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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 05-04-06 22:42 EST (US)     51 / 108       
The Scottish assassin, having barely escaped his failed attempt on Baliol’s life, made his way out of London and across the dark countryside to the arranged rendevous spot. He rode hard for nearly five miles, before his horse found a foxhole and sent him flying through the air. Brandon scrambled to his feet, and checked himself over from top to bottom. Miraculously, he had escaped injury twice tonight. Damn, the skills of the Englishmen! He had been paid well, and had quickly spent the money. He was not happy about telling Sir Barclay about his failure. However, that was a worry for later. He had to reach Sir Barclay first.

Three different times, Brandon had to hide amongst the bushes to avoid packs of watchmen. Fortunately, their horses made more than enough noise for Brandon to conceal himself from detection.

At last, the village came into few, briefly illuminated by the moonlight. Brandon made a beeline for the tavern, and clutching the sword at his waist, stepped inside.

He scanned the crowd quickly, and sat less than a dozen patrons seated amidst the smoke and flagons of ale and mead. As he strained to make out the faces, he soon saw his employer. Seated far across the room, with his back to the wall, was Sir Barclay. Brandon squared girded his loins, and slowly approached the huge man.

Sir Finegas Barclay, knight of Robert the Bruce’s court, was big, even for a highlander. He stood nearly 6'4" and weighed nearly 275 pounds. His red hair had streaks of black, betraying his Scot-Irish heritage. He kept his face clean shaven, the way his loving wife preferred. He had learned to wear the English breeches and saved his kilt for days of war. In fact, little would betray his as being from the north, save his sword. It was leaned against the wall, well within reach of his massive arms. Normally, if hung on his back, but as a Scot in England, he preferred faster access, especially when he was surrounded by Englishmen who were partaking of spirits.

At last, Finegas saw one of his men enter the bar. He waited a few seconds and frowned when he realized that Brandon was alone. The look on the young man’s face revealed much as he slowly worked his way across the room. As Brandon drew close, Finegas motioned his head towards the side door of the tavern. Brandon nodded and moved his way outside and waited.

Finegas rose and scanned around for anyone who was paying attention to his actions; none were, and so he followed the young Scot outside.

As they stepped into the moonlight, the gentle breeze cooled Finegas’s temper.

“What happened?”

“Please sir, please. It wasn’t my fault. The bloody Englishmen was too good. He killed the others before I could even get close to him. I tried to take him out, but......but others showed up. A full dozen men with armor and swords swarmed us. It was all that I could do to escape.”

Finegas knew at once that he was lying. Likely, Baliol alone had killed the others, and had put the fear of God into Brandon. If the “assassin” could run off that easily, then he couldn’t be trusted to keep his mouth shut.

Finegas’s attention was brought back to the young man in front of him, as he began to cry.

“What is it lad?” The highlander asked in a voice far too soft for his size.

“Your going to kill me aren’t you? I really did try. Really I did. I can try again. Yeah! Send me back, and I will get it done!”

Finegas studied him carefully. He remembered a day more than 20 years ago. The day when he learned about honor.

Finegas had been a page for Sir Malcolm of Westbridge for over a year, and this was his first time to see him in battle. He was less than impressed. A hour into the fight against the French knights, Sir Malcolm had fallen off his horse and was floundering in the mud like an upside down turtle. Four French men-at-arms were charging towards him, when Finegas came to his aid. Finegas picked up a spear off the ground and ran between his knight and the French soldiers, he swung the spear awkwardly, but the exhausted men were vulnerable to a few careful attacks. Finegas had killed all four men, before Sir Malcolm made it back to his feet. The young page ran over to help him back to his feet, and instead of a thank you, he received an iron gauntlet directly in his mouth.

“Never interfere in a knight’s fight whelp!”

Sir Malcolm then drew his sword and started marching off to fight.

Finegas watched him take two steps, then spit blood and a broken tooth onto the ground. He glared at the English knight, and picked up the broken spear.

“Sir Malcolm, wait!”

As the knight turned to face his page, and hit him again, the point of the spear rammed up into the soft underside of his chin and erupted into his brain. Finegas could still remember the surprise in the knight’s eyes, and the shock as he died. As the knight dropped to the ground, Finegas spit into his eye, and marched off to the fight holding the knights sword.


Finegas looked at the crying young Scot before him, and smiled. “Relax lad, relax. I’ll give you another chance.”

Brandon stopped crying and looked up with hope in his eyes. He was actually going to survive this night. Of course, as soon as he could, he would disappear and hopefully never see this knight again. He reached up to wipe away another tear, and that’s when the dagger slammed into his heart. Brandon was dead before he knew the highlander had stabbed him.

Finegas caught the body, and easily carried it over to the stone well behind the tavern. He pulled his dagger out of the assassin’s heart, and then tossed the body into the well. Finegas turned and headed over to the stable to grab his horse and head back north.

“Oh well,“ he thought aloud, “time for my back up plan.” [/b]

Life is full of challenges. You can either step up to them, or step out of the way. The ones who step up, are the ones who will someday rule the world.

[This message has been edited by Johndisp (edited 05-05-2006 @ 01:15 AM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 05-24-06 16:06 EST (US)     52 / 108       
Building fronts ecohoed the tromp of heavy feet shod in thin leather as the sound rose from cobbled streets walked upon by the heavily armed, heavily ladened entourage. In between these marchers rumbled wagons filled with weapons, food, household goods and other possessions or supplies deemed necessary for the journey. Lining the narrow, wandering streets, their backs to walls, were the people who were part of London but being left behind. The eyes of children opened wide as the Royal Household passed by, their parents either bowing or curtseying depending upon their gender.

Close to the royal coach bearing the Great Emblem of England rode Sir Andrew Bruce, the knight now in charge of the Royal Family's personal safety. Along with him strode his tireless page, unmounted, and Flint Aiken. A score of heavily armed knights, their ranks split evenly rode to the fore and the rear of the royal coach. Jafo was nearby, but not with them. For some reason he preferred the company of Isabel Harker to which the others gave little heed and little thought this day.

The English King's army followed, numbering in the thousands. All of the day they passed through the narrow streets of London, through the city gates and out into the forested countryside in a general northeast direction. Their ranks were broken by cloth-topped wagons bearing members of Parliament and their families, those that had families willing to leave London. Those in Parliament with unwilling families simply left them there to fend for themselves, for when the King of England commands, his subjects must obey.

The echos of their passing began to fade as the last in the parade of soldiers, politicians and nobility exited the city and the gates were closed behind them. The cool, moist, grass-bearing soil of the English countryside made far less noise than the stones of London's streets, and caused far less wear on the soldiers' thinly shod feet. Most of their footwear would not last the journey and would degrade into tattered patches of skin held together with the remnants of string. Therefore, the sooner they reached York, all the better, if only to put new shoes on their feet so that the northern trek might continue to the Scottish border without their feet becoming the first casualties of the coming conflict.

And so the journey of English King and Parliament began that day, the journey to York, amidst the uncertainty surrounding the likely welcome they'd receive from The Iron Duke.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-13-2006 @ 03:45 PM).]

Eruco Elessar
posted 07-12-06 12:24 EST (US)     53 / 108       
The sun shone brightly over Rye. The port in east sussex was bustling with ship builders and merchants. A tattered old gallion lay harboured in the port and a noble looking grey haired man stood upon the dock with a gleam in his eye.
Stretching out his arms and smiling, Lord Edric breathed a sigh of relaxed joy "home again" he said. His son Christopher walked up beside him, the look of the two suggested they were battle hardened knights yet they still held their noble nature with ease. "Tell me again father why we come to this weak island?" Christopher scorned.
Edric turned with a look of anger in his face "weak this island may be lad, but it is your home and we are here for good purpose". Edric walked off toward the waiting harbour master, an old friend. "In his bad books again I see young lad!" a voice spoke next to Christopher. Nathaniel, Edric's closest and longest ally and Christophers god father laughed as he saw the look of temper from the young knight.
"Be happy young noble! For England holds many surprises and challenges, the road we take will not be as easy as you think. Do not assume that the king will so gratefully accept your fathers proposal". Nathaniel wisely spoke. Nathaniel was a knight of Edric's banner and was as fierce a warrior as any. Christopher respected his knowledgable outlook and felt a little more enthusiastic about the prospect of joining the king and his cause.

Edric returned from his talk with the harbour master and shouted to a fourth man in his company who loitered behind on the gallion. "Bailion, hurry on! We must depart at once!" Lord Edric called. Bailion emerged from the deck of the ship and walked nonchalantly down the gangway. "Sorry my lord, I hold no joy to stand once more upon the shores of England and was having one last moment of quiet before we leave". Edric smiled knowing all too well of Bailion's deep desire to remain in france and his despair at having to come to his homeland. Christopher and Nathaniel smiled also as Bailion stood beside them with a look of deep regret upon his face.

