11921119 The Maiden and the Lion
|The Maiden and the Lion|
Somewhere in the vast grounds of the palace, in some remote wing, is a row of chambers for lesser visitors or, when necessary, people in need of care. In one such room, the lion of Flanders had been put after the recent tourney to recover from his grievous wounds. There's free food, plenty of drink and a nice view over the gardens, so Chlodric is not in a hurry to leave. This day finds him on the small balcony of his room, overlooking the garden. It seems there is a little congregation down there and the voice of a rather talented singer drifts up to the knight's ears, making him smile.
A timid knock on the door is followed by another, more insistent one when there is no immediate answer. The door is opened then, and a very young lady enters, the colourful orange and red of her dress contrasting with her pale face. She is followed by a woman in her fourties with friendly eyes. "Sir Chlodric?" Ophelia calls cautiously as she glimpses the empty bed, but then she has already spotted the knight outside on the balcony. "I... thought I should pay you a visit, to see how you recover." she adds shyly, lowering herself into a curtsey in greeting. "You seem well enough to be up, what good fortune indeed."
Torn out of his musical reverie, the knight blinks a few times until his eyes can focus on the young visitor. He stares at her wordlessly for a moment, then grins. "Aye, you're the lady with the favour. I'm sorry I let you down, Mylady." He sounds cheerful though and not too regretful. "Care to take a seat?", he asks, pointing at the second wooden chair on the balcony. "There's wine to be had as well."
The young maiden is not used to be stared at obviously. Unable to hold his gaze for long, her own drops to the ground and she folds her hands before her. His reply, however, makes those grey eyes rise again. "No, you didn't let me down, Sir! Noone would have been a match for Count Henry on that day, I am sure. There was something in his eyes, an anger..." she shudders. "To be honest, when you fell to the ground defeated, I feared for your life. You didn't look as if you ever were to get up again." The offered seat is accepted, a bit hesitantly perhaps, with Maryse assuming a place close by. "No wine, for me, thank you. Not this early in the day." The matter-of-factness of that statement doesn't quite fit with the innocent expression in her eyes, suggesting she is not yet used to a regular consumption of alcohol.
"I see, well..." Perhaps his visitor's age (or lack thereof) is only just dawning on Chlodric and he looks a bit sheepish. "Some juice perhaps? I can send for fresh pomegranate juice for you and your... companion, if you wish." He pauses for a moment to deal with the response either way, before sitting back in his chair to pat his chest, which seems still bandaged, since it looks rather padded under the tunic. "Man's dealing with some demons, that's for sure, Mylady.", he agrees and stares at her again, perhaps still waiting for an introduction.
"No, I'm fine, Sir," Ophelia insists, her jaw tightening slightly as she feels herself once more under too close an observation to be aggreeable to her. Until it dawns upon her that she had failed to introduce herself properly when handing Sir Chlodric her favour at the tourney. "Oh, forgive me, Sir Chlodric. I am Ophelia d'Avesnes, the niece of the late Sir Jacques, who fell at Arsuf." Her gaze clouds slightly as she mentions her uncle, although her back straightens in pride. "You fought there, too, I suppose? Then you would have been under his command."
"Yes, I knew your uncle, he was a good man.", Chlodric replies, trying to offer a comforting smile, which he doesn't do terribly well. He stares into his wine glass for a while, then shrugs. "It was a good battle, but what good did it do, Mylady? Look where we are now. You should go home, girl, this is no place for you."
Ophelia inclines her head to Chlodric's comforting words, rewarding his smile with one of her own. His question manages to puzzle her a bit. "What good did it do? As far as I know, it turned the fate in our favour? Resulting in the peace we are enjoying right now?" Shaking her head at the Fleming's suggestion with a vehemence that might come as a surpise given her usual demeanour, the Avesnes lady retorts stubbornly: "It has become my home, good Sir Chlodric. What you call 'my home' is where there is no longer a place for me!" Maryse shoots her a sharp glance then, and Ophelia, noticing she has perhaps revealed too much, forces herself to a calmer state, before she adds, in a quieter tone and with no visible objection from her nurse: "My parents are dead. My father died during the siege of Acre. How could I wrong him and his struggle by leaving the city he so valiantly gave his life for?"
"And what will you do when Saladin comes for Acre?", Chlodric asks bluntly, "Will you marry one of them and turn Turk? Or do you think that the Lionheart will come back for another attempt at Jerusalem?" While his tone is slightly sarcastic it does seem as if he's genuinely interested in her opinion, watching the young girl intently.
Ophelia chuckles at Chlodric's question, as it seems completely hypothetical to her. "He was beaten, and we have a lot a valiant knights that will prevent that from happening. And Richard Lionheart said he would return, didn't he? I am young of age and not that versed in politics... I am sure it will not come to Acre falling to the Saracens again..." Although the prospect of being married to a Turk makes her demeanour cloud a little at second thought. And of marriage, anyway. "Are you considering to leave this place? Are you afraid you can't defend it properly, with your... injuries?" Her gaze is upon the hidden bandages under his tunic, and concern appears in those grey eyes with a hint of green.
"Who knows what's waiting for the Lionheart in his kingdom?", Chlodric muses with a wry smirk, "He may have problems closer to home to deal with." Or get stuck in Austria for a long time. The big man scratches his beard, then chortles at her last question. "Lady, the only way I leave this place is in a shroud. I can't believe I'm still alive. There's nothing waiting for me at home. Guess we're in the same boat there.", he realizes and lifts his glass as if in a mocking toast.
With no glass of her own to join in the toast, Ophelia meets it with a nod instead. "You are probably right, Sir." she says, referring to his latter remark, while her gaze drifts off to the courtyard, from where the beautiful strumming of a lyre can be heard. After a moment of silence she feels the hand of her chaperone on her shoulder, and rising she addresses the Fleming knight once more. "I am not meaning to fatigue you with my presence, I felt bad that my favour didn't suffice to make you win that last titlt. And seeing you are in not as bad a shape as I feared,... I will leave you now. Sir Chlodric de Flobecq." Any longer visit might provoke rumours, the slightly timid expression on her face seems to suggests, as she dips a curtsey. "I would have been devastated, if my favour would have brought you death." she adds with a concerned smile.
Chlodric chuckles a little. "It's alright. The view of a fair maiden would never fatigue me, Mylady. It was kind of you to check in on an old fading warrior. May Christ be with you." He nods to her with a warm smile, then settles back into his chair to enjoy the music a while longer.
"You surely must be in His favour. Or maybe it takes more than a lance to kill a Fleming," Ophelia replies with a kind smile. "Anyway, I have seen you are well enough, and much relieved. Have a good day." And with her nurse Maryse in tow, the young Avesnes lady leaves the 'old fading warrior' to his contemplations.