. Diana's next words shocked him to his core, "God forbid that she find an accomplice. And I wonder if there is not already potential for it."

He stared at her now, shock written upon his face. Diana turned down into the hidden corridor, shutting the door in his face. He realized then that he didn't know how to open the door, and he hadn't even realized there was one until that moment.

But he had enough to think about, anyhow. He went out to the stables to rest. To rest... and to think.

Civis Romanus
posted 12-06-05 16:18 EST (US)     46 / 108       
Blinn had returned once again from his inspection of the preparations. His secretary, Whrittaker, greeted him.

"Any word from the King, Whrittaker?" Blinn impatiently blurted immediately upon seeing his secretary.

"No, Milord. No word yet from the King. Shall we continue preparations?"

"Yes. I expect he will agree to my suggestion."

"Why are you so confident, Milord, if I may ask?"

Blinn stopped and stared at the man who had served his father and himself for many years, earning a place as a trusted advisor to them both. "Because events will dictate no other option," replied Blinn.

Whrittaker blinked and he himself stared at Blinn as the Duke of York briskly walked towards his chambers and closed the oaken door after he entered.


The King permitted Baliol the personal meeting he requested. Baliol, in Edward's eyes, looked somewhat distracted when he entered, as if paying close attention mentally to something there and something yonder. Baliol had the presence of mind to bow. Edward responded by motioning Baliol to a chair near his, with a smile that implied a waiver of further formality. Baliol sat heavily on the strongly made wood and cloth chair.

"You requested this audience, Baliol. What business do you wish to conduct?" Edward asked gently, noting that Baliol seemed more distressed now than even when he entered.

"I... I don't know where to begin, your Majesty."

"At the beginning perhaps?" offered Edward with a touch of wry humor.

The right corner of Baliol's mouth twitched into the hint of a half-smile at the King's small joke. Then it fell back into its original position. "I suppose so. That would be best." Baliol described his journey through London's streets and the attack, then his meeting with Sir Andrew Bruce and his entourage. "Your Majesty, I find it very hard to believe that Duke Blinn is capable of such a thing."

Edward shifted in his own chair uneasily as Baliol's words brought discomfort as well as anger speedily riding upon them. "As do I," was all that Edward said in response before lapsing into silent thought.

Baliol knew better than to speak uninvited when the King was deep in thought. He sat patiently, his head bowed, waiting to hear Edwards' voice addressing him.

"Baliol, you say your living attacker had a Scottish accent?"

"Yes, your Majesty."

"Have you known Blinn to associate with Scots in the past?"

"No, Your Majesty. I found him to be usually at odds with the Scottish Crown, your sister's marriage notwithstanding."

"My recollections as well," added Edward. An expression much like the impact of a fresh idea crossed Edward's face. "He claims to be making preparations for a war to the north. He is our source of weapons. Our current army is equipped with weapons, though the foot soldiers are not as well equipped as they will be with arms from York." Edward looked at Baliol to see if his Military Advisor caught the royal train of thought. Apparently not. "We can bring our army to York for arming as Blinn requests. It will outnumber York's men-at-arms I am sure." Again the King paused. "Parliament will accompany us."

Baliol shifted in his chair and then stiffened as he finally achieved an understanding of the King's plan. "We enter York armed for battle and confront Blinn within his walls. If guilty, Parliament is there to enforce your accusation of treason. If innocent, we receive our weapons as offered and our plan against the North proceeds. With our army facing York, he has no choice but to reveal his hand.

Edward nodded. "Subtlety, though Baliol, is critical. Blinn must not think we suspect him of plotting. Should he be guilty, we cannot predict exactly what he might do. If innocent, he will be insulted and this will do nothing for our unity in the face of the Scotts.

"Yes, Your Majesty. I see that clearly."

"Good. Then we have two tasks to perform and I delegate them to you."


"Ensure Parliament and our army both are prepared to depart for York by Monday next. And assemble a cadre of reliable, skilled warriors who shall have no other responsibility than to see to yours and my family's protection." He saw the protest forming on Baliol's face. "No, no protest against this, Baliol. You are too valuable to this plan to be permitted to travel without escort this moment and hence. That knight, umm, Bruce is it? Yes, Sir Andrew Bruce. He seems an able chap and has already been of service to you. He may be one you should contact for this duty. I leave it to you. You have the orders of your King." Edward ended this on an official note just to make it clear it was the King's will that Baliol should do what the King asked.