The harbour master motioned two young stable hands, who he had arranged to sell four horses to Lord Edric, forward to the lord. "My lord here are your horses" the young boy said
"Thankyou, I have already arranged payment but take this for your trouble" Edric replied handing over a gold coin to each of the stable lads. They went away with large grins on their faces. "Well my friends let us ride north. The king and his company along with the entire parliment set off yesterday morning for york. We must reach them before they arrive". Christopher looked at Bailion and the two young knights rolled their eyes. It seemed most ridiculous to them that they need ride so hastily to meet the king of a country they no longer held as their own but they nevertheless followed their lords will.
"Another chapter in our lives begins but this time we will be fighting for our country once more" Edric said to his son. Christopher smiled but inside he was feeling a growing resentment toward this young king whom they rode to serve.
The four knights wearing the black and green colours of Edric's banner hurriedly mounted their newly acquired steeds and set out from the port town of rye.

Sorrow of Middle Earth

,;.,;.,;.Where is the horse and the rider?,;,;,;,

"If legends are eternal...then I am the father of eternity"

Civis Romanus
posted 07-13-06 16:18 EST (US)     54 / 108       
The practice of settling an army down for the night, concluded Flint Aiken, was more an art than a science. Amidst the chaos that ensues when the command to halt and encamp is given can be found a distinctive order. Flint was reminded of a musical quintet he once observed in the act of tuning up their instruments. Nothing seemed organized about their initial playing, but as time progressed their individual note playing seemed to find ways to interweave among the other musicians' notes until at the very end all was in harmony no matter the instrument played or the player playing it.

Thus it was that Edward's army and entourage entered its first night on the journey north to York. Baliol, Edward's Military Advisor and now commander of the English host, did not undertake the encampment without caution. Sentries were posted all around the campsite to ensure no raids of any kind or other endangerments might interfere with their evening's rest. Certainly, with so many members of Parliament among them, as well as their families, the King could ill afford an incident affecting them along a route so deep within his kingdom while supposedly journeying to safety.

Vittals were served consisting of stew and bread. Portions were sparse, but not unfilling. Better that little was eaten, enough to sustain energy and strength, than too much be consumed and thus by overindulgence induce lethargy. Here and there those with musical talent brought out their instruments and played melodies. A group of players turned soldiers played lovely tunes in an area so close to the section of camp reserved for members of Parliament and the King's Court they could be heard throughout. Thus they were invited by Royal command to play within the heart of the population since everyone's attention was drawn to them without restraint. They did as they were bid, nervously, respectfully, but also quite successfully.

The melodies they played tugged at the spirits of the Parliamentary families as well as those of the King's Court, lifting them upwards as the night wore on. Even those such as Sir Andrew Bruce were much tempted to engage in dance. Oddly, even Monk, oddly quiet Monk, seemed irresistably drawn to the merry music.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-14-2006 @ 08:51 PM).]

Eruco Elessar
posted 07-14-06 10:31 EST (US)     55 / 108       
The day had passed swiftly as the knights of Edric rode north at speed. The night however seemed to draw out slowly as they neared the night camp of the kings company. The four knights stopped alongside a lonely tavern that looked unwelcoming and deserted. An old man sat swaying back and forth upon the threshold and looked as if he hadnt even noticed the four riders approach. "What news of the kings company old man?" Edric called but the old peasant did not answer and merely continued to rock back and forth.

A rather plump woman emerged from the tavern and slapped the old man upon the brow. "Will you be a little more welcoming when theres decent folk about!" she yelled in a common voice. "Forgive me my lords he is older than dirt and about as wise too" she said giving a broad smile which revealed brown teeth. "What of the kings company? Have they passed this way?" Edric asked again growing impatient "yes they passed not but a while ago" she answered rather scornfully.
"Thankyou we shall be on our way" he said and he turned his steed and headed off at pace along the track. Christopher, Nathaniel and Balion followed closely behind. "They must have made camp by now, prpare yourselves for what we may recieve" Edric called to the others. "And what shall we recieve?" Christopher asked. "Not a very warm welcome I think" Nathaniel pitched in. The four riders rode on into the night, the time to rejoin with their ruler was drawing near and each of the men had their own misgivings and concerns. Yet none would speak openly about their worries.

They reached the top of a large rise in the land and not far ahead the lights of a rather large camp shone out and a hint of music carried along the night wind.
"Well we arrive at last, it has been a long journey over sea and land and now we stand upon the brink of our future. Let us hope that the king will grant us an audience at this late hour and let us hope our presence will not arouse undue suspicion and mistrust". Lord Edric spoke and his son and friends took heed. The knights sat upon their horses and gazed out over the kings camp and as they sat in silence for a moment a figure emerged from the shadows "Halt what is your business here!" the voice shouted and then more figures emerged and surrounded the knights. "Well here we go, were back in merry england once again and dont we know it" Christopher said sarcastically and loud enough for the surounding figures to hear.

Sorrow of Middle Earth

,;.,;.,;.Where is the horse and the rider?,;,;,;,

"If legends are eternal...then I am the father of eternity"

[This message has been edited by Eruco Elessar (edited 07-14-2006 @ 09:43 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-14-06 20:54 EST (US)     56 / 108       

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-17-2006 @ 08:46 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-17-06 16:03 EST (US)     57 / 108       
A second figure soon emerged from the dark behind the first, this new soldier evidently of a higher rank or most certainly possessing greater authority. "Silence! You will answer when spoken to and say nothing otherwise!"

Two more sentries, obviously remaining hidden for practical reasons, now emerged from the dark. These two had pikes and lowered them, their points menacingly close to the exposed sides of two of the riders, one of them being Lord Edric. The leader of the sentries noted the pikemen's positions and noded, then spoke again to the strangers. "Loose your weapons from their scabbards and drop them to the ground. Handle them by the blade or be greeted by the point of a pike."

Edric knew better than to cross the leader of the sentries. Besides, his intentions were peaceful enough; and if this was the price for seeing the King then the King's price be paid. He turned in his saddle to address his son and the others. "Give them your weapons just as they ask, my son, and your friends," directed Edric. Metal clattered on the stones in the path as swords and daggers were cast to the ground.

"Your name, stranger?"

"I am Lord Edric, together with my son and his companions. I desire to speak with the King about joining his army."

The leader eyed them all once more, checking for possible hidden weapons. "Then follow me, Milord, if lord you be, and we shall take you to Lord Baliol and then to the King if Lord Baliol permits it."

The sentries then as a group collected the strangers' weapons and guided them to the King's encampment and to Baliol's tent.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-17-2006 @ 08:57 PM).]

posted 07-18-06 22:21 EST (US)     58 / 108       
Across the encampment, a dark figure stirred in the shadows. He cared nothing about life, and moved like a breeze. Twice already, he had found a picket dozing on duty, and had slit their throats so softly; they never even awoke to find they were dying. His wore simply black robes, and so made no noise to reveal his location. When he came to a group of six men at arms gathered around a cooking fire, he thought of slipping into their midst and slaying them as well. As he prepared to strike, three more men appeared, and he thought better of his choice. He could kill six quickly enough, but nine might be too many for him.

The “shadow” crept along the various tents, until he reached the horses that were all tethered together. He looked around quickly, and found the barrels of grain that were stacked together near the supply wagon. He smiled beneath his black silk mask, and drew a small flask of green fluid. He carried it over to the grain, and sprinkled a few drops onto the food. He then reached down and mixed it all up. He repeated this until all the grain had been poisoned.

‘There’, he thought, ‘by tomorrow afternoon the horses will be sick and will be unwilling to walk.’

He returned to his comforting shadows and looked around. Off in the distance, he could make out the cooking tent of the encampment. He moved that way as quietly as the moon crossed the sky. As he arrived at the tent, he slew another patrolling guard, and slipped inside. He crossed over to the barrels of wine, and added a few drops of his poison to them. He knew he would likely not get the King, but if enough of his men became sick they would have to slow down their advance.

Content that he had achieved all he needed tonight, the assassin made his way out of the camp. As he neared the edge, his attention was drawn to a small man in robes. The man appeared to be deep in prayer, but there was something different. This was no ordinary monk.

As he thought of approaching, and killing, the devout servant of God, something told him to leave this victim alone. Azaal the Moor took two steps towards The Monk, but then set his mind to his course, and left the encampment for the night.

Life is full of challenges. You can either step up to them, or step out of the way. The ones who step up, are the ones who will someday rule the world.

[This message has been edited by Johndisp (edited 07-19-2006 @ 01:36 AM).]

posted 07-20-06 19:49 EST (US)     59 / 108       
Monk remained in prayer as the hustle in the encampment continued.

"You were lucky there," Flint said to Diana, although he figured Diana would probably know too.

"Yes...assassins may be adept at hiding in the shadows, but they are not as invisble as they seem," she replied, still deep in prayer and not flinching.

"Its...uncanny...that you know these things."

"Its uncanny that you do Sir Aitkin," Diana retorted, "Being a different race has its benefits, but you, you are human."

"I've had my share of experiences. And living in a forest has it's benefits like your race has also."

"I see," Diana replied shortly.

"Should we warn the party of the assassin?"

"Not yet. Suspicion can cause unwanted effects at any time, and during a war it can be worse. Besides, the assassin has gone. We might not see more of him anyway. You can go back to the encampment if you wish, there are new people there."

Flint thought hard. He had become very attached to Diana and the alias Monk, and he was protective by nature. I wonder if she can protect herself, he thought. He had never seen her fight but he could sense the fighter in her.

Flint took a few paces towards the camp and hesitated. He turned his head at the still Monk. "Crowds aren't really my thing," he said to Diana as he sat down beside her.

