11921109 Let the Thorns Lay Hid
|Let the Thorns Lay Hid|
The warm orange glow of the afternoon sun lights the Solar of the Royal Palace. There is a certain tranquility in the air, which was mostly absent during the days that have followed the eventful tourney, when this room was filled with agitated chatter of ladies discussing the impressive unhorsings and the grievous wounds some of the contestants had sustained. But not now. Deserted the Solar appears to be, with most people of sense venturing outside - well, almost deserted.
In a corner sits a young lady-in-waiting, her eyes intently staring at a piece of embroidery she is busy with at the moment Brown hair so dark it looks almost black has been tied into a braid and hangs down Ophelia's back. She stares at the unfinished work in her hands and hasn't moved for the past five minutes, as her thoughts obviously are engaged elsewhere at the moment. In a chair beside her sits her nurse, looking quite at ease as she has obviously fallen asleep, a low and periodical snoring being the only sound that disturbs the peace here for now.
"Agnes, where for heaven's sake do you have my...", the door swings open. A young lady is entering the room with a few purposeful steps, which stop all to soon, as her searching look doesn't seem to meet what she is hoping for. Her easygoing posture changes immediatly to a well chosen one: the ankle of her elbows next to her hips, the serene movement of the dipped curtsy to greet the others sitting around, the attempt of a delicate bow of her head, everything depictures the fundamental issue of so many young maidens quite distinctly "Do I look comely enough?" However, blue shadows under the girl's big, dark, moveable eyes may speak of a different, more severe undertone in her case, asking persistantly: "Do I seem 'Countess' enough?
"A good afternoon. My apologies, I was thinking my sister is still here.", she greets.
An old woman dressed in linnen follows her into the room. "No my lady, your sister has just left to the gardens.", she comments as she sits down on a chair on some nondescript corner.
In the wake of the tournament, gossip about the health of the participants, as well as the ultimate outcome, has abounded. Speculation runs rampant, fueled by a few well-placed statements from court physicians, as well as the perhaps less informed judgements of maids sent to clean the rooms of the victims. Such an ill-fated end certainly heralds something, though precisely what is anybody's guess. And anybody certainly is guessing.
A minute or so after the Countess enters, a rather larger party follows, this one containing the Queen, a few of her ladies, and a knight with the telltale surcoat marking him of the Temple. The ladies are chattering away, while the Queen herself merely glides along in the middle of it, above the fray both figuratively and literally, her ladies having mostly been specifically chosen to set off her height to best advantage. Her gaze sweeps over the room, falling first on the Countess, then on Ophelia. "Good afternoon, ladies," she says, inclining her head to each in turn, "I hope you both are well."
The regular pulse of Maryse's snoring seems slightly out of rhythm for a moment, with all of the flutter the Countess' arrival brings. The greater entourage storming the Solar have her move a little restlessly in her seat before her eyes open, one after the other. Realizing the commotion and the regal presence, the nurse is quick to rise to her feet, offering the best curtsey she is capable of, despite her drowsy state.
Ophelia however, seems to be delighted. The thoughtful expression falls off her at once as she notices the Countess, so similar in age to her, and putting the needlework to the side she rises for a deep and respectful curtsey herself. "My lady the Countess. I haven't seen your sister. But wouldn't you like to join me for a bit? It is so... quiet here at the moment." she inquires casting Beatrice a shy glance.
The quiet is gone, when the Queen of Jerusalem enters, with her entourage. "My queen," Ophelia stays where she is, still lowered in her curtsey and inclines her head respectfully. "Well enough, I suppose." And with that said she straightens again, offering Isabella an amiable smile.
The Templar amid the queen's suite is not an unusual sight; the manpower of the Military Orders means they are often dispatched to supplement the ranks of the palace bachelors and esquires, and knights of the royal household; and the Temple is still more in favour at court at present than the Hospital, for all their Order's strange aloofness after the departure of King Richard.
This particular representative is quite obviously present out of duty, not pleasure. His movements are quick but not exactly elegant - he doesn't knock anything over, but it seems clear he would be happy to if it came to it. He's dark in hair and aspect and mood, tougher than he is tall.
At least the warrior monk appears to adhere strictly to one of his Order's central principles, as none of the ladies - not even the Queen herself - appears to arouse so much regard from him as the harp to one side of the solar; on which he bestows a slow, appraising examination.
A flicker of interest, maybe even hope conquers Beatrice's mien, as she meets the eyes of young Ophelia, who adressed her so ...appropriatly. "Well of course. Now that I'm here I could certainly stay for a bit.You are young Ophelia d'Avesnes, do I remember rightly? How nice to be finally able to exchange a few words with you.", she answers, turning around to her chaperone. "Would you fetch me my needlework, please?"
As the Queen enters she dips another curtsy, delicate and well performed. "My Queen. Oh, I can't complain lately. The winds bring curious news..." The last words are spoken with a honeyed pinch of mischief.
