Patreon LogoYour support makes Blue Moon possible (Patreon)

Squire's Secret (Benny and Gunner)

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
Friderick's questions to Serlena brought a hot redness to Jacqueline's ears. Oh she knew quite well what he mant. Carefully she glanced over her shoulder at the woman. Her response only made the flush deeper. Well she was playing her part and keeping her promise. Jacqueline chanced a small, grateful smile at Serlena before turning back to Friderick. Well at least he seemed to buy the fact that his squire had slept with Serlena. She managed a grin at Friderick from the compliment. All she could do was assume it was a compliment. Though why sleeping with someone like a bull would be a compliment she hadn't a clue. She imagine a bull would be aggressive and short. No matter. She was more than happy to walk out of the establishment though she would miss Serlena. Perhaps they would get to chat more. Jacqueline was sure she found the only woman in the world she actually wanted to spend time with. Besides her own mother of course...though her own mother could be quite odious at times.

Outside was strangely refreshing despite the general stink of a city. Jacqueline was happy to be away. Her head tilted and she looked up at Friderick with his quip. "Perhaps they feel a certain...comfort around me," she said with an amused grin. Like the ladies at the feast. It was irritating of course but in the eyes of the men she supposed it was a good sign. Though the following question brought a fierce flame to her face. "Uhhh..." was the immediate response and she had to tear her eyes away. Suddenly her heart was hammering fiercely, the thrumming too loud to hear the band of street musicians. "I...uh...both are...good..." She managed to spit out, rubbing the back of her neck. "Different, I guess, but good..."

He offered drink or food which served to change the topic but she shook her head some having had plenty of drink pushed on her from Serlena. A decently simple meal back at camp sounded far better. She was eager to tend to the horses and even check in on Fabien. His wounds had been healing remarkably well. God clearly had more plans for the arrogant bully. Perhaps his chance to repent for being such a brute. "I am feeling...very good actually," she admitted with a thoughtful smile. It was good to get some things off her chest to someone who understood. Though there was a lot more to get off her mind. The time wasn't right though, not then. She wondered how she would know when the right time was.

Friderick's demeanor seemed to have change a little. More at ease, less strict, no lectures. Perhaps a victory in the squire melee had given him confidence in his squire. Strange that it was a fake battle and not a real one that would inspire more confidence. Well she would take what she could get from him. Despite the offer he gave their steps were leading them back to camp anyways. She nodded some as he spoke of her near future duties. Of course she was glad to ensure his equipment was well maintained. It would be wonderful to share in victory with Friderick. She wondered how often both knight and squire won their respective bouts. Probably not entirely often. He was quick to turn back to her missing 'sister' however. Jacqueline cleared her throat and nodded. Serlena was right, the secret needed to be outed to Friderick sooner rather than later. She could fool most of the world with the lie but her parents would see the truth if they showed up on the threshold. A letter from her would suffice to assuage their fears.

"Jacqueline is...never far from my thoughts. It is that way with twins. I am confident she is hale and healthy," she said with a thoughtful nod. Not entirely a full lie. She was constantly, painfully aware of who she really was. Sometimes the deception was easy, other times not so much. The worst, strangely, was watching Friderick mewl before Aurainne. Couldn't think of that. She would tell him after the tournament was over. With some luck he would stay on her side, help her write the letter and get it delivered as Serlena had said. Though she considered neglecting the search for her brother. While she had an idea of where he was going she wasn't entirely certain of what monastery he was going to.

Finally back at camp Jacqueline threw herself into work. The horses needed feeding and water first and foremost. While tending them she checked on William's wounds. They were healing well enough. No infection, that was the most frightening bit. He would be back to himself in no time. Then she could check on Fabien, see to it his bandaging was changed and the wounds inspected. No infections there as well. Perfection. With those things tended to she sat down with Friderick's armor to buff and mend where needed. It wasn't fancy armor but she would see to it he gleamed on the field. Grommets were replaced, leather straps where need be. "What shall you do if you win?" She asked suddenly, eyes focused on polishing still despite the quickly fading light. "I mean...do you intend to...uh...dedicate your victory to anyone?" Of course she had to know the answer. Despite all their time in the city it was amazing no word of Aurainne's engagement had reached him. Even Serlena had known! "Perhaps to your people? Or your wondrous squire?" She couldn't help but give a cheeky grin at that. Though a quite part of her mind imagined what it would be like. Silly of course but it brought a little, excited flutter to her heart.
 