Diana opened her sparkling eyes for the first time and gazed at Flint with a mixture of pity and respect. "I can't read you as easy as others. Theres something different about you." Diana squinted slightly as if she were reading the smallest of prints on a contract. With a hint of a giggle she bowed her head. "Thanks," she said, and Flint smiled.

Flint and Diana sat outside of the camp for most of the night. Only when the music began to fade, and the clamour of movement died down did they return to rest and face the rapidly approaching day.

"There you are old bean!"

"Oh no..." Flint sighed.

"Haharr! Wher've you been old boy? You've missed all the fun! Plenty of nosh," Walther exclaimed.

"You know me Walther. I need me time," Flint replied with a 'you are so gullible you'll believe me' smile.

"Righto. I'm off to sleep a touch. Night!" And Walther trotted off to get some rest still swaying slightly to the remains of the music.

"I'm going to sleep too," Flint said in no particular direction, "goodnight Monk."

Diana merely nodded as to cover her identity now there were others present and she herself went to the harnessed mares before sleeping herself.

My deviant art..Add me losers..
Civis Romanus
posted 07-20-06 22:09 EST (US)     60 / 108       
"Sir Roderick!" Called out the clerk seeing his master passing down one of the stonewalled passageways of the stronghold. "Sir Roderick! Hold Sir Roderick! I bear news!"

Impatiently, as Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York, was intent upon his errand, he paused a moment to allow the clerk to catch up to him. Nearly out of breath the clerk stopped his hurried pace and paused a moment to take in a lung full of air. Blinn retained his look of expectation but didn't hurry his clerk into speech. Finally the clerk began to spill his news.

"Milord, the King is on his way. He comes with his army and Parliament."

The Iron Duke blinked once or twice, not so much out of surprise but more because of the thoughts that promptly raced through his mind like knights' mounts. "So at last he comes. I daresay he has been deliberate about his progress. How far away is the King and Company?"

"Days yet, Milord. They say about a week, weather permitting."

"Very well. Summon my advisors. It is time to prepare the welcome for the King we've spoken about numerous times."

The clerk nodded and began to hurry off. Then he paused and looked back at his master. 'The welcome' he said. Not privy to the exact nature of 'the welcome' as he ran along the corridor he speculated on just what kind of welcome it might be.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-24-2006 @ 11:02 PM).]

Jasper Tudor
posted 07-25-06 18:54 EST (US)     61 / 108       
"Give a bloody hand here!" Simon shouted.

It had been raining for two days in a row, and the roads were transformed into strings of greyish mud that made their way through the landscape.
The cart with the sacks containing bolts and arrows was stuck again.

A few men, unknown to Simon, ran up to the cart and tried to help him lift it up. It didn’t move and inch. Someone came riding down the lines. Simon gave the man a quick look, it was clear that the man was some sort of nobleman.

”What’s this? What is the problem here?” asked the man at horse in an irritated voice, making clear that he was in command, and that he was unpleased by the non-moving of the column. From the sound of his voice, and the look in his face, Simon could tell this man obviously thought that he easily would have solved the problem if he only tried. Unfortunately for them all, the mans rank prevented him from dismounting and giving a hand.

”It’s the mud, sir” said one of the men at the cart. Simon didn’t say anything, and tried to not look at the man at horse, while at the same time avoiding being rude. “The cart’s stuck, sir, we can’t move it”.
The man at horse looked at the handful of men standing at the cart, uncertain of what he should say.

”Well, get a few more men to help you out, and get it all moving!” he yelled in a shrill voice, that showed a slight glimpse of uncertainty. With that said, he rode off back up the column, rather pleased with himself.

”You, come over here” Simon yelled and pointed at a few young lads that were passing by. “Give us a hand here”.

____________________________________________________________ _______________

By the same evening, the sky cleared up, and the raining finally stopped. Too late for the soaking wet soldiers though. A few of the weak and elderly had already caught pneumonia.

Simon wandered around, chewing on his food ration, which consisted of a small piece of dark bread, and a sausage. It was better than porridge though.
He stopped at a rather large pool of water, and looked at his reflection. He looked tired. His clothes and armour were simple and worn-out, he wore an uncoloured linen tunic underneath his chain mail, which covered his entire arms, and almost, but not quite, went down to his knees. On top of his chain mail, he wore a brown gambeson. Wearing the gambeson on top of the chain mail was a trick he’d learnt in Malbork. That way, the chain mail was not exposed to the same amount of stretching as otherwise.
He also wore a pair of – what once was – blue hoses. They had now, after years of wearing, gotten a more greyish/mud brown colour. His boots were small and simple, maid out of leather.
In his belt hang his sword, a buckler, and a purse, containing a handful of Hanseatic silver coins. That was all that he owned.

He grinned at the tired and weary figure that was him. He spat in the pool, causing rings to form, vanishing his reflection.

He walked away towards one of the just lit campfires. The present nights a couple of guards had turned up dead, and he certainly didn’t plan to stray along all alone once darkness fell.

But before he reached the campfire, a heavy hand fell upon his shoulder. He turned around and saw the skinny and dirty face of Mad Osmund.
Osmund was about forty years old, no one really knew, and certainly lived up to his name. The only reason as for why to keep a psychotic lunatic as him in the army was for his surprisingly good skills with the sword. Simon himself had always been a moderate swordsman.

Osmund leaned towards him, and grinned, exposing his nearly toothless mouth, sending a breeze of warm and rotting air, with a touch of alcohol, towards Simon.

”I watched a hanging right before we left…” began Osmund, “ Hehehe…Isn’t it funny heh? The last thing that thieves do when they get hanged is crapping themselves. Hehehe…Best not end in the rope, heh? Hehehe…”

With that said, Osmund strayed off, not waiting for Simon to answer, which he didn’t do anyway.

Simon shook the uncomfortable feeling that Osmund gave him off, and walked away to the campfire, where he laid down and relaxed. He almost immediately fell asleep.

Sand is overrated. It's just tiny little rocks.

Check out my latest map, Dear Brother
Jasper Tudor
posted 07-27-06 15:20 EST (US)     62 / 108       
An old man lay in the ditch that ran along the road. He lay face-down, though in a quite comfortable position.
Simon stopped for a few seconds and looked at the man. He wasn’t moving at all.
Simon abandoned the column, and jumped down in the ditch, landing on his knees, right next to the man. From here, he could se a few wisps of long hair, hanging out from underneath the mans kettlehat. The hair was grey, and obviously hadn’t been washed for days, or weeks even.
He carefully pushed the man. No reaction. He grabbed the man by his shoulders and shook him roughly. Still no reaction.

Simon looked up towards the road. The men passed without looking at what was happening down in the ditch, even if they probably were aware of it. A monk in strange, grey, robe came walking along the line.
Although he noted the strange clothes of the monk, Simon spent only a few seconds thinking about it. There was only one thing in his mind right now. And he’d prefer if no one saw him.
He waited for the friar to pass, pretending to do nothing, even though it was hard, as he was sitting next to an obviously dead man, even though there was no smell yet.
He then pulled the dead mans dagger, as he had no own, and cut the mans belt, making it easier for him to check his purses. They only contained some half-eaten food from the night before, which he dared not eat – he didn’t know which terrible decease that had claimed the mans life, or if it was infectious.
Nonetheless, the man had a few things worth stealing. Simon released him from his dagger and its sheath, as well as his kettlehad. Simon had lost his old helmet at sea, and was in great need of a new one.

He looked at the road again, to make sure no one was watching him. He then attached the dagger to his belt, and strapped the new helmet to his head. He climbed up the ditch, and in a few seconds, he blend right in with the marching crowd. He didn’t make any effort to find his way back to his company, nobody would miss him and he’d find them by tonight as the army set camp anyway. Somewhere deep inside, he felt ashamed. But the cruel world had no room left for such feelings.
The marching towards York went on.

Sand is overrated. It's just tiny little rocks.

Check out my latest map, Dear Brother

[This message has been edited by Jasper Tudor (edited 07-27-2006 @ 03:21 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 01-22-07 15:31 EST (US)     63 / 108       
The road broadened as they reached the outskirts of York. Here and there were abandoned groups of hovels exceedingly in disrepair, not of a kind seen in south of England. They were old homes of Norse villagers who settled the area by driving out the Saxons.

York was the progeny of Norse invasions, most being peaceful, some running with Saxon blood. Built upon the ruins left behind by retreating Romans largely ignored or partially dismantled by Saxon invaders, here the Norse founded the Kingdom of Jorvik with York at its center and blended into the people and the land as the Norse were want to do. Indeed, when Normans under William seized the lands of the Angles and Saxons it was by then hard to know who among these conquered tribes were Anglo/Saxon and who were Norse, such was the success by which the peoples became one, especially in opposition to William.

York now was Norman, and the country knew no difference among Normans, Angles, Saxons and Norse. The only differences known were between the people of England, the Scots in the North and the Irish in the West, a triangle that knew no period of extended peace.

Finally the profuse population of trees in the forest thinned and further thinned until the forest yielded only stumps where the wood choppers of York had done their worst to the ancient trees that grew there. Smoke rose in the distance, but not from fired cottages or a city-wide conflagration. The smoke had the definite tang of charcoal, hot metal and cooking meats. At last, the forest disappeared completely and the road stretched out in mud and rain puddles to the walls of the great city of York.