Noticing a Templar has entered the room she subtly tries to hide the pearl bracelet around her left wrist, as she sits down.
"Indeed?" Isabella chooses a seat rather near Ophelia, settling in and clasping her hands demurely in her lap, "I have not heard any...though the words of the winds have been rather overpowered by the smell coming from the direction of St. George's palace."
"I was sorry for your champion's outcome, Lady Ophelia," Isabella continues, shaking her head sadly as she turns to regard Ophelia with an almost sisterly air, "though I am told he may yet recover somewhat." Of course, not fully, and some warriors might wish for a clean death, rather than what Sir Chlodric was left with. Isabella is of a more practical mind, however. "My husband can be rather...impetuous." A pause, then: "Sir Chlodric was said to have asked for you, when they brought him to his chambers, though I would not subject you to that, considering his state."
She catches Mordake's movements toward the harp, and smiles, nodding toward the knight, "Sir Mordake, would you give us a song? Nothing too melancholy, though. I believe we've had enough of that."
Indeed, the talk of the Zachary's day lists, and of the Count of Champagne's prowess, seem to have subliminally driven the Templar nearer to the instrument already. The keenest observers with the longest memories - such as the Queen herself - might recall he was among the Count's conquered morning adversaries. And a certain amount of discreditable talk suggests that his fall was the making of two knights, not one.
Howsoever it may be, it's not surprising it's a subject he's quick to shun, and two more of his ungainly, hasty strides has him at the harp, nodding and grunting something that sounds suspiciously like 'sire'. Apparently he's a knight more used to masculine monarchs. He does look faintly surprised that the Queen calls to mind his name.
Still, he hesitates, probably over repertoire rather than technique. His voice when he speaks at greater length gives the game away - hardly the accent of a nimble, witty, jongleur, but granitic and rough and, yes, melancholy as a cliff face falling into a cold wave. "Wud yer leddyships prefer love foreshent or fortune o' war squandered...ach, nay...some trifle in the Langue D'Oc, it must be? Sunlight, and such things...?" He apparently finds even contemplating a cheerful melody quite challenging.
"You do, my lady the countess. And... the pleasure is all mine." Ophelia replies in Beatrice's direction with a shy and reticent smile. But then the great honour that Isabella bestows upon her make the young lady-in-waiting almost forget that she left something on that seat beside her. She quickly grabs that piece of needlework just in time before it can cause the Queen any discomfort. A nervous flicker passes her features momentarily, but exhaling in relief she resumes her seat as soon as Isabella is comfortably settled. When the topic of Ser Chlodric is addresses however a cloud seems to fall over Ophelia's innocent features. "That poor knight. My favour didn't bring him any luck, I fear..." The Templar's mutterings are hard for her to grasp, apparently, and so she leaves the choice of song to the queen.
For the tiniest moment a gleeful smirk sneaks about Beatrice's lips, as an response to Isabella's last comment, just before she manages a doe-eyed blink and the question with mimicked innocense "St. George's Place? What seems to be the problem there?"
Soon enough the other subject catches all of her attention, for the indications to witness a story about romance and tragedy are quite magnetic and the rising empathy quite sincere. "Oh, I heard about it. The poor man... no luck? Well maybe it's the last thing that keeps him in that state... the poor man."
Curiously blinking at the Templars muttering, she decides to smile quietly and nod preemptively, in case he made some remarks that should have been nodded at.
She doesn't quite laugh, but the Queen does seem to take some little pleasure in Mordake's consternation. "Yes," she says, "sunlight, flowers, perhaps some young lovers. Surely you know the type of thing I mean." There's a glint of mischief in her eye as she says this; a Queen, yes, thrice wedded, but still young enough to enjoy that sort of teasing, it seems.
"Perhaps you did bring him luck," and she turns back to the ladies, leaving Mordake to figure out appropriate repertoire, "after all, he does live, as our lovely Countess so aptly points out. He may yet be saved, and made all the better for your favor."
Having thus hopefully assuaged some of the young woman's despondency, she shifts the conversation toward a different, more pleasant topic of gossip. "Well, I have not heard, precisely," she says delicately, though her next words mark this first remark as more than a little untrue, "but reports have been made of no small amount of foul remains being delivered to Lord Geoffrey de Lusignan. What could he want with them, I wonder? Of course, my lady mother might guess that the purpose would be to hide altogether more unpleasant odors."
Another grunt - but this time it's accompanied with the twang of the instrument absently caressed in the weathered, practised, and anticipatory hands of the Templar. "Oh, I ken it well," Sir Mordake, however, apparently unsoftened, almost growls back. "'Ve looked upon the south, m'laddies. More'n rays of sun burns flesh there, more'n flowers grow unhindered in the meddies."