Baliol nodded. "Yes, Your Majesty. As you command." He rose from his chair and bowed. Then Baliol left the King's chambers and stone structure that housed the royal family of England.

posted 12-07-05 09:36 EST (US)     47 / 108       
Lady Diana Nobel sat in the Queen's private chamber, facing the young, pregnant queen. "Phillipa, please, appeal to Edward to send Isabel away, you will not be safe with her here!" Diana was frustrated by the Queen's desire to be surrounded by ladies of the high court- only because Isabel was one of those ladies.

"You place too much importance upon one woman's petty ambitions, Diana," Phillipa repeated.

Diana sighed. It was clear that Queen Phillipa would not accept her counsel in this matter. She would have to find another way to get Isabel out of the city. She quickly changed the subject, and after some time of pleasant conversation, she left by the same secret passage she had entered by. She had hoped her budding friendship with the young Queen would be enough to get her message across, but unfortunately, it had not. Phillipa remained ignorant of the very real danger that Isabel could be, should her eyes fall to aquisition of the ultimate position of authority to which a woman could aspire in the nation.

Soon, Diana was once more in the stables. But she was not alone. As soon as she saw Flint waiting for her, she realized she had her answer to how to get Isabel to leave London.

"How did your talk with the Queen go?" Flint asked, leaning back against a stall door.

"Not well. I'm afraid she doesn't share my concerns, nor would she see them as I do," Diana said with a heavy sigh.

"What will you do?" Flint asked.

"I will do nothing. But you... you will get Isabel out of town. It will be quite simple," Diana said.

Flint raised an eyebrow, which disappeared beneath his wildly untamed hair. "And how exactly do you expect me to do that?"

"You will let slip that the Duke of York is unmarried, and seeking a wife to run the domestic part of his estate," Diana said, pleased with her solution. "She wishes to marry a Duke- and he is one."

Flint frowned, "You want to use the Duke of York as bait?"

Diana nodded, "From what I hear of him, I think he can easily hold his own against her. The only bad part of the idea is that she must be where we are going. But if that keeps Phillipa out of her clutches, then so be it."

Flint shook his head. The manipulations and machinations of women were beyond his understanding. But he saw no real flaw in the plan. He also had heard that the Duke of York was a man of very strong character, so he found himself unable to believe that the man could fall for Isabel's charms, either. "Very well, I will be sure to mention it in her presence, but not directly to her." He then left, allowing Diana privacy to transform back into 'Monk'.

* * * *

The next morning dawned bright. The sun smiled down upon the world as roosters crowed and shouts went up from the Baker's back rooms where the ovens had already been roaring for quite some time.

It was, indeed, the scent of one of these pastries that brought Andrew into awareness of his surroundings finally. He slowly, achingly sat up in the bed. He looked over to find Jafo and Monk engrossed in a game of chess, the pieces obviously whittled and not very upscale. A fact which obviously had little bearing upon their enjoyment of the game.

But it was the platter beside them that gained his attention. In fact, it gained so much attention from him that his stomach rumbled so loudly that all three heard it. Jafo grinned at Andrew, "Hungry, then?" At Andrew's rather sheepish nod, Jafo tossed him a scone. Andrew caught it, and found it had already been opened and butter tucked neatly inside, now melted into the still-warm pastry. He ate it quickly and gratefully, before padding over to the table in only the breeches he had apparently slept in, though he couldn't remember actually arriving at the inn and undressing.

A knock sounded at the door. Calling out for a moment, Andrew quickly pulled on a tunic, and then opened the door. In the doorway stood a very obviously elderly man. A man also obviously a Lord, by the fineness of his dress. He wore black, with a white sigil at the center. Andrew felt his heart sink. This was the Lord of Sir William Pearl, no doubt come to demand recompense from Andrew for his injured knight.