BennyQ

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Canada
For the present, Friderick was content with Jacque’s answers. The lad seemed well enough, perhaps the victory and reward distracting him from the perils of his sister’s disappearance. The Baron decided not to press the issue too much today. Not until after the tournament then and though it might feel selfish, he figured he could further assist with the distraction by allowing Jacque to do his chores before slumber, rather than encourage a night of relaxation. Friderick was starting to appreciate the boy’s eagerness to learn and dedicate himself to a task. There was good virtue to learn in hard work and it kept the hands and mind free of idleness, which was always fertilizing for sinful thoughts.

There wasn’t much to do that night beyond mental preparation. The jousting would require a sound focus, with no room for failure. A wrong blink, a chink in armour, even a slight blunting of the lance could all prove to be fatal in the design for victory. And they were only as good as the man who used them. He had Jacque to look after those tasks. What about himself? Friderick though had been in a hundred combats, real or competitive, but there was never any single way to prepare oneself. Some had rituals and routines, others chose prayer or mediation, some continued to exercise and push their bodies. Friderick preferred to stare at the stars and lose himself. Best to reflect on what he was fighting for, rather than what he could win through the fight.

And as if a night with a woman could turn a boy into a man, his own Squire almost guessed at the purpose of his thoughts with a sudden query. Friderick didn’t look to the boy, staring dead ahead, eyelids a little low and his eyes unseeing as his mind wandered. He was only drawn to reality when Jacque tried to guess at his victory dedication. To his people? That brought a dry “Hah” from his lips in retort. “My people are concerned with agriculture, pirate raids, and not having mosquitos chew apart their cocks when they try having a piss. A tourney dedication would mean squat to them. Believe me, I’ve tried.” Honestly, they only needed their Baron for protection and arbitration in legal matters, both of which occurred rarely. He was free to roam the lands in a way, having neither the resources or funds to further better his people. He had to earn it.

“My squire on the other hand is getting cocky himself. Maybe I should introduce him to those mosquitoes. Don’t you think you had enough? Or is being the biggest glory hound in the land your new ambition? You want to fuck every girl in every town, Jacque?” He asked the lad with a quirked eyebrow. “You’re alright though.” He consented after a moment of letting that question hang in the air, if the squire was dumb enough to fall for the rhetorical.

“I’m not quite sure.” He began again softly. “But if I do have a chance of winning…well, I hope you learned some flower picking techniques from your sister because you’re going to be giving a bouquet to a special Lady when I do. And I hope you know some good poetry or something flowery too to go with it.” Friderick informed her, envisioning it in his mind. The final competitor left in their saddle, crowned with a laurel wreath of victory, serenaded by cheering throngs of people as he made his request and desire known to Aurianne. Then he would take her upon his horse and ride off into the sunset. Like all the bloody poems went. It wouldn’t go anything like that in actuality but a fool could dream. He was not yet aware that the offer had already been made…

Friderick blew out air, slapping his knees as he stood. He reached to his next, the usual gesture, to remove his tunic as he did before sleep. His muscular and broad chest was visible under moonlight, each tendon dancing as he bunched up his garment in his hands and tossed it inside his tent upon his cot. “You finish up with that work there and get ready for bed. I don’t want my squire dropping asleep in the sand with my banner. That’s bad luck, if it touches the ground in any way. Then you’ll be the one sleeping closest to the latrines.” And sometimes knights would employ squires and other goons to make sure that happened. Friderick tried his best not to appear superstitious but any offset in mind or body could lead to failure. Every base needed to be covered. He needed his squire as sharp minded as he was.

“Watch me closely tomorrow. In one year or less, you’ll be the one pointing the lance.” Friderick said to Jacque, clapping his shoulder, before moving off to lay in his cot. Right beside where Jacque would have to lay. Inches from Friderick. With her secrets.
 

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
Jacqueline’s eyebrows rose with Friderick’s sudden accusations. For a moment she honestly couldn’t tell if he was teasing her back or not. She had only been jesting after all. Though after letting the quip hang a moment he relented and her amused grin was back. Despite the sheer volume of words he used to lecture he was strangely hard to read at times. It had been a stupid question anyways; she knew exactly who he intended to dedicate a victory to. Only confirmed as he went on, taunting with picking a bouquet and singing poems to the ‘special’ lady. Special was right. Touched in the head more like. Still he didn’t know that she had made her choice. Jacqueline turned away, back to the armor to continue polishing. Didn’t want to make odd faces to go along with the raging voice in her head. He was so blind and bullheaded. Aurainne didn’t care a lick for him. Hell she probably didn’t even care about the foppish Count beyond what he could buy her. “Well I hope she like bouquets of weeds….I don’t know a thing about flowers,” she lied quietly not even sure if Friderick was paying attention. A fistful of ragweed and thistle sounded appropriate.