Edward knew better than to attempt to enter unannounced. He sent his vanguard forward to announce the King's arrival to the city walls and to any man there who could hear. Now would come one of the moments that would test the veracity of great men's words. Either York would open its gates or it would not; his vanguard would be welcomed or it would be riddled with arrows from archers in the battlements. Soon Edward would have his first hint of Blinn's intentions. The King motioned to Sir Andrew Bruce to bring up his escorts and position themselves in protection of the Royal Family. As King, he must be prepared for the worst.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 01-22-2007 @ 03:38 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 01-23-07 16:04 EST (US)     64 / 108       
The vanguard halted before the closed gate and high walls of York. The Captain of the vanguard looked up at battlements bristling with archers, spearmen and other men-at-arms. Here and there as they moved about above them sunlight glinted off the armor of York soldiers who had bothered to polish it.

The Captain raised his hand and dropped it. Two heralds who accompanied the vanguard raised elongated trumpets and in combination blew a fanfare. Silence prevailed again when the fanfare ended. The Captain moved his horse two steps forward to separate himself from the rest. He turned in his saddle to be sure his King was a safe distance from an archer's bow. He was. The Captain called up to the tower behind the gate, "Greetings from His Majesty, Edward the Third, King of England and of these lands of York! He welcomes the friendship of Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York, and complements the people of York. Your King requests the pleasure and honor of York hospitality!"

A command rang out from the battlements. Suddenly every bow shifted to shoulder and every spear and pike straightened with point directed skywards. Almost to a man, chain mailed feet stomped on the stone and wooden ramparts, the total effect echoing off the walls of the buildings closest behind the battlements. A quintet of heralds above the gate appeared and blew brilliant brass notes of fanfare signifying the importance of the occasion. The fanfare concluded only to be followed with a rousing cheer from the men-at-arms. Slowly the gates to the city swung open, and out of the gates with five knights surrounding him came the imposing figure of Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York.

At his approach the Captain called his men to attention on their mounts. He bowed his head when Blinn was only a few paces away. "Your Excellency!" said the Captain and then he fell silent waiting for the Duke's reply.

The Duke completed the mandatory inspection of the vanguard walking his horse too and fro then returning to his place among his knights. "A fine body of men, Captain."

"Thank you, Sir."

"Please advise His Majesty that the City of York welcomes him and the Royal Family with open arms, as do I, his loyal subject. The honor of his presence today is ours to remember always."

"Yes, Sir," answered the Captain and he signaled a messenger from the Vanguard to carry the Duke's words back to the King.

Edward smiled appreciatively and ordered his family's wagons and horses forward accompanied by his escort led by Sir Andrew Bruce and the accompanying members and families of Parliament. His army would encamp outside of the walls of the city so as not to overtax the city's streets and services. York would feed them and provide for them, and that was welcome news to the travel weary men-at-arms and their entourage in the King's Army.

Sir Roderick greeted Edward warmly and offered appropriate courtesies to the Royal family and any dignitary of Parliament accompanying the King. He then motioned for the escort to advance into the city and Sir Roderick took up a position at the King's left side so Edward would not feel his sword arm impinged in any way by Blinn's presence. Heralds greeted them at the gate and began to play various fanfares as they paraded down the mainstreet of York and towards the inner fortress in which resided Blinn and his household.

Residents of York standing on the walkway along the street cheered as Edward came into view and continued to cheer until he had passed out of sight. The rest of Parliament followed behind him, members of their families curiously looking at the sites they past, most of them, especially the young children, never having been in York before. It fascinated them to think that London was not the only great city in England and that York indeed was as great a city as their home. Perhaps greater.

In his fortress, Blinn bade the King welcome once again and invited the King and Parliament to a Banquet and Ball to be held that evening, if the Royal Family was not too tired from the journey. The King looked at his Queen and read approval in her nod. "We are delighted and most grateful for this extra hospitality, Sir Roderick, and shall be pleased to attend."

"I am very pleased, Your Majesty. The servants shall show each of you to your quarters. Rest well until then, My King and My Queen." Roderick performed a deep bow and servants, dressed in their finest serving suits and gowns, rushed to fulfill their individual assignments. Soon enough, Edward and Phillipa were quartered in their respective chambers and at comfortable rest on thickly padded goose down beds with warm fires burning insistently in nearby fireplaces.

Jasper Tudor
posted 01-24-07 13:42 EST (US)     65 / 108       
Rumours were spreading with incredible speed in the camp. That was always the case with an uncertain army. Why were they really here? Why had they been brought all this way? The Scots. That was the common opinion or guess. In some cases it was even hoped for.
Young boys were talking eagerly about what laid ahead and what exciting events that were to take place. Simon on the other hand, and most of the other more seasoned soldiers with him, hoped for nothing. Absolutely nothing, that was the best that could happen. Get paid and get home was his goal, although he wasn't to determine whether he would reach it or not. If God and the King wished, he would fight and possibly die. One thing he had learnt was that in war no one was safe. Seasoned warriors who from many years of marching and fighting were immune to all diseases that could infect an army, and who had survived dozens of battles could die at any time from an accidentaly fired bolt from the man behind them in the column. Young boys, beautiful and bright like the lamb of God, could end up a head shorter in any battle, deserving it or not.

Simon touched the back of his head. It still ached. He had been into some trouble earlier that day, when daylight was still about, with the town guard. He had had a few pints and after winning some money from gambling - a nasty vice that all except the most pious soldiers developed sooner or later - he decided to venture into York itself for some beer of better quality (and quantity). Anyway, the guards would not let him in, not wanting an already drunk and armed soldier roaming around the streets, so Simon first claimed to be a respectable man of honour. When they still refused him entrance he became a little violent and pushed one of the guards, insluting him. The next moment someone hit him in the head with something heavy and all went black. He woke up a while later, adding the pain in his head from the blow to the ordinary hangover.
He was lucky however, a man could get hanged for causing trouble in this sort of situation. An army was more fragile than it seemed. Troublemakers could not be allowed.

He was taken away from his thoughts by the voice of a young man...or boy: "Hey One-Eye! What d'ya reckon of all this, eh?"

Simon could not recall a single person using his name when they spoke to him since he had returned to England, although he always presented himself as Simon and nothing else. He went over to the group of young men sitting around a campfire. Excited yet nervous beyond words, and possibly a bit drunk.

"It's probably gonna get bloody" he said, not wanting to go into details.

"Ya think?" asked another young man in the group.

"It always and up messy" Simon answered with an insane grin. He had 'learnt' this from Osmund. Frightening the younger, inexperienced, lads with your mere appearance and knowledge was an amusement he had never realised before. "But don't worry, lads" he added. "There's always enough to go around". He wasn't entirely sure what he had meant with that last part, but the boys obviously understood it as if he was refering to the beer, as one of them passed him his pint.

Although drawing close to midnight, there was still activity in the camp, and it would not stop. This was a twentyfour hours machine that never stopped. When some fell asleep after a full day of hard work or after a night's (or morning, or dusk, or dawn or anytime of the day and night) heavy drinking, others woke up to take their places. Fletchers were constantly working, archers and crossbowmen ventured into forests, chopping down smaller trees and turning them into sharpened stakes which they placed around the camp should the need for defence suddenly rise. Most people however argued that this last activity was futile since the mighty walls of York surely would protect them.

The soldiers were gambling, playing, competing or practising with their weapons. Minstrels and jesters moved around in the camp playing their music and showing of their skills in acrobatics and other amusing acts, hoping to get paid (although they usually weren't). This was certainly a place of great activity, and when listening to the constant bladder of the camp, what one heard was mostly laughter. Yet this seemingly happy existance was just a way of surpressing the anxiousness and downright fear that lurked underneath.

"Oi! Wha's that?" asked one of the young lads as noise rose from somewhere closer to the city.

"Maybe it's a fight" Simon suggested. Without much hesitation they decided to go and check it out. A fight was always funny as long as you were not involved in it.

Sand is overrated. It's just tiny little rocks.

Check out my latest map, Dear Brother

[This message has been edited by Jasper Tudor (edited 01-24-2007 @ 01:47 PM).]

posted 02-07-07 15:05 EST (US)     66 / 108       
Andrew sighed. The inevitable moment had come, as it always did. This time, however, there was a crowd about to watch the fight.

Two men had picked a fight with him inside the common room of the Pint and Pestle Inn. Now, they stood outside, the three of them. Given that his tunic was new, and he had to attend the fete that Duke Blinn was giving for the king, he rolled up the sleeves on it. Hopefully, he would be able to cover any blood with the vest he'd handed off to Monk as they'd made their way outside.

So now they stood there, in the dusty street. The first man darted at him, and Andrew tossed him aside like a child's rag toy. His accomplice, sporting already missing teeth, attempted to use the moment to catch Andrew off guard.

Andrew picked Missing Teeth up by his tunic, and slammed him down on the ground. Behind him, Ragdoll ran forward and leapt on Andrew's back.

With a heave, Andrew stood up, throwing Ragdoll off and leaving him lying on the ground, grunting as he attempted to regain the wind that had been knocked from him.

As the two recovered and began to circle him, Andrew ignored the intensified betting on the sidelines. There was always betting if there was a crowd. Those who had seen him in London were gleefully betting on him, certain that they'd soon be leaving wealthier than they'd arrived. Seeing their enthusiasm, many of the men who had marched with them joined in.

