11921117 Of Subtle Reminders
|Of Subtle Reminders|
Grey clouds, heavy with rain almost touch the very ground of the city of Acre at this afternoon. The air is damp, nothing seems to cast a shadow, the noises are muffled - even the innocent twitter of Countess Beatrice's humming birds in their coppery cages seem to sink down all to early today. Standing at the window she looks somewhat worried down to the gardens, then expectantly back to the door. Absently she tugs the seem of her silken gown a bit down on her wrists, the seem which is already subtly lengthened by embroidered ribbons. Another look at the window, another look at the door. A little sigh to disperse the twittering silence and she walks a few steps closer to the door, maybe to catch the sound of steps.
A hesitant, almost timid knock on the door disrupts the peace and quiet before a young noble maiden enters, dressed in the glowing red and orange that accentuates her pale complexion most adequately, closely followed by her chaperone, Maryse, in a garb of more unobtrusive colour.
Grey eyes dart across the room, seeming slightly restless, lingering for a moment on those bird cages before they finally glimpse Beatrice. "My lady the Countess of Petra." Ophelia greets with a warm smile, lowering herself into a curtsey. "I am most grateful for your invitation. What good fortune that I was not engaged elsewhere, to prevent me from accepting it." There is a little flicker in her eyes that might hint that she has indeed not been that busy lately, and a distraction as this would be most welcome.
The little knock makes the elder Courtenay daughter step back an inch, for nobody should expect a heiress, a countess, a girl of her position to await a visitor mindlessly standing about the middle of the room. Quickly she grabs a little silvery scoop full of grains to feed them her busily to her birds, while answering the knock "Come in." Turning around with as much dignity as her lanky youth would grant her, she adds in a cheery voice: "Oh, young Ophelia! I'm glad you found the time to visit. I was not sure, for I sent for you quite... spontaneously, didn't I. Here, have a seat." Pointing generously at the four cushioned seats, she quickly bites her lips, as she realizes three out of four are currently littered with scrolls of maps, a half-done needlework and a woolen cloak. "Oh, uhm... my apologies. My servants, nowadays... Eli? Where are you?", she calls out waiting in vain for an answer. "Come over then, let your company stretch her older legs on the seat and enjoy the view over here with me.", she quickly suggests, stepping back at the window. "A minute ago you could see my sweet little sister down there in company of a few of her ladyfriends. I hope you are well?"
"I have heard you are even younger than I, my lady the Countess?" Ophelia replies with a respectful tone of her voice - a tone that indeed feels a bit odd, given that she is addressing a girl of almost her own age here. A nod of assent is given to Beatrice's proposition, and Maryse, despite a little frown at the way her 'old legs' are mentioned, eases herself into the only free seat available, while the young Avesnes lady moves to join the Courtenay by the window.
"Aw, what a pity indeed," Ophelia sighs, as she casts a glance about the palace gardens, now heavily drenched by a downpour, but fails to spot Beatrice's younger sister. "I would really love to make her acquaintance. But... She is well advised not to linger outside. Or she will be indeed soaked by the rain." A shy smile appears on her face as Ophelia turns her gaze towards Beatrice. "She must be on her way here, I suppose?"
"Well, what is age after all? Is it counted by passing moons or by the pounds of you heart? By sardonic smiles and bitter tears?", Beatrice answers with a little smirk, especially as her gaze brushes the chaperone again. "Ah, well, you see, the weather brings a bit of gloom into my thoughts. Maybe my sister was right, when she has claimed that such a mood might be dangerous for a young woman and that one should seek prayer and company. My wise little lamb. She went out to gather both now and thus, no, I fear she won't join us for an hour or two. Maybe even longer, if the rains start early, yes. I'm sure you'll meet her soon enough. But tell me dear, is it true, that you are extraordinarily talented with needlework?"
A shadow seems to pass for the fraction of a second over Ophelia's features. "You are right, my lady." she replies and her gaze drops to study her hands for a moment before she continues, carefully picking her words. "It is not a light task, to be far from home and without family. When some of those that have been close to you have met their end in these lands. I share that fate, my lady." Little as Beatrice's opinion that her sister won't join them in the next hours helps to cheer her up, the mention of *Needlework* is enough to raise Ophelia's spirits. "I would not call myself 'extraordinarily talented',... but if I can be of help, I will gladly do what I can, my lady." Again, that shy smile appears, although the display of modesty is not completely convincing.
