11921102 Mermerriment

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Date: the 2nd of November, 1192
Location: The palace gardens
Participants: Maria Comnena, Henry of Champagne, Scarlet the Dwarf
Related Logs: Not really
Content Warnings
No dwarves were drowned in the making of this roleplay log
Room Description
The immediate impression of lush greenery is a cunningly maintained illusion, and most of what passes beneath the feet of visitors to these gardens, for all the fruit and flower-burdened arbours above their heads, is sand, stone, pebbles, marble, and - above all - water. The fountain of the yard was only a suggestion of the insistent, musical rippling that fills the ear in the garden itself. Little rivulets and cataracts flow all about with a straightness that reveals the order and effort that ordained their position. While in fact carefully structured, the gardens seem natural and puzzling from within, and it is easy to lose oneself - or other people, to seize a private conversation. Trellises create divisions into many ever more secluded domains. Statues are rare - as one would expect from the Emir's leavings - but there is a shrine to the Virgin and Child above one silvery pool.

The silvery surface of the water glistens in the pale sun of noon. Many drops sprinkling down breach the fragile mirror, distort the picture drawn by light itself. A picture of a huge-headed red blotch it is today, with the mimicked figure joining it's real pattern at the ankles.

With a sardonic grin, Scarlet the dwarf has put his hairy feet into the cool water, throwing satisfied gazes at the surface and at not so satisfied ones at the people straying by. Flowers of dried saliva mix with stains of red wine in the corners of his mouth and he is busily raising his half emptied cup at everyone passing by. Most of them avoid the imp with an indecisive grin though.

The idyll of the imp cannot long be perpetuated, alas, for soon he feels a sharp, rather less than comfortable tug at the collar of his fine and courtly jerkin. Whatever the source, it is firmly behind his neck, and quite impossible, at least at first, to crane towards and catch...

For a few seconds, only, the dwarf may have the disconcerting feeling that he is being elevated aloft... "What a curious fish to catch," comes a well known and jovial corrale of a voice. But then that confident cry turns to a curse, there's a sound of boots and gloves sliding...a taut cord snaps, and some long, springy object plunges ahead of Scarlet and into the water with a chaotic vertical spray.

"You have cost me my best rod," the Count of Champagne comments in not-quite-so-mock annoyance. "I've heard that one can spare the rod and spoil the child...but never the other way round."

A dark, guttural sound jumps into the clear air along with the quick, lethargic rise of the imp's body. Flopping back at the edge of the fountain, Scarlet struggles to keep his cup straight, only missing a few drops of his precious fluid diffusing into pale red clouds in the silver.

The next splash lengthens his well protected beverage though and is commented with furrowed brows.

Laboriously the dwarf climbs to his his offering nevertheless a deep bow. "Ah, tall master!" Then, with a rather dry smile he throws a glimpse back at the sinking batton. "That has been your best rod? I'm sure the Queen will pity the loss then. I'm sure someone will catch that fish, though. No worries."

For a moment the scene is deceptive - Count Henry appears to be alone...and somewhat angered. But just as a flushed and flustered esquire, one of the younger of the courtly bachelors at about six or seven and ten, stumbles about a strategic and elaborate piece of hedgecraft and tries to straighten up into elegance, the count's expression loosens. "You think to exercise your own hook in that quarter? Very well. Walter!" he calls to the reddening boy genially, "Sir Scarlet here wants a private audience with the queen. Bathe him in readiness."

And Henry takes a leisurely step back to lean against a palm where he left a lute, while the esquire does his bidding and moves to give the dwarf a ducking.

For an instance it looks as if the dwarf is nimbly diving away under the arms of the lanky lad but only half of a heartbeat later the dwarf suddenly changes his posture and welcomes him with open arms. Surprisingly strong arms, even, which force him into a unvoluntary embrace as Scarlet vigorously jumps back into the water.

In a mingle of limbs, a rain of water and boisterous snorts and spluttering the couple reaches the ground of the fountain. The dripping head of the squire emerges with a healthy curse, while the dwarf, now completely having turned into the distorted figure in the water paddles frantically under the suface. His hands get hold of the lad's attire and the attempts of the dwarf to climb up on his body only lead to another one and a vital little melee splorting heavy waves over the place surounding the round fountain-wall.

The antics in the pool may look unseemly, but they combine with the harmony of the count's lute striking up anew to sound rather pleasant, tinkling and well balanced...

Attracted perhaps by the music -- but, in truth, by the commotion -- a gaily-clad feminine coterie appears round a trellised corner, three ladies-in-waiting and two maids oscillating about the small proud figure of Maria Comnena, the Queen Dowager of Jerusalem. The maids carry baskets half-full of flowers, their mistress a small pair of silver shears: her own garden having failed her in some respect, she is unconcernedly plundering her daughter's.

The whole city knows her mood has not been clement these past several weeks; but her sense of humour is no more elevated than that of, well, any other royal personage, and when her eyes fall upon Scarlet and Walter in their bath she gives vent to earthy, genuine laughter.

Indeed she quite forgets to sneer at her son-in-law.

And the music slacks and ceases...no doubt in consequence of the look of unfeigned astonishment that has captured Henry's fresh-featured, open face. "My dear lady mother!" he exclaims, his ease against the palm trunk increasing, but now a little mannered, as if his leisure takes on a certain determined edge in Maria's presence. "Has our subtle champion yonder taught you the beauties of western wit, at long last?"