The York locals were just as eager, it seemed the two men that Andrew had stumbled across were the town bullies. None of that mattered to Andrew, however. They were the same men he'd faced over and over, town to town, just with different faces.

He was impatient this time, and although he usually did his best to give a good show of it so that people didn't continue to seek him out, he suddenly lost patience with all of it.

As Ragdoll rushed him, Andrew grabbed him, lunging at Missing Teeth. Grasping each of them, Andrew slammed their heads into the rapidly vacated bench in front of the inn. They both hit with carefully calculated strength, and slumped to the ground. Andrew checked for breathing, and, satisfied, stood up to look around.

"I have a fete to attend. Does anyone else see fit to detain me?" Met with stunned silence, he shrugged his massive shoulders and turned towards Duke Blinn's castle, looming from the center of town.

Monk scurried in his wake as the crowd parted like a sea before Andrew.

Disappointed at the abrupt ending, the crowd murmurred and finally began to disburse. The bookies angrily paid out the bets after much haggling in an attempt to discredit the win.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Andrew arrived in the grand ballroom, no fanfare or strident voice to announce him. He quietly made his way to the food table, his appetite bouyed by the delectable scents that wafted on the air and mingled with the heavy perfumes of the aristocracy.

The strains of a waltz graced the room, and the dancers moved with deceptive grace amongst one another. This particular dance swept the women from partner to partner, so no murmuring conversations could be carried on upon the floor.

Gentlemen and ladies of stature stood around the grand dancing area, making up for the lack of conversation amongst the dancers. The buzz of their discussions created a muted backdrop to the musicians, whose faces seemed locked into permanent smiles. Tension was the disharmony that ran through the room, despite the capable symphony that swooped from the stage.

Andrew completed getting his food from the long table. It was, of course, set up for the less important nobility and the leading military officials. Those of higher rank and station rarely came near these tables, for pages and servants moved through the crowds delivering food and drink for the nobility.

Although the truly "good" food was reserved for said nobility, the fare offered here was quite delectable by Andrew's standards, and he filled a trencher to near overflowing. As was standard, it was all food that he could eat with fingers or belt knife, and he dug straight in.

He watched the dancers for a time as he ate, nodding and grunting in welcome when Monk joined him, trencher in hand. Not long after that, Jafo joined them, gleefully swiping bits of meat off of Monk and Andrew's trencher, while firmly refusing to get one of his own, proclaiming only, "No thankee, I ain't hungry!"

Soon, their small group increased in numbers, first Flint and Walther, then to their surprise, even Harold joined them with a stolid grunt as way of greeting.

It wasn't long before Lord Baloil joined them. He drew Andrew aside, "It is of utmost importance tonight that you attend the King. Go swiftly and change into your armor. Enter through the main entrance so that all see you. Go to the King's side, and make it obvious that you are there to protect he and Her Majesty the Queen."

Andrew studied Lord Baloil's face for a moment. "Of course I will do as you instruct, My Lord." He bowed and with a brief explaination, left to follow orders. A frown creased his forehead as he left. Obviously, Baloil seemed stressed and wanted the King visibly protected. But why?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As Andrew left, Diana followed him, and as the heavy wooden door shut behind her, she heard Isabel Belvior being announced. Diana frowned, unhappy that her attempt to keep the woman away from the queen had so badly backfired.

Inside the ballroom, Isabel, on the other hand, was delighted to be in York. As she entered, she paused a moment for dramatic effect. However, the band played on, the dancers danced on, and all but those nearby missed her attempt at a grand entrance.

Sweeping into the room, she made certain that she was neatly arranged with just the right amount of cleavage showing. Not too much, or other women would shut her out of party invitations. Yet enough that men would be entranced by it.

Within moments, after some discreet inquiries, she knew which man was Duke Roderick Blinn. And, she was delighted to hear that it was true, the poor, dear man had no wife as of yet...

Reaching up, she ran a finger along the pearls of her outrageously expensive necklace. 'Yes,' she thought to herself, 'not yet...'

She smiled then, and Jafo, noticing it from across the room, shuddered. He wasn't sure what the woman was up to, but he hoped she'd never look at him with that kind of predatory smile on her face.

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
Civis Romanus
posted 02-14-07 21:42 EST (US)     67 / 108       
"If you will excuse me, Milady, I must prepare for the entrance of His Majesty." The lady with whom he was conversing, of course, could not protest and so she elegantly curtsied in response to Duke Roderick's gentlemanly bow. As the Duke proceeded to the nearest doorway he motioned to four men-at-arms in highly polished armor and bearing pikes to join him.

Lady Isabel thought this perhaps was the opportunity to make herself noticed. Just as the Duke approached her while on his way to the doorway leading ultimately to the fortess apartments, she suddenly dropped her daintily embroidered handkerchief. As other men rushed to return it to her, the Duke passed by close at hand, but he merely observed the woman's apparent clumsiness. "Milady, you have dropped your linen," was all he bothered to offer as he saw others assume the duty of fetching it for Isabel. If Isabel's lovely little chin were just a bit longer, its lower point would have landed on the floor of the ballroom.

Roderick Blinn paid no further attention and proceeded to the King's chamber, soldiers following behind, their deliberate footsteps in their chain mail shoes echoing off the stone of the walls and the ceiling. Soon enough, after a few flights of upwards spiralling stairs, they stood before the King's apartment door. But between them and the door was the tall figure of a knight Sir Roderick Blinn had never seen before. The knight stood an inch taller than Blinn and returned the Duke's stare just as firmly as given to him by the Duke.

"This is the King's Chambers and I am the King's Champion. Who are you, Sir Knight, and what is your business here?" stated Sir Andrew Bruce without the hint of fear.

"I am Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York. Let me pass."

"Your business, Milord? I have requested to know your business."

Blinn was just a little annoyed at the idea of this knight's unwillingness to let him pass. He glanced down and saw that the knight had his gloved hand on his sword. This one meant business, he concluded.

"I have come to escort the Royal Family to the Ball. I am calling on His Majesty for this purpose. Why are you guarding him so. He is a guest in my household and under my protection and should feel safe."

"I do so by command of Lord Baliol, Milord."

"I see." Blinn paused to consider. Something is amiss. There is lack of trust. "I bring guards for his escort for the safety of the Royal Family. I welcome you to be among them as additional safety if it be His Majesty's wish, or Lord Baliol's wish. Please announce to His Majesty that I have come to escort him and his Queen to the ball."

Andrew considered the powerful looking man who stood before him. He could not see anything threatening in the man's eyes or in his voice. There was no agitation as would be found in the behavior of a conspirator who is close to being caught in the act. Andrew bowed and knocked on the chamber door. It was opened from within by one of the King's servants. "Lord Blinn inquires if His Majesty is now ready to attend the Ball and if so is here to escort him."

The servant bowed in the Duke's direction and then disappeared into the King's quarters closing the door behind him. A few minutes later the door opened and King Edward appeared. Immediately all four of the guards and Sir Andrew went down to one knee while bowing their heads, and Duke Roderick offered to the King a bow from the waist. "Rise," commanded Edward. They returned to their normal postures, the guards and Sir Andrew at military attention. "To the Queen's chambers then, Lord Blinn?" said Edward, showing no visible concern over the presence of the soldiers.

"Yes, your Majesty. This way, please." Roderick motioned in the direction of the Queen's chamber door. Two guards took up a position ahead of them and two a position behind them. The Duke walked at the King's right and Sir Andrew walked behind and to the left of the King. As they walked, the Duke noticed the customary ceremonial dagger worn by Edward outside of his royal robes. However, there seemed to be something more underneath the King's robes. Indeed he was right, for he could tell as the King walked that something much larger than a dagger was hidden underneath the easily removed robe. It looked very much like a carefully placed, intentionally hidden, short sword.

Jasper Tudor
posted 03-01-07 18:31 EST (US)     68 / 108       
Simon mumbled angrily as he paid the man. He had lost a good deal of money on that unfortunate bet. All good logics told him that one man - however tall and strong - could not beat two in a streetfight like that. He stared curiously at the man as he walked off. A fête, eh? So he was a knight then, might explain a thing or two.
Just as he was to walk away he recognised the monk that had passed him on the road. For a moment it seemed as if the monk stared right at him, although he could not see his face. Simon was struck by an uncomfortable feeling, as if the monk could read him like an open book. He had commited many sins in his days and had not confessed in years. He turned his eyes away and left the Pint and Pestle.
The townspeople were not too happy with the drunk soldiers roaming their streets and the young men in the town used to gather up at night to go out and quite frankly beat the shit out of every soldier they saw. As a response, the soldiers did pretty much the same, except they made no real difference between burgher and soldier. If fighting was a part of your life, it was quite hard to let go.
Simon tried to find his way back to the camp through all the windling streets with their countless names. He had seen many towns and cities with names he could neither understand nor pronounce, but the size of such cities and London and York was quite simply mind-blowing and confusing. Being quite drunk didn't help.
Utterly confused and lost he decided to succumb to the only rational thought that passed his mind: taking a piss. As he did so in a scabby alley he heard two men talking not very far away. He did not quite catch what they discussed, but he noticed one thing: they were Scots.
At first he nearly panicked, believing that the enemy had broken into the city but after closer listening he realised it could be no more than two men and they were talking quietly as if they wished not to be heard. It worked very well as all that Simon understood was that they were Scottish.
Almost as if drawn towards the sound of the conversation he began to sneak up to the men as quiet as he ever could. He regretted that he had not brought any armour and no more weapon than his dagger, but then again, that would have easily revealed him as a soldier, even more than his missing eye.
He peeked around the corner and spotted the men. He could not se who they were and how they were dressed as they stood between him and one of the few lanterns still lit. Only their silhouettes were visible to him. Suddenly a heavy arm fell on his shoulder. He was turned around and stared into the face of a man who seemed more than twice his size, and beyond him stood a few more. All carrying arms and armour.