"To be far from home, indeed..." Beatrice mutters thoughtfully. "Do you see these tapestries? My father gave them as a gift to my mother, when he heard she was pregnant for the first time. Look at the fine stitches!", she says, gently raising a skull covered corner of the second of three tapestries, the one in the middle, depicturing the dreadful present of the city of Edessa, longing for it's true rulers, the Courtenays. "I... I was thinking of adding something, but I'm not sure whether I'm able to copy the stitches to make it look exalted enough. What do you think?"
Ophelia takes a step towards the tapestry in question to have a closer look. After examining the work intently for a few moments she nods. "This is of high quality, indeed. But I am sure, it can be done, with a thread of fine silk. What exactly did you have in mind of adding there, my lady the Countess?"
"Another skull." the young countess says drily. "Oh, wait, maybe two. Or three. Yes, three skulls, right here. They will look into the sky, pale as milk and... well, that's all about it. Could you help me with it? I... there is not much I can offer, except for a few hours of pleasant company, I fear. For... yes, as it seems we have something in common, and have other things to share. Have you ever seen snow? The minstrels call it a heavy, white cloak and the world sleeping, when it's covering the lands. Sometimes I think our lands could use some rest and we should all sleep for a month or two. Maybe a year, a decade until we awake anew with all our strength."
"A... skull?" Ophelia's eyes widen as she repeats the Courtenay lady's request. "And not one, but three?" Her gaze lingers for a moment on Beatrice, as she tries to decide whether the suggestion was made in earnest - or was nothing more than a morbid jest. "I am sure, you mean to honour your lost ones with these...?" she muses after a while. Her gaze jumps towards Maryse then, she surely must have glimpsed the light shake of her nurse's head. However, when the young Avesnes lady turns her attention back onto the Courtenay, she lowers her hand onto that of Beatrice and with a smile she nods. "However gruesome the motive might be, my lady. I'll accept the challenge, and the kind offer of company - a diversion for many afternoons to come. And share tales of snow and stories of home... Yes, I do remember the snow, my lady, as it is the far North of France that I hail from. You must have heard it I am sure, from my accent?" Her hand moves upwards, tightening around that pendant in the shape of a cross that hangs from her necklace, and she adds with a strange sparkle in her eyes: "Who would want to sleep now, my lady, when peace has returned for the years to come? Should we not rejoice in that and celebrate?"
"Peace, ah, sweet peace. A peace of broken words, scarred, meagre men on the streets, and a peace of shattered hopes. Splendid, let us rejoice in that and celebrate!" Beatrice comments with an unusual bitterness in her young voice. "No, dear, I don't want to have them there as a honour to my fallen ones, I want to see them as a little reminder for the things that have to be done to protect the living. A symbolic reminder, no worries, no worries at all. Who am I but a foolish young girl, a soft-feathered ward far from claws and swords and danger." A husky little laughter emerges her throat. A fiery spark conquers her big, dark eyes, only to fall immediatly to ashes again as she proceeds. "But who do I want asleep, you ask? Me, dear, me. For you have to be watchful over the ones you love. Every minute of the day."
Quickly she waves the heavy words away with a soft movement of her hand and a weary smile. "But as you see, the day has been quite gloomy. Maybe we should go down to the banquet hall to have some dinner to distract our spirits? And be sure I'm more than thankful, for your will to help me, mylady."
Ophelia's eyes grow even wider as she hears Beatrice's explanation, and biting her lip she seeks counsel with another glance towards Maryse. The nurse tilts her head a little and returns the gaze with a shrug. Any doubts concerning the task might be too late now, that shrug seems to suggest. And so the Avesnes lady inhales and offers Beatrice the most pleasant smile she can muster. "Then sleep you shall, my lady. After a good meal downstairs. You'll see a little company and talk might help your spirits." And this coming from her? The reticent niece of the great hero Jacques d'Avesnes who gave his life at the Battle of Arsuf? Maybe a melancholy mind was all that was needed to create that same spark of heroisim in Ophelia's frail little soul? However, obviously in the best of spirits, the Avesnes lady leaves the Courtenay quarters with a possible new friend. Closely followed by her nurse and chaperone who obviously has her doubts, as that shake of her head might suggest.