Having no choice, Andrew stepped back and invited him in. Without a word, Monk and Jafo stood to leave. "Please, stay," the Lord said, "it is possible we shall need witnesses this day, anyway. And nothing I have to say cannot be heard."

The man gratefully accepted a chair when it was offered. "Sir Bruce, I must have words with you. I have spoken this day with Lord Baliol, and with several of the castle staff, and with several of my own."

"You may not know me, though I suspect, since your old Lord's lands were near to mine, and since I knew your father, you have likely heard of me. I am Baron Charles Devon. I own the estate of Brighton." He stopped as he saw Andrew drop to one knee in front of him.

"Lord Devon, my father spoke so often of you, it is my great honor to meet you!" Andrew choked on the lump in his throat. What he said was true, his father had admired this man above all, and had instilled that honor into his son. Now he had met the man who, in his own life, was legend. The man he had wanted to be like- this, his personal hero. He felt a trembling hand rest on his shoulder.

"Come, Sir Bruce, sit with me, eat. Let me tell you why I have come," Lord Devon said. When Andrew was settled at the small table- hardly more than a nightstand, really, Lord Devon continued. "I owe you the deepest of apologies, Sir Bruce. When I saw you defeat Sir Pearl, I was furious. I went this very morning to speak with Lord Baliol, to seek a way to have you discredited."

He raised his hand to stop Andrew's shock, "I was wrong, but allow me to explain, please. I didn't know Sir Pearl's true nature. From the angle at which I watched your fight, I could not see clearly." He sighed, "Plus, well, old eyes do not see so well, anyhow."

Shifting in his chair, he went on, "So I have come to beg your pardon and forgiveness for my thoughts and my intent towards you. They do me no credit whatsoever, I fear. But I come, as well, to beg of you a favor.

"Lord Baliol will come to you today to seek that you take on the duty of protecting his family, and the King as they journey to York. The Queen, despite her condition, may go with him. If she does, she will need even greater protection. I pray that the King is wise and leaves her in London, it is unseemly and dangerous for a woman in her condition to travel.

"I apologize, old minds also wander." Lord Devon chuckled at himself. "I wish that you would wear my colors, Sir Bruce. When I am dead- and that time fast approaches- my estate will be absorbed by another, since I am without an heir. At that time, you will seek another's colors, and are most welcome to. But it would do me the greatest of honor if my colors were to go with the King in some way. It was to have been Sir Pearl, but you have spared me that greatest of possible dishonors. Now, I beg of you, though I do not deserve it through my harsh thoughts of you, will you wear my colors as you protect the King?"

Stunned, Andrew simply stared at the old Lord for a moment. Finally swallowing a piece of scone that had suddenly become far too dry, he responded the only way he could, "It would be the greatest honor of my life to wear your colors, my Lord."

And so, with Jafo and Monk as witness, Andrew accepted the black of his new liege Lord. He was no longer uncolored. He would leave London in the weeks ahead, in the entourage of the King, wearing the colors of his boyhood hero.

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 12-07-2005 @ 08:10 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 01-29-06 17:57 EST (US)     48 / 108       
Flint was unsure just how The Fates decreed it or even arranged it, but while on his way to see Sir Andrew Bruce for nothing more than visit, brief chat, breaking of bread and a parting, a carriage bearing the familiar personage of Lady Isabel Harker happened up the street he was walking. Her sharp, commanding voice rang out telling the coachman to halt the vehicle "that very moment!" The coachman obeyed immediately as he already had incurred the ladies wrath with an ill advised, abrupt start to the excursion that caused Lady Isabel to bump her head on the coach's wall above her seat.

"Well, Mr. Aiken," she purred unconvincingly from the interior of the coach, her hand pushing back the material that covered the opening through which she addressed him. "How fares our mutual knight in dented armor, Sir Bruce?" The acidic undertone to her words implied little in the way of forgiveness for Andrew's rejection of the lady's colors.

"He is well. I travel to his quarters to see him."

"My regards then to him, Mr. Aiken. Has he any further commission from the King?"

"Not from the King, Milady. Rumor has it he is now wearing a nobleman's colors and is tasked with taking a role in protecting Queen Phillipa."