"We're the town's guard" said the giant in front of him. Simon glanced over his own shoulder and noticed two shadows hurrying off. "And who might you be?"

"Simon" Simon answered honestly. "I'm from the royal army".

"Right. Then we'd better take you back to camp or you're prob'ly gonna get beaten up royally".

"Aah, piss off!" the beer in Simon said, "I'll find my own way back".

"Then what are ya doing this close to the castle? The wrong end of town it seems, eh?"


"Fine, then. We'll take him with us, boys".

And then fists of iron dragged Simon all the way back to the camp.

Sand is overrated. It's just tiny little rocks.

Check out my latest map, Dear Brother
posted 03-05-07 11:15 EST (US)     69 / 108       
Diana moved among the shadows in the hallway, a fair distance behind the King's entourage as they walked along the passageway to the Queen's chambers. She knew she wouldn't be much help if anything happened, but she kept her hands on her blowgun just in case.

Ahead of her, Andrew walked in the midst of Duke Blinn's soldiers, uncomfortable being surrounded by armed men in such a manner. He didn't really share Duke Baliol's optimism that, should Blinn attack, he would be sufficient to protect the King. It was one thing to come out on top in a street brawl, or even against common soldiers.

But an elite guard? No. Baliol expected miracles. Miracles that Andrew knew he could not provide should he be called upon to do so.

Fortunately, he was reassured by Duke Blinn's casual and calm demeanor. If a coup were to take place, Andrew felt certain that it would not happen now.

They neared the Queen's chambers. A sudden scuffling sound ahead alerted Andrew, and before he had even gotten so far as a conscious thought, his sword leaped into his hand as if of its own purpose. He thrust the King roughly against the wall, his keen eyes peering down the hallway.

Instantly, in response to his actions, the Duke and his four soldiers also surrounded the King, a ring of swords jutting out into the passage. A servant emerged from a slightly recessed door. He carried a tray of drinks.

Immediately, Andrew felt the relaxation of the other men, and King Edward chuckled. Andew stopped Edward with a look and a slight shake of his head. The group righted itself, but Andrew stepped forward and stopped the servant.

"Where are you going with that?" he inquired.

The servant replied, "To the Queens chamber, My Lord. She has requested wine to settle her stomach."

"Drink some of it," Andrew said. The servant blinked.

"Sir?" the servant said stupidly.

"I said, drink some of it." Andrew watched the man carefully.

"But My Lord, it would be unseemly for me to put lips to her Majesty's cup," the servant gasped.

Grabbing the man's tunic, Andrew pulled him near. "You will drink some, or I will run you through this very instant."

Jerking suddenly, the servant dropped out of the tunic and turned to run. With a swift twist of his leg, Andrew knocked the man's legs out from under him.

Suddenly, Duke Blinn jumped on the servant, and slammed a fist into his face, not once, not twice, but three times. Andrew pulled Blinn off, holding the unfortunate "servant" with one hand.

"How did you know?" King Edward asked.

"Pages bring drinks to the Queen, and usually her own. Additionally, his tunic was stained and dirty. Even should someone send an adult male, I doubt, from what I've seen, that they would have sent someone wearing a filthy tunic," he raised an eye at Duke Blinn, who swore and nodded in response.

Andrew looked the man over, and said to Blinn, "Fortunately, while he's out cold, I don't think you've killed him."

"Pity," was all Blinn said.

"Not really," Andrew said, as casually as he could, "I'm sure you realize how valuable it will be to get some information from him."

The heat and anger seemed to cool from Blinn's face. "Aye, I can see that. I can assist if needed in the interrogation."

"We will do that later," King Edward said. "My Queen wants to attend the ball, and attend it she shall. Duke Blinn, can you see to it that this man is escorted properly to the dungeon?"

Blinn nodded, and pulled a large robe hanging outside the Queen's quarters. A few minutes later, following the page he dispatched, two soldiers appeared. They left, with the intended assassin in tow.

As soon as they were gone, the King turned to Andrew, Blinn, and the men with them. "Not a word of this to anyone for the time being, until I allow it. Is that fully understood?" Upon their agreement, Edward nodded at Andrew, who pounded his heavy mailed fist upon the door of the Queen's chambers.

* * * * * *

A short time later, the King and Queen were announced into the ballroom. Andrew was pleased to be removed, by necessity, from the requirement to dance. Fortunately, given his low station, it would have been doubtful that any would have been required of him anyway, in such a gathering as this, but the added insurance was a pleasant respite.

He watched the crowd closely, as he hovered always near the King, being as unobtrusive as it was possible for a gleaming black and silver knight in the midst of a flamboyant crowd of dandy courtiers. He stood out more for the simplicity and lack of outrageous color in what he wore than any other reason.

The musicians were playing a waltz at the moment, and the dancers on the floor were once again being passed partner to partner. Andrew noticed Lady Isabel was quite irritated with one of the lords to whom she was being passed, who appeared quite smitten with her. He was a Marquis, obviously well above her station, but also below her highest aspirations.

Andrew had heard one of Isabel's "friends" amongst the ladies asking Duke Blinn what he thought of her, and hearing his casual response. "She seems rather aggressive, as well as somewhat clumsy. Other than that, I know little of her. Pardon me, I must speak to Baron Ladd about some horses." Andrew couldn't help but laugh at the oldest escape tactic in the book... 'I must speak to a man about a horse.'

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
Civis Romanus
posted 03-07-07 15:31 EST (US)     70 / 108       
The man the duke intended to see as it turned out was Sir Andrew. The knight saw the duke approach and immediately began to shift position, tensing a little in the process. "Sir Knight, a moment please?" said Blinn when in earshot just to put the knight at ease.

Andrew nodded, "Yes, Milord?"

"My complements, Sir Andrew, on your perception and diligence earlier today."

Andrew recognized that Duke Blinn had to speak in couched terms so as not to permit knowledge of the previous incident leaking into public ears. "I would have been quite dismayed if the, umm, situation had gone awry."

"As would the King, Milord."

"Indeed." Blinn eyed the knight curiously trying to determine if the implied humor was more insolence than the humor it appeared to be on the surface. "I should think so," he added. "I would like to know if your service to the King is temporary in nature. I have need of knights like you who have their wits about them."

Sir Andrew again nodded his head at the implied complement. "Milord, I serve at the King's command. If he deems it temporary, then it shall be temporary. I do not know if His Majesty intends me to serve an extended period or not. For now, I am his loyal knight."

"Our king chooses well." Having said this, Blinn turned about and reentered the festivities. Unfortunately, he chose that moment to pass much too close in proximity to Lady Isabel who was seeking an opportunity to shed the Marquis and attach herself to the eligible Duke of York.

"Milord?" she said as she turned and placed her hand boldly on the Duke's sleeve. "Would you be so kind as to settle a dispute between a lady and a marquis?" Duke Blinn was taken aback by the lady's forwardness and glanced immediately at the marquis who was so shocked as to nearly forget to offer the Duke the customary bow required by their difference in rank. There had been no dispute. What in the world could Lady Isabel be thinking? The Marquis's faced reddened in embarrassment.

"Milady, about what dispute do you speak?" the Duke answered courteously. Given this open door to speak directly to Roderick, Lady Isabel exploited her opportunity. Meanwhile, onlookers caged their eyes in directions opposite to where the Duke stood in proximity to Isabel, but their ears strained mightily to catch every last word spoken among the three.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 05-14-2007 @ 03:10 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 05-14-07 15:42 EST (US)     71 / 108       
"The dispute," replied Lady Isabel, "is over the obligation of a marquis to escort a Lady to a host of higher rank, introduce her and permit her to accept the host's invitation to dance before suggesting his own."

The marquis' eyes went wide in horror. He felt trapped and alone, while from the corner of his eyes, he saw other guests slowly move away from the trio in anticipation of a major scene. "My, my, Milord," stuttered the unfortunate marquis. "I would never, I mean, I couldn't, Milord..."

"Are you suggesting, Marquis, I am fabricating what I heard said, or that I'm deaf or addled?" countered Lady Isabel. The Duke remained silent looking back and forth from Lady to Marquis.

"Why no Milady, I, I do not mean to so malign you.

"I see," interrupted Isabel, "then I have no doubt I heard correctly as you affirm my ability to do so. I was in fact standing right here and heard plainly what you said, and now I solicit Duke Blinn's opinion." She turned and purposely focussed her blue eyes on Blinn's brown eyes. "Pray tell, Milord. What is the answer to this."