The huff and knee slap made her turn to Friderick again, glancing up at he stood. Her head jerked back as he so casually hauled the tunic off his body. Jacqueline swallowed hard, mouth a little dry. Look away! In a slow, jerking motion she managed to tear her eyes away from the sight. Lord above what a view though. Serlena had been a terrible influence but she had made some good points. Soon, she would have to tell him soon. Though her stomach fell into knots wondering what his reaction could be. Oh she could dream that he would change his mind about Aurainne but she lived in reality. “Understood,” she said with a sharp nod at his demands that she get some sleep soon. Sleep or not she would hardly be able to drop asleep with all the excitement. Tournaments were still new and exciting! It would only be her second one after all. Still he had a point. The armor was fixed, the horses tended to, no reason to keep staying up if present company was getting to bed. Of course that would mean…she glanced over as he crawled into the tent, a space beside him for her to sleep. Lord above.

With nothing else to delay the inevitable she covered Friderick’s armor and stood to get to bed. As always she left her tunic on but removed her boots at least. Heavens but she could use a good bath and fresh linens. Difficult to accomplish when traveling though. She missed that aspect of being home. Not much else though. Jacqueline hugged her cloak close, curling in on herself to sleep, keeping her back to Friderick. Sleep was disastrously difficult to come for her. No matter how hard she tried to ignore it she remained painfully aware of Friderick’s presence. Even burying her head into her cloak didn’t seem to help. Somehow it couldn’t even stop the occasional passing scent of him. A masculine musk of leather, sweat, metal, and forest. Go to sleep. She had to go to sleep. Jacqueline was silently cursing Serlena for allowing those thoughts she had worked so hard to repress surge.

Dawn encroached and Jacqueline had been fitfully sleeping, on and off, for most of the night. She groaned as the sun broke across the horizon, shining a warm light on their camp. Her muscles were still a bit sore and tired from the melee and her head was absolutely pounding from lack of sleep. She yawned and stretched like a sleepy cat before slowly dragging herself out of bed. First she crept away to at least change her shirt and britches, splash her face and take care of other basic ministrations. Next came the horses. William got his food and water with a light brushing but he wasn’t the one who needed to be primped. Wingfoot got all the attention that day. She brushed him until his coat glimmered in the early morning light, his hooves picked completely clean, mane and tail combed. He was utterly resplendent for the joust that day.

Once done with that chore she got a simple breakfast ready for them. Enough for strength but not too much to make one overly full. After wards she helped Friderick get dressed and armed, ensuring every buckle and grommet was perfectly in place. Poor knight he might be but she would ensure he looked every bit the part of dashing knight. Even if that meant all her efforts would aid in his miserable attempts to woo the lady featherhead. She cringed at the thought. By the end of day, victory of defeat, he would learn that rumored truth. She wondered how he would handle such a blow. No sense in worrying about it, she would be there for him regardless. As his squire, nothing more. The time wasn’t right.

Finally it was time. The town was in a frenzy. Folk milling about to see the parade of knights and squires as they trooped up to the tournament grounds. Children ran about, climbed on everything to get a better look. Despite the dark circles under her eyes and the weariness in her body Jacqueline perked up at the electrified atmosphere. It was intoxicating. The shouts and cheers, flowers tossed for luck. Theses were the common folk too! The nobility and gentry would likely already be seated in the stands on their plush pillows. Jacqueline gripped Friderick’s banner tightly. Couldn’t let it fall. Jacqueline parted from Friderick’s side to stand with the other squires as the knights rode in, their names and houses called out as they passed the dais. Jacqueline stared intently at the group on the dais. Duke Tancred sat with his attendance, his son and wife, and high ranking visiting nobility. Of course there was Aurainne, delightfully at the edge of the dais as if she were an afterthought but so too was her Count. They didn’t appear to be particularly affectionate at the moment. Jacqueline quietly prayed Friderick wouldn’t end up making a fool of himself for her.
 

BennyQ

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Canada
Today was the day.

The trumpets blared and the drums thundered in the ground, boom-doom, doom-boom, summoning all to the contest of strength, wit, and instincts. Ladies in their bright and flowing garments gathered upon the four sides, seated on wooden bleachers, while knights and retainers in equally colourful armour congregated and ordered themselves to be called for their match. The rules were simple, a tournament of rounds and single elimination, the victory going to the last man left in their saddle. Sixty-four participants were selected. It would be whittled down to sixteen, then to four, and finally the final duo. A prize of one thousand gold florins and a victory medallion was the prize, not to mention the promised eternal fame for such an exploit.