"Really? From what?"

"From anything impinging her travel to York and the castle of Sir Blinn. Seems Lord Baliol himself requested it."

"Baliol speaks for the King in many matters."

"Yes, Milady, I may have mispoke in assuming only Lord Baliol's words formed the request. The King may have so directed; but it was Baliol himself who requested Andrew's service so I've been told."

Isabel Harker silently studied the soldier's face and decided what he described was not just hearsay but most likely what actually occurred. "The Queen goes to York then afterall. I am sure Sir Blinn's consort will provide just the right touch of hospitality to make the Queen comfortable for the duration."

Flint swallowed hard. Now or never. "Consort, Milady? To my knowledge Blinn has no Lady of York within his castle."

"The Duke of York? Why, I thought..." She paused. "He is a rake then?"

"Oh, Milady. No such vice has ever been associated with the man. He has been preoccupied with service to the King and has spent little time on such matters, though they say he is now becoming concerned about succession to his desmenes." Not true necessarily, thought Flint, but plausible.

"I see." Isabel's eyes lost their focus and she seemed a distance away though she remained exactly in place, never moving an inch. "Well, such doesn't really matter to me," she said in a nonchallant tone Flint knew had to be contrived just for him. "I've tarried enough I guess and interrupted your mission for too long, I suppose. Forgive me, Mr. Aiken, but I must leave now."

Flint offered a deep bow. "I welcome this brief meeting, Milady. Enjoy the day and your excursion." His eyes looked at the ground as he did not wish Isabel the chance to look too deeply beyond the mask he wore. He looked up only after he heard the snap of the coachman's whip and heard the rumble of the coach's wheels begin to fade to his right. He took a deep breath and then let it out slowly, and then he resumed his walk. Over the course of each step he debated whether he should proceed directly to Andrew's quarters or instead to the cathedral where he should seek forgiveness for what he may have unleashed on the unsuspecting Duke of York.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 01-29-2006 @ 06:01 PM).]

posted 03-01-06 22:09 EST (US)     49 / 108       
The two titans struggled for supremacy. Man against beast, they waged a war as old as Time itself. The man's muscles strained, sweat steamed off of him into the cool morning air. The beast he faced grunted, shifting forward, driving the man back another agonized step.

A deathly still and silent calm hung in the air as stablehands, soldiers, and commoners of all sorts stood entranced by the titanic struggle waging before them.

Finally, Andrew's deep voice cut through the tension of the air, "Horse, Stand!"

All struggle ceased as the beast before him stopped pushing against him. Horse stood snorting within the traces of the strange contraption he wore. Andrew's breath steamed with the sweat rising off of him, and drops ran down his back here and there. He patted Horse gently, then waved Monk over. Monk scrambled quickly over to him, shirt for Andrew and rags for Horse in hand.

The crowd, sensing that the "practice" was over, began to disperse. Mutters went up about the spectacle, doubt mainly that he had held his own against the massive horse. They didn't realize, of course, that they were right. Horse had been trained to push only as hard as Andrew could push. He could easily have pushed him out of the way, had he exerted his full power, but that would, of course, have ruined the exercise.

Andrew and Monk began to gently rub down Horse, who was also sweating in the cool morning air. As Monk walked Horse, Andrew began to swing a broadsword for further practice.

When Horse had cooled, Monk began to tack him out, putting on first his fancy bridle, and then the saddle blanket. So immersed was he in this task, that he was startled by the approach of Flint.

"I have done as you asked, and I believe that the Lady Isabel will accompany us to York, Lady Diana," Flint said. He said the last with a bit of exasperation. "I assume that the Lady Diana will not, but the Monk will?"

Diana sighed, "Flint, you know as well as I do that for the Lady Diana to travel with them would be an extreme strain on my disguise, and furthermore, a serious complication."

Flint sighed in his turn, and left her there, his parting words echoing in her ears, "Yet Sir Bruce cannot carry the Monk's token, now can he?"

Monk returned to the chore at hand, trying to shake the uneasy feelings Flint's comment brought up. It was thus a surprise when the Lady Isabel herself strode into the bailey.