Perspiration beaded on the Marquis' forehead. Roderick glanced at the marguis. Unquestionably the man was distressed. Unlucky for Isabel, the Marquis was well known to Duke Roderick and not at all likely to say such a thing or seek advantage so disrespectfully. "Lady Isabel Harker, as I believe you are named, I am quite sure the Marquis' meaning is that we have no such custom in York, not that he would decline such a custom if it existed. Is that correct, Marquis?" Roderick looked purposefully at the Marquis.

"By all that is right and holy, Milord, I had no such meaning as Lady Isabel suggests." The Marquis bowed to punctuate his statement. "If, however, Milord would like, I shall be only too happy to withdraw in his favor should he wish to engage the Lady Isabel in a dance at any time of his choosing."

"Then now, Marquis, would be that moment. I should like to fulfill that foreign custom which she cites so that she may not make another gentleman here duty bound unknowingly. Will you, then, guide the Lady's hand to mine?"

"Immediately, Milord," agreed the relieved Marquis. He reached for Isabel's hand and placed it forthwith in the Duke's. Taking her hand gently, he guided her to the dance floor, and signaled the musicians to play. As the musicians played preparatory music, others joined the Duke and Lady Isabel on the dance floor carefully arraying themselves at the right distance and depth from each other.

The preparatory music concluded, and the musicians began the catch melody of a bouree. Silently Isabel and Roderick danced, the one formulating her next ploy; and the other keenly aware of the game being played and who the intended object must be.
Civis Romanus
posted 07-05-07 19:32 EST (US)     72 / 108       
As the music progressed through bar after bar, Isabel sought those moments when they were close enough for her to be heard over the music and then waited for the opportunity to repeat itself to hear the Duke's reply to her comments. One such opportunity quite quickly presented itself. "How is it, Milord, that you are not yet married?" The dance progressed and the brief pause ended.

"I have not met a Lady who has warranted my interest."

"Until now?"

"That is to be seen, is it not?"

"And what, Milord, warrants your interest in a Lady?"

"'Tis a question indeed I have asked myself on occasion Lady Isabel."

"And your answer, Milord?"

"A Lady, I concluded, who has the interests of the people of York firmly in her mind; is loyal to the Crown; and who makes it her duty each day by how she behaves, to remind me why I have chosen her from among so many worthies."

"I see," said Lady Isabel as a particularly intricate dance movement briefly caused her to release the Duke's hand, turn in a full circle, wave her hand and then seek the Duke's outstretched hand. The music drew to its conclusion and halted, the Duke bowing and Lady Isable curtseying as the last note was played. "And have you now found such a Lady?" she asked coyly.

The Duke looked at her, his eyes nonblinking, forceful and direct. "No, Milady, I haven't. And now I shall escort you back to the Marquis, who I know will be more than happy to entertain you during this Ball. I know him to be a fine gentleman and unworthy of the criticism to which he was opportunistically submitted." This time the Duke offered his hand imperiously, and there was no question in Isabel's mind that she must obey, take his hand and be escorted to wherever he chose to guide her. In that moment, the strength of the man before her fired Isabel's ambition like none before. Even as the Duke placed her hand in the welcoming hand of the Marquis, her eyes never left the Duke's face or his back as he walked away, until he was blocked from view by the crowd in the Ballroom mingling here and about while the music paused. "He is the one," she thought, "and I will not rest until he realizes I am the one who shall be his Duchess."


[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-05-2010 @ 03:51 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 02-05-10 17:05 EST (US)     73 / 108       



The soldiers of King Edward III huddled under their crude pole-supported, branch-covered leatherskin shelters as the silently falling snow threatened to pile up on top and around their campsite. Not far away rose the stone walls of York. Within those walls most stayed inside their hovels as well to wait out the end of this sudden snowfall.

Only the day before had the population been out and about buying and selling foods and goods they needed to keep themselves supplied in this time of mixed senses of safety. Outside stood Edward's army positioned well to protect the city and the king. Inside, the winter weather had taken its toll, as had the presence of the army consuming supplies normally not needed to fill the bellies of such a host of men. The Shambles was there as always, but on the prior day, the crush of York's humanity on its streets and in its shoppes made even the gleeful merchants nervous, especially those whose goods for sale had run out before the end of the business day.

Inside Duke Blinn's spacious stronghold, the King of England had once again called together his Council to further study the strategy and needs of his campaign against the obstinate Scots. The objective was always clear: to bring the Scots once and finally under the control of the English crown. The method of achieving this objective when the summer campaign begins was still unsettled and being debated. On the table with the pewter cups filled with ale and the tall thickly structured candles burning brightly, rested a parchment with a map of the lands controlled by Edward and the lands controlled by David II, King of Scotland. Those at the table studied it silently as the King had just ordered they contemplate all possible options.

Edward sat at the table's head. To his right sat Sir Edward Balliol and to the King's left sat Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York. The others were the King's advisors, the commander of his army in the field, and the representative of Parliament, a person of no particular influence other than to convey back the King's goodwill shown by his permitted presence. This was not an era when Parliament served any useful role beyond being a gathering place for nobility and an avenue to gain the king's ear.

Edward was agitated. "Treaty of Northumberland, indeed!" Why is that foul document signed by my ancestors of such a necessity as to balk my rightful... Sir Edward's rightful claim on the Scottish throne. His mother was of royal lineage and thus it should be his, not that distant blood relative's who parks his underage posterior on it today!"

Blinn sighed. "Your Majesty, we have discussed this before. The treaty forbids you to cross the demarcation line set in its text, just as it forbids the Scots to do the same. I council we not dishonor your family or its name by breaking the terms of its agreement. We must cause the Scots to dishonor it." Others at the table nodded in agreement. This, of course, was not missed by King Edward.

Still frustrated, but understanding, King Edward slumped back in his chair, the one with its woodhewn back rising higher than anyone else's at the table. "York, I understand this; but it seems we cannot provoke anything of consequence from these Scots. We patrol, we ambush, we do all manner of provocations and there is no response. Where are these hotheaded warriors who took us to task years ago for simply showing up anywhere near their lands?"

Balliol looked at the Duke, who shrugged his shoulders. "The time of year and the weather balks them, Milord," noted Balliol. "We must be patient. Besides, your Majesty, it gives us time to think."

"Think? How much more think do we need?" muttered the King. "The days go by and still we cannot conceive of a plan that doesn't upset that cursed treaty."

The door to the chamber opened and a guard presented himself in stiff attention. The King frowned at the interruption. "Speak, guard! Why do you interrupt our business?"

"Pardon and mercy, your Majesty," answered the guard. "You instructed me that should any messenger bearing news of the Scots arrives, the messenger should be permitted entrance immediately."

"So I did, guard," conceded the King. "Has such a person arrived?"

"Yes, your Majesty, he has."

"Show the messenger in."

"At once, your Majesty." The guard clicked his heels together and bowed, then stepped backwards to grasp the door's handle to open it wide. A young man entered and bowed deeply. He paused in heart of his homage, allowing the guard to leave the chamber, close the door and resume his position outside.

Edward smiled in recognition. "Nigel, it is you. Approach, lad. I am warmed to see you again."

Nigel straightened up and smiled in return. "Thank you, your Majesty. I am even more so to find you well and free of any harm."

"Is your sister well in Scotland?" inquired the King.

"Well, yes. But no, not in Scotland. She is here, your Majesty. Though the cause of why we journeyed here might well have made it unlikely you would ever see us again."

Blinn recalled the years in which Nigel and he had hunted game together. The last time was 10 or so years prior, Nigel the eager boy with the hint of a man's beard and Blinn just barely grown up himself. Nigel's sister, Elizabeth, seemed always about. How annoying that she should be there in a place where girls are of no use, always staring at him with those eyes. Blue they were, or green? He couldn't remember. Skinny thing. No doubt skinny still. A twig in a rag... He dismissed his thoughts about the girl with a bemused, suppresed twitch of a smile and gave his attention to Nigel.

Nigel's words alarmed the King. "My sister, is she safe and well?"

Nigel nodded. "Indeed, your Majesty. She is both. For now. But my visit bringing you her plea for peace and the safety of her husband, David, was malinterpreted by the King's advisors and the King became suspicious of us on their words. We have fled Scotland your Majesty to bring you her last message. I fear neither I nor my sister may now ever return." Nigel opened his hand to show the King the folded piece of parchment, tied and sealed with the mark of the English King's sister, Joanna, who is David's consort in Edinburgh.

"Bring it here," Edward ordered in a voice both royal and yet edged with human concern. Nigel did as he was told.

Meanwhile, the snow ceased to fall, and others in the city of York began to leave their living quarters, and again go about their business, having no idea or even concern for what the King and his advisors were about in the Duke's chambers. Life carried on throughout, with all of its joys and travails.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-15-2010 @ 11:26 PM).]

Lady Arcola
SHH Seraph
posted 02-11-10 20:37 EST (US)     74 / 108       
Edward read the missive from his sister quietly his face void of emotion as he read. Nigel watched his sovereign with growing concern, he knew the contents of this missive by heart and he expected some reaction to the news it held. But nothing betrayed the written contents of the letter grasped in Edwards’s hand. Silently the letter was handed back to Nigel and his attention was turned to Balliol. Edward talked for a few seconds with him then turned back to Nigel.
Nigel, you will find my guard in the outer chamber, ask him to escort you and Elizabeth to the queen, she will want to see your sister. Thank you for your continued faithfulness to Joanne.”
Nigel’s eyes narrowed but he answered with reverence,
Your majesty.”
Bowed and turned, walking past the Duke and the rest of the assembled nobles.
As he walked past Roderick the duke could see the tensing of his jaw and the agitated look on his face. Hidden from Edwards view Nigel did not hide the turmoil of emotion he was feeling.