It seems the knight possesses a certain unconscious fluency, for all his lack of couthness. "But let the thorns lay hid and the petals be splayed, aye. I shall play ye the Dangerous Rondelay. 'Tis fairer than its name." And the calloused fingers start to string in earnest...
As yet the Templar does not raise that apparently ragged voice to join his harp's soft, insinuating melody, which yet, alone, seems to invite each limb to stir in dance, and perhaps more. All rather incongruous coming from a 'monk'...
The nurse of the young Avesnes lady, usually a cheerful woman, has finally been able to shake off some of the weariness. At least her eyes looked a little alarmed when Isabella had mentioned that the Flemish knight had asked for Ophelia, and her gaze darted to her young and innocent lady at once to perceive her reaction. When Isabella seems to persist on the subject, Maryse puts an assuring hand on Ophelia's shoulder, and leaning forward she mutters something into her lady's ear at a low volume. Ophelia smiles, perhaps in response to the Queen's assuring words, but the look of concern remains. "I... should pay him a visit. Perhaps. When he is well enough to receive me..." she muses, putting her hand onto that of her nurse on her shoulder. The glance she casts her holds a slight tension though. "Do not worry, Maryse. You will accompany me. I hope?"
When the talk turns to the Lusignan, Ophelia bites her lip. "Little do I know about the Count of Ascalon. At the tourney he appeared quite courteous, didn't he?" she inquires cautiously in Isabella's direction. The words of the Templar makes her head turn, and with some difficulty she manages to somehow understand some of his speech. And, folding her hands before her over her unfinished piece of embroidery, she leans back in her chair and listens in astonishment to the rough knight's beautiful playing of the harp.
"Foul remains? He may accompany them in their rotting, then." Beatrice states matter-of-factly, before the glare of ire that particular name wakes in her is soothened by the Templars melody.
By now another chaperone has dutifully reentered the room with another piece of needlework -only to land idly in the countess' lap for now.
"I think that would be most kind of you," Isabella replies, "and I shall accompany you, if you wish," no doubt in an effort to placate the nurse, for surely the old woman would not object to a visit such as that.
At Beatrice's rather candid remark, Isabella raises an eyebrow, canting her head to one side as she regards the Countess speculatively. However, she merely says, "Perhaps he shall; or at least, his estate shall, since he would be hard-pressed to get rid of all the refuse quickly enough to save himself from all its effects."
The strains of the music permeate their conversation, unobtrusive yet unable to be ignored, the perfect accompaniment to a bright Jerusalem afternoon. Isabella hums a little, absently, nodding along with the circuitous rhythm as it ebbs and flows.
"Thorns and petals," Sir Mordake murmurs, almost certainly thinking aloud, and unaware of being overheard - before commencing the song accompanying the Rondelay, in the Occitan tongue and a deep voice - with none of the far northern accent of his speech.
De dezir mos cor no fina
Vas selha ren qu'ieu pus am;
E cre que volers m'enguana
Si cobezeza la'm tol;
Que pus es ponhens qu'espina
La dolor que ab joi sana;
Don ja non vuelh qu'om m'en planha.
Almost startled by the Queen's last look Beatrice only now seems to notice the meaning of her words - or rather their risky positioning. "I, well... that has been neither well-spoken, nor appropriate of me, my apologies, my Queen. I should watch my tongue." she admits with the offer of a crooked bow of her lip, almost crossing the border to a smile.
The Templar's verses furrow her brows though, as she listens closely. "Thorns, desire and pain. Yes, yes, that's where those sunny ditties end so often. Thanks for your lovely recital, Ser", she comments, suspiciously eyeing the singer to get a bit more of the song's meaning out of his face and demeanor.
A graceful wave of the hand dismisses the sweetly spoken apology. "No need to apologize, Countess," Isabella replies. "After all, any lady worth her salt has at least one man that she might wish such a fate on."
She starts to say something else, but just then, the words of the roundelay catch her attention, and the turns toward Mordake, brow furrowing in concentration. No doubt her mother would have something to say about that, but luckily she is otherwise engaged. Suddenly, she lets out a tinkling laugh, and claps her hands a few times, as though acknowledging a well-placed hit. She hadn't gotten all of it, but enough to catch the gist. "Well sung, Sir Mordake, and guaranteed to...raise our spirits."
"'Tis the Dangerous Rondelay, m'queen," the Scots Templar points out, as if that settles the matter. But when no obvious recognition ensues, he explains with a tone that would be impatient, were it not carefully respectful, "Dangerous, for that it was composed first for the Lady Dangereuse, mistress of the heart of yon Duke of Aquitaine. Deid, long since." It seems he feels the need to drag in mortality every now and then. "As touches words, Jaufre Rudel endited them i' the service of yon Countess o' Tripoli." Who happened to be this Queen's great-aunt, the infamous Hodierna, though there's no reason the Templar would know that...and the Queen herself might hardly remember the precise relationship...