Scarlet's struggle comes to an end as he gains the upper hand in the uneven clinch by climbing the lad's back and getting hold of two thick wisps of his hair. "Now, out with you. Out!" the dwarf commands. The squire without much of a choice, decides not to ruin his dignitity furthermore and clambers up the walls.

Sliding down to solid ground again Scarlet wrings the hems of his doublet. "Her Grace is enjoying my new baptism. I'm honoured. And my tall master turned his loyal squire to a fair mermaid. What a talent!", he comments a bit sourly before he strolls over to Henry again, attempting to dy his face with one of his sleeves.

"Your new baptism...?" the Count interjects quizzically. "So you you weren't born a Turk after all, eh...!? Adenulf and Herluin had fifteen bezants riding on that one..." Apparently the religious query is interesting enough to Henry to make him quite insouciant about the misshapen little courtier's seizure of his garment. Perhaps the composition even amuses him; Scarlet has, as so often, taken care to ape his morning costume's colours, and the effect is now as if he is enwrapped in his own dress, monstrously swollen.

In moods of contentment or mirth, such as the present scene has brought her, the beautiful young Queen Maria rises up (she is never beyond call) to subsume the tight-eyed, sharp-tongued mother and grandmother of the House of Ibelin. If the face she wears today is an omen of Isabella's future, then the Count of Champagne may be certain he has made an enviable, if perhaps complicated, choice...

Bracelets chiming with the movement of her wrist, she drops her shears into the waiting hands of one of her ladies, and glides and glitters a few paces nearer to her son-in-law -- keeping, though, a prudent span of ground betwixt her elaborate green and golden robings and Scarlet the Dwarf's personal puddle. Yes, there, she's the Queen Dowager again, deeming you unseemly.

"Here I find you quite surrounded by mermaids," she muses in a mild yet distant tone, "as was I myself, in days long past. How comfortably do you sit, my lord of Champagne, in my dainty silver chair?"

The lute is back between pampas grasses and roots of palm at the ground, as Henry surveys his wife's mother with an ever more painstaking struggle to keep his casual air untarnished. She does indeed resemble her daughter, though Isabella has a smaller portion of the Empire's dignity, a hint of something else...that at times reminds Henry disturbingly of her not so distant cousin, his own Uncle Richard. But though this elder Queen may lack the blood of Melusine, whatever she has is quite enough to make him have to hide groggy confusion under levity.

"I'm not exactly the sitting kind anyway, mother," he remarks as quickly as he may into the unsettling pause, "save where saddles are concerned. And talking of that...do you think the obligation of girting me with her favour would be sufficient to lure your fair daughter from her bower before the commonweal's gaze once more? If so...about time we laid on a tourney, I think..."

"A Turk? By no means! I was born as a nobleman, a saint, an angelic appearance, if you want to believe the outcires of my father, when he first saw me crawling out of my beloved mother's lap. 'Good Lord!' he exclaimed 'Heavens!' my siblings sighed. Though I guess the priest might have been slightly wrong, when he called 'Mother of god!', when I was baptized the first time. A Turk! Far from it, your Stupendousness. Only the weight of my responsibility has lowered my shoulders to the ground before I decided a life in your attire would be more pleasant. Gladly responsibility tends to prefer to ride higher shoulders. I'll make sure to warn you before your chin is about to touch my forehead.", he monologues in the effervescence of his foreign accent, letting go of the now soaked cloth at Henry's sleeve.

At the return of mentioning mermaid's the needlepins of Scarlet's eyes flicker in delight. "Surely, your Grace, those have been of a gentler soul back than. Not as spluttering. By now you have seen the ones, who crawl out of the waters. The others probably have been swallowed by the beasts of the sea. " he explains, rattling his own, square, white teeth in emphasize.

"A tourney!" is bringing cheers into the dark pronounciation of the imp. "Oh, yes, yes, yes! I shall ride! I shall gain a favor as well, plenty of favors to be sure. You will be proud of me, I promise."

What breeze there is within these enclosed verdant spaces seems to bear the dwarf's eloquence in the opposite direction from Maria Comnena's shell-like ears; she no longer seems to know that he is among those present. Perhaps she just finds his boasts less endearing than his voluntary humiliations?

"I should hope I brought up my daughter to honour all a queen's *obligations*, be they howsoever to her taste," she answers the Count, taking care to employ his own term for the solicitude due a husband from his wife. "If it's a tourney you'll bid her grace, though, you had best be quick about it." Her black eyes pause in their skewering of her son-in-law, to flick up into the empty sky. "We shall all be mermaids soon."

"Not I, m'lady mother," insists the count, "I bear instead a Cretan maze 'pon my escutcheon, and that makes me, I suppose...a...how d'ye say it? Minotaur, that's it, a minotaur of sorts. A bull's head to go with this poor boy's fishy tail," Henry jibes, giving the sodden, sullen Walter a hearty tap on the back as he lopes back into his master's shade. "Stubborn and slippery both. We shall be the...chimaera...of the lists. On form, eh? Old Chretien from Troyes'd be pleased as punch!" he concludes happily, and his mood seems restored quite - his head perhaps cleared for the nonce of the Queen Dowager's alluring threat and menacing charm - as he leads the little court party backout of the gardens and within the palace, his lute receiving another idle strum.

And on the ground of the fountain, the rod lies motionlessly huddled together with the cup, which inevitably founds it's way down there. Scarlet comments the sight with a thoughtful little shrug. "A tourney, a tourney... Coins and swords!" he keeps proclaiming in a cheery voice, as he waddles drippingly after the little company back into the safe keep.

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