Elizabeth had waited down below the chamber where the King was holding his council; she idly traced the pattern on the rug beneath her feet and looked again for her brother to appear. She was weary from the long trip to York and cold. She tried hard not to think about the last month but as time trickled by she found not only was she fighting the weariness of her body but the turmoil of the past month just kept finding an opening in her thoughts.

She had known as soon as Nigel had returned last year that things were starting to unravel for them. As one of Queen Joanne’s closest friends and Lady in waiting she had been an almost constant companion for the young queen. Older than most of the girls that surrounded her she was asked to keep a careful watch on the others. Many nights she had cradled a very lonely young queen who missed her family dearly, as she tried to fall asleep.

Elizabeth could understand her pain for her own mother had passed away when she was younger and two years prior she had lost her father in a skirmish with the soldiers that roamed the borders of Scotland. Nigel had become withdrawn and somber after that and it was only his visits to court that had brightened his demeanor. The young queen who had always been their friend, delighted her brother. With the loss of their family there was no one to defend them and they knew they were alone now. The nobles that kept Scotland safe for its young monarchs were quick to look for something to pull them away from Joanne, they knew that their English heritage from their mother would give them the means to malign them. So it was treachery and traitorous motives that they brought to the young king and with cunning evidence they went after the Scott siblings with a vengeance.
Nigel was followed every place he went and she had more than once felt the eyes of a suspicious court following her as she moved with the young queens entourage who were mostly Scottish.
But Elizabeth was not prepared for the steps they took to discredit the family.
The burning of their family home had been the last act of revenge against them. Joanne knowing their plight and fearing for her lifelong friends sent for Nigel, under the protection of the queen they had been smuggled out of the Castle and had fled into the darkness. Now they were here in York, without home or family.

Elizabeth traced the pattern again, muffled voices from above carried down to her and she watched as Nigel stormed down to her.
Follow me, Elizabeth, we have been sent to see Queen Philippa by order of Edward.”
That news brought a smile to Elizabeth, for she had not seen the queen since last year. A new baby girl had been born to the Royal couple and she had yet to see the tiny daughter that had so captured her father’s eye. The queen’s gentle manner would also be welcome to Elizabeth after her year of turmoil.

Following her annoyed brother they wound through the castle to the queens chambers. Lively chatter spilled out as they were announced and ushered into the chamber. Philippa was talking quietly to a lovely young woman and when she saw the pair enter she joyfully ran to them before the guard could announce them.
Nigel and Elizabeth! What a wonderful surprise! Come let me introduce you to Lady Diana, what brings you to me on this cold day? What has it been almost a year? Oh Elizabeth! You must come and see little Isabella, Nigel has seen her but you have not. ” The warmth of the queens greeting pushed all the ire out of Nigel and Elizabeth smiled for the first time that day.

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 02-13-2010 @ 04:15 AM).]

posted 02-14-10 09:55 EST (US)     75 / 108       
Lady Diana Nobel curtseyed to the visitors, sweeping as deeply as she would to an equal. She was uncertain as to their rank, and preferred to err on the side of courtesy, rather than to unconsciously snub someone of a higher rank. As she met Elizabeth's eyes, she saw the strain and exhaustion in the other woman's face.

Rising in a smooth gesture as the Queen pointed them towards seats, Diana took over the tea setting. She poured some Port for Nigel, who took it gratefully. Then she served the ladies with tea. While Elizabeth and Philippa chattered, Diana pulled the bell cord in the corner. Within moments, a page arrived with a discreet knock at the door.

"A hearty meal for the Queen's guests," she stated, both imperious and yet courteous. It felt strange to her to be talking again, as she'd been 'monk' for so long this time.

She seated herself and listened to the conversation. Immediately, she realized that she was inadvertently eavesdropping on a personal conversation, as Elizabeth's eyes sparkled with tears. Her brother was speaking animatedly to her, as if to shush her.

"I gave Edward the letter," he was telling her, his face wreathed by uncontrolled anger, "and he simply sent me away without even the barest of acknowledgements. What good is it to burden Philippa with it?"

"If I may be so bold, my Lord?" Diana interrupted, using the formal title in hopes that it was correct.

When Nigel's smoldering, angry eyes met hers, Diana met them calmly in return. After a few moments, he took a deep, shuddering breath and inclined his head slightly.

"Philippa has the King's ear in a way that no one else does. Also, I should like to point out that, while I know nothing of the nature of your missive, there is common gossip amongst the Ton that there may be a traitor or spy amongst the highest among the Ton." Her gaze met his levelly as she stated what was usually only whispered in quiet conversations and hushed rooms.

The other two stilled as well, the massive, vault-like room shuddering in the profound silence that had fallen over it. Diana then continued, her voice falling into the room like a soft rain in a parched forest, "So please do not judge His Majesty harshly as of yet. Perhaps he had good reason for his reticence to speak of whatever your missive held. Indeed, given that some whisper that we may indeed be in the very midst of the traitor's own men, and ensconced in his own castle... it may well behoove His Majesty to wait for a more personal time to speak of anything from the Scottish lands."

Nigel's eyes narrowed, and he looked her up and down, "How do you know we came from Scotland?"

Now Diana laughed merrily, the sparkle of that humor dancing through the charged air and calming those sitting in it. "You've a lively brogue, My Lord. It's not hard to guess your origin."

Nigel relaxed and sat back, leaning negligently on the chair. "I suppose that could be true," he said, allowing a grin to crinkle the corners of his eyes. It felt good to grin after these many months of difficulty and concern.

A knock on the door heralded their food, and there was silence as a servant bustled in, pointing and directing others to place a fair banquet of food on the buffet table they'd brought with them.

With a deep curtsey to the Queen, the matronly woman bustled her helpers out the door, and silence returned in the wake of their efficient departure. Diana courteously served trenchers of food to each of them, the Queen even requesting some of the rare, delicious cinnamon pears for herself.

As the ladies once more took up their discussion, Nigel lost in his food; Diana begged the indulgence to take her leave. Always a courteous and kind friend, Philippa gestured her away. Diana rushed from the room and left quietly through a hidden passage she had discovered. By the time she exited the castle, she was 'monk' again.

When she arrived at the stables, Diana began to brush Horse for Andrew. As she did, her mind roiled with the news she'd heard while listening quietly to the conversation in the Queen's quarters. And she couldn't help but wonder if there were truths to the rumors.

Was the Duke of York a traitor? What was he waiting for before he struck? She had thought about it a lot since arriving, and knew that it could possibly be attributed directly to Andrew himself. Andrew had been put into de facto control over most of the King's troops. It had come about, in point of fact, at the behest of the Duke of York himself.

It was this that threw her into doubt about him being a traitor. And yet, wouldn't a traitor purposely try to draw attention off of himself by doing something such as that?

For there could be no doubt that Andrew ran a tight ship. Rain or shine, snow or no, the troops were practicing swords. They also did a lot of work that most of them grumbled about being menial and beneath them.

But they were a rugged crew now. The months of work and the hard labor had caused most of them to practically bristle with muscle. And the Duke of York had introduced a new sort of sword, about which Diana knew very little.

Andrew himself eschewed it, but those who had taken it up, he drilled mercilessly. York's own men were drilled in it, as well, and Diana sometimes wondered if Andrew also suspected York's true allegiances. He certainly drove the men hard, and made sure that anyone who had chosen to use it would be able to fight it as effectively as possible.

Diana eased up as Horse protested. She'd been pushing too hard on him in her thinking, so she slapped him affectionately and murmured soft words of encouragement to him. He snorted, blowing deeply, and settled down again.

Diana nearly jumped out of her robe when Andrew's voice came from behind her, "He does love your gentle touch, doesn't he?"

Having just come from the castle, where she could speak freely, Diana nearly blurted a response. Instead, she caught herself and nodded, patting him gently.

"I'm going to harness him up today. The troops' moral is low, so I borrowed a coach from the Duke of York for the day. I'm going to let them take their sweethearts for short rides in it." He grinned and patted Horse on the shoulder. Then he turned to monk and muttered in a low tone, "My papa always taught me that if you want to keep a man happy, keep his woman happy. It never failed him, and I doubt it will fail now."

So saying, he led Horse from the stall. Diana-the-monk stared after him. She'd never seen Horse wear a harness before, and was surprised to find that the beast stood quite willingly in the stays. It seemed a strange, almost embarrassing thing to use a warhorse for, but Horse didn't seem to mind.

As he was led out into the cold courtyard, children and women who gathered around him, patting his nose and rubbing his legs, greeted him. He snorted and blew, reaching down for more. If anything, rather than embarrassed, he seemed as gentle as a lamb and just as pleased with all the attention being heaped on him.

Far above the scene, the Duke of York watched out the window. And if what he saw made him seem tense, it was only the King who noticed.

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

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 02-14-2010 @ 09:57 AM).]

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