11921029 Horses Will Be Quite Safe.
|Horses Will Be Quite Safe.|
The Count of Champagne and a few of his suite - mostly ruddy, blond squires from the west, their honest good looks but slightly impaired by the occasional missing ear, eye, or nose - have taken a noontide moment of leisure from court, to admire the splendid stud accumulated here at the royal stables by King Baldwin, King Guy, and the Saracens, ennobled by a few gifts inherited from Conrad of Montferrat...and left by his avuncular majesty of England.
Count Henry has, to vary the company a scintilla, brought along his peculiar Poulaine charge, the notional Countess of Edessa, Beatrice Courtenay, lady of Petra. He's inclined tothink she looks altogether too wan, and needs a little healthy exercise. For that, the count himself assuredly lacks naught. His skin is more bronze than pink, unlike most of his retainers; his brown hair flops about in delighted license, and his pale azure riding attire is immaculate - and expensive.
"This one's a Spaniard," he's reminding the squires, of a bay jennet, "just the thing for any falconry that requires a long span to the covert..."
Walking in grace and dignity isn't easy when the air is filled with straw, slothful stomps of hooves and idle whickering of both the noble beasts and chipped retainers, but at any rate, young Beatrice tries hard. A serene expression lies in a fragile mask on her face, brisky too volatile and always flickering when pieces of conversation could be overheard, for many words have brushed her own name lately. Often in an rather unflattering way. Her attire is made of silks in grey and pink, the hems as so often subtly lengthened by embroidered ribbons. Near the entrance her loyal guard searches for a place to lean idly against a wall, her old chaperone lingers nearby in the shadows.
"A Spaniard." Beatrice resounds, hoping to sound versed enough and nodding admiringly at the right time, for the only way she could estimate the maginifence of a horse is a vague esthetic appraisal. "My father told me those are the best, even if they aren't easy to tame.", she adds.
The Count looks surprised at the source of that rejoinder, the demure, but slightly brittle girl at the fringe of his train, but though his eyes reveal a startled amusement, his smile is kind. "Count Joscellin was...wasn't he the Marshal, at some point? Yes. Hrm. I'm sure he knew his studs well enough," Henry decides with casual good humour, "and if he liked Spaniard steeds, well, shows the man was more open-minded than plenty of his kin! Your Poul...er, I mean to say, some of your noble cousins, my lady of Edessa," might as well concede that as a treat, he's in a cheerful temper, "tend to prefer Arab stallions..." He turns to one of his squires with a wink aside. Some political notion implied...?
The light-hearted chatter finds it's answer in a flippant snort at first a vigilant spark glowing in Beatrice's big, dark eyes. Her response, though, is courteous enough and offered in a melodic chirp accompanied with the hint of a curtsy as she is adressed. "Oh, indeed, Sire. Arab stallions have their benefits without a doubt and are even easier to be handled if you know how to lead the reins, I was told. But many claim their blood is somewhat... fierce and savage. Some find this a spicy treat, I'd say. But who am I to judge, I never rode neither an Arab nor a Spaniard. " Fluttering her thick eyelashes she walks over to one of the more peaceble horses attempting to pat it's neck.
Count Henry flushes - though just faintly - and laughs heartily enough, turning about to clapone of his older followers, a bachelor knight of the comital household, about the shoulder; "Seems m'little lady here would succeed where the old Patriarch's so far failed, Adenulf, and have me crowned!"
"Surely not, my liege," the knight, sharper than he looks, replies, "your ward wishes you only well...and we know what happened to the last man to name himself king."
The laughter is uneasier now, but the saltier for it,and Henry's mirth is as ever loudest. "Poor Conrad certainly preferred Arab steeds. And see how poorly they served him! A lesson for us all." Henry strolls on to give the Countess's chosen object a cursory inspection. "My dear Countess Beatrice," he insists familiarly, "we can't give you over to so plodding a dray as that! A year or two at court and you'll ride whatever Spaniards take your fancy, I assure you! The less said of Arabs...the better..."
Politely joining the tasted jest with a lingering smirk of her own Beatrice lays a hand in the horse's mane, mimicking a great interest in the animal while hiding a slight blushing sneaking over her the honeyed teint on her cheeks. Her next response is neither as quick nor as fierce as the last remark it rather flies on the soft wings of bitterness. "Well. Many would claim without an mighty army to reconquer the cities we have left behind the Countess of Edessa cannot afford a noble mount."
Shaking her head she quickly glances at Count Henry's face to catch the reaction before quickly attempting to change the subject. Probably without success. "The feast the other day. Fine dishes, fine company..."
"A kingmaker *and* a conqueror of cities, my lady of Petra...?", Henry enquires now, his genially mocking intonation doing little to disguise his emphasis on that last, more realistic station of his ward's. But he presses the point no further, and accepts her cue to move on gamely enough. "Glad you thought so, my lady. Of course, our provender is still a little straitened after years of battle...let us hope each of our great feast days passes leaving you plumper and more satisfied." With what you have, is the unspoken but surely felt coda...and now the Count appears to consider the exchange over, summoning Adenulf (who hides a caustic little smile behind his hand) to follow him away over to one of the newest European chargers. Henry may not be piqued in appearance, but it will be impossible to draw him forth from his armour of gaiety again on this occasion.