Friderick the Baron of Alnerwick barely registered the events and routine of the morning. This was his day, his focus, and he could not think of others lest he lose his own sharpness of mind. He ate his breakfast heartily enough and armoured himself with Jacque’s help. Wingfoot received his diligent care and upkeep, ready to prance and step proudly as he bore his master to victory and repute. Friderick practiced with his lance as much as he could, on foot, thrusting and swinging as if in a dance, testing his muscles and awakening them to the deeds ahead. Finally, mounted and geared, the knight and his squire headed into town to join the others.

Jacque’s job was simple. Hold the banner of Alnerwick by Friderick’s side when he was afoot but stand back and clear when he was mounted, ready only to deliver the next lance if he broke his previous or to hand him water. They began with introductions, each knight called out one by one, with brief overview of their background and accomplishments, if they had any. Friderick was pleased to note they remembered his previous two victories, though he was not among the top three who held the most tourney wins. He was among the most impoverished of knights, as others had polished steel, or gold inlaid into their armour, or shields painted with the most vivid murals. Even if unhorsed but one opponent and walked away with their steed, he would come out richer than before. If he lost, he would leave horseless, broken, and poor.

His only option was forward.

Not a word was spoken to Jacque or any other. His eyes sought out Aurianne, with the Count as ever at her elbow. He knew not that their knot was tied. Friderick grinned internally to himself though, a little excited in a malicious way to see the look of the Count’s face when he brought a victory dedication to the Lady. They belonged together, he and her. They had grown up similarly, not far from one another. He thought he would understand her best. In truth, he knew her not at all.

It was the fifth match. “Ser Friderick, the Baron of Alnerwick.” The herald exclaimed, a small flag pointed to one side, before with a theatrical gesture the herald flipped it to the opposing side. “Bertlinus, Knight of Andorica.”

Friderick was mounted, his shield strapped to his side. He didn’t even look down when he thrust his other arm out, waiting for his first lance. The two knights charged each other upon their powerful mounts to the cries and adoration of the crowd, while trumpets serenaded their initial momentum. They came together, collided in an explosion of splinters, and Friderick rode on, while Bertlinus dropped to the sands, holding his brow as his head shook explosively from the blow. Friderick rode back and casually tossed the lance back to Jacque. He advanced to the next stage. Great, he would be in the next round of sixteen. If all went well and smooth, he would be jousting again in the evening against someone more competent.

There was now a four and a half hour wait until his next match, as twenty more qualifier rounds had to follow. Friderick watched each and every one though, noting who was good, who’s technique was proper, and who was getting by on sheer luck. Some men were injured in the clash. One man was said to have died of his wounds much later. The last of his water dripped from his skin. “Squire, refill.” He said as usual without taking his eyes off the spectacle. “Not from the well. Go to the river. It’s colder there.” He instructed, ushering Jacque off. There was plenty of time in any case before his next round. It shouldn’t take the boy more than fifteen or so.

But they were waiting for him.

Four lads, not squires or noble, but peasant lads. Dirty, mean looking, certainly rough. “There, that’s the one the Count said.” Their leader said to the other, when they saw Jacque walking far from the center of action. The town streets were uncharacteristically devoid of people in that moment. Take out the squire, steal the banner if you can, do anything to upset the man and make him lose. They were each paid a single gold coin, more than enough they had ever seen.

They laid their plans. Two walked out casually in front of Jacque, as if they didn’t even notice the boy. Should be used to that, no one gave a shit about squires. And these were commoner lads, whom weren’t even noticed by the rich and powerful. Two moved out behind Jacque, walking swiftly but quietly to catch up.

They didn’t step up as villains first. Street kids, they knew their game better. “Hey kid.” They said to Jacque when they neared, blocking his passage, forcing him to interact with them first. “That’s a nice blade. Castle forged I bet. I never held one before in my life. Can I see?” He asked with a polite tone, already reaching for it. They were all young boys, almost men, they should get along. “I’ll give it back. Just want to hold a sword, like my father did. He was a soldier.” The boy went on hopefully. “Come on kid, what’s the rush?” He pressured further. It would be unreasonable to try and draw a blade to ward them off. That’s the worst sort of behavior a noble could do to a lowborn, oppressing them with violence.
 