"Sir Bruce, will you be accompanying the King to York?" she asked, delicately stepping around a horse pile with a disgusted look. "You, do clean up," she said in Monk's general direction, then to Andrew, "Wouldn't a squire be better? He's such an... odd... little man."

Andrew's mouth tightened, "Monk does a fine job, and I will accept his help as long as he's willing to give it. Yes, I will be accompanying the King."

"I understand that the Queen will be staying here?" Isabel asked.

"I'm afraid I don't know, Lady Isabel, I am simply a knight in service to the King's man, and as such, I am not privvy to the movements of the Queen."

Isabel huffed for a moment, then said, "There's really no need to get insolent about it, I was simply asking a question.

"I will expect you to lend your help to my man in watching over me along the journey, as I'm sure your new Lord would approve," she said, heading towards the entrance to the Bailey.

"I'm afraid my spare time will be rare, Milady, as I have been appointed to the King's escort by Lord Baloil himself," Andrew responded tactfully.

"Lord Baliol, is it?" Lady Isabel snapped. "We'll see about that." She turned and stomped off again. Her dramatic exit was spoiled, of course, when she stepped in the very same horse pile that she'd previously avoided.

"Didn't I tell you to clean that up?" she screeched at Monk before storming out of the bailey.

Andrew and Monk stood laughing silently for a moment, before Andrew took Horse's reins and began to practice lances.

Monk could't contain the grin at the thought of Lady Isabel's likely encounter with Lord Baliol.

Civis Romanus
posted 04-20-06 16:16 EST (US)     50 / 108       
THUMP! THUMP! A great and heavy wooden gavel called the attention of the Lords present to the high chair towering and centered against the head wall of the hall.

A sonorous voice boomed words across and off the deep brown walls of Parliament, all of them finally coming to rest at the doors through which the Lords had just passed. "Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Rise for His Majesty, Edward, King of England!"

They did so. Edward, garbed in everyday royal robes, not his ceremonial garb, entered the high ceilinged chamber and seated himself on his throne, used by none but himself and others who were king or queen. Not until he sat himself down did the others in the chamber do so in turn.

"His Majesty shall address us now!" called forth the officious Secretary of the Parliament.

Edward immediately rose. "Lords of England. As you are very much aware, trouble besets us from the North. Despite the counsel of my dear sister away from us in Edinburough, the King of Scotland continues to conspire amongst his generals and advisors and with them is seeking the demise of England.'

"I have received disturbing news that the conspiracy has extended its hand into London. Only an evening ago, Edward Baliol, whom you all know well, was beset by three Scottish rogues who sought to end his service to the crown. Only by the grace of God and his skill at arms did Baliol escape them, sending two to their deserved reward and the third fleeing for his life."

Edward knew very well he could not say more about this incident so he paused to allow the news to to register and those in attendance to exchange meaningful glances with each other.

"Sir Roderick Blinn, my esteemed advisor and Duke of the great city of York, has suggested that the royal family and the members of Parliament should temporarily transfer to accomodations he is preparing. He further suggests that in his city Parliament may safely conduct its business and may see the preparations being made to frustrate Scotland's ambitions.'

"I find his advice to be meritous and worthy of deep consideration by this noble body. Further, it is your King's desire to see his family well protected, and the members of Parliament and their families well protected, until this threat from Scotland passes. I, Edward King of England, will be most pleased if Parliament will accept the advice of Sir Blinn as I have, to be sage and most worthy of being acted upon. What say ye?" With this concluding inquiry, Edward turned and sat again on the royal chair.

A slowly rising current of rumbling speaking began to gather itself among the Lords. THUMP! THUMP! Again the gavel.

"Order! There will be order!" This was said perfunctorily because the members of Parliament were speaking in uncommonly sociable, yet urgent tones; but calling for order was necessary to advance to the next step in their deliberations.

Discussion ensued. There were very few opposing words, merely concerns expressed for crops and such, usually answered readily by other Lords who pointed out that servants and workers would remain and were under no immediate threats themselves. Opposition died down to a quiet whisper and then was silent. The vote was anticlimactic. Edward won their consent. Parliament too now joined the exodus from London that would occur only a few days hence.

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