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
The air was thick with excitement. Shouts and cheers echoed through the grounds. Jacqueline was a bundle of thrilling nerves. She had all the faith in the world that Friderick would triumph. Of course his triumph could be his downfall. Despite her excitement for the day a little note of anxiety dawdled in the back of her mind. If he were to be victorious in the joust he would taste a bitter defeat. She should have told him. It was far too late to tell him now, even as they waited his tilt. The last thing he needed was to lose his focus, lose his drive. Jacqueline kept glancing over at Friderick as he stared down the other, watching the joust with all the centered attention of a hunting hound. No, she couldn't say anything. No need to ruin it. Still she worried and the worry was putting a damp cloud over what should be a thrilling learning experience.

Finally Friderick was called to tilt. His banner was stamped into the ground so she should help lash his shield up and grab a lance. She was quick as a bunny but careful not to spook Wingfoot. The moment he had his lance he was gone. Her stomach drew tight and her breath caught. It was her turn to be still as a hound, watching with narrowed vision. The world seemed to slow as the thundering knights drew nearer. A thunderous crash, wood splintered and flew in the sands. Friderick rode on down the list while Ser Bertlinus fell back and into the sands with a heavy crash. The world sped up and Jacqueline punched the air with a joyous whooping. Though her voice melded and was drowned by the roar of the entire crowd. Friderick wheeled around and rode back to the thunderous cheers of the crowd. Jacqueline ran up to catch the tossed, broken lance. It was chucked to a pile of other broken lances and she grabbed up his banner.

More waiting. She didn't realize how agonizing it was to sit and wait. It was different simply being in the crowd. The constant excitement of pounding hooves and clanging impacts made time fly by. Down in the sands, waiting to tilt, it felt like time was simply a quagmire of waiting. At least it gave the knights and horses a good amount of rest. She perked up suddenly at Friderick's voice. Her head whipped around to him as he tossed the skin. She just barely managed to catch it given her hands were occupied with the banner. Water from the river. A fair distance but if that's what he wanted..."Aye," she said in sharp response before turning to go, taking the banner with her. In hindsight she didn't wonder if she should have left the banner with Friderick. Seemed odd to leave his side and take it with her. Though she was far enough away when that realization hit that it would be quicker just to get the skin filled.

She was hardly paying attention to the pair of boys in-front of her. Lads off to do whatever chore they needed. Strange they weren't at the tournament too. Seemed to her that the vast majority of the town had gone to watch the spectacle. Nothing seemed off until they suddenly stopped and addressed her. Jacqueline boots skittered to a halt, her brows pulling into a curious frown. Kid? How rude. They blocked her way forward and she heard the others approach from the rear. Her head tilted in confusion but her nerves were set on end. Something felt wrong. What did these urchins want? To touch and hold her sword? One reached for it but she shifted the banner and clamped a hand around the hilt.

"I am sure your father's services were appreciated but you must be daft if you think I would relinquish my sword," she said cautiously. "I am fetching water so if you will kindly let me pass..." She stepped forward to brush by them but they moved closer to block the way. The boys were sniggering at this point, the two from behind moving closer. Jacqueline grinned the banner haft tightly. "What is it you lads actually want? Either make your intentions known or get out of my way." She didn't give them much room to respond, stepping forward to bullrush between the two. Despite her training she hadn't gained much in weight, certainly not size, and was easily checked by the other two. She was pushed back and an arm grabbed by one of the boys behind her.

With a shout an all out brawl ensued. Jacqueline stamped the haft of the banner into one boy's foot causing another to retaliate with a punch to her jaw. She reeled to the side, her mouth aching and spit out a glob of blood from biting her own cheek. One boy aimed a kick which she blocked with her elbow, standing she threw a punch right at the kid's nose. He reeled back, nose broken and bleeding while her own knuckles were split from the hit. Sudden one was on her back, wrapping his arms from behind, under her arms and linking his hands behind her neck. Another ran up and threw a punch into her gut, blasting the wind from her. She groaned as he reeled back for another and lifted her feet. It was enough weight change to bring her and the one holding her to the ground. The banner dropped and fell against a nearby building. The boy she laid atop of tried to hold tight but she managed to wriggle out of the grip. Though the moment she was free a foot connected with her side then another and another. Three on one, the boy with a broken nose stayed out of the fight.

Furious and hurting Jacqueline let out a roar as she launched herself up from the kicking blows and tackled one boy down. One solid punch to his face and he was out cold. Hard wood suddenly slammed into her back. Jacqueline yelped in pain but rounded on where the blow had come from. The boy held the banner. Jacqueline went cold as he sneered, gripping the haft tight. He didn't even stay to fight instead turning tail to run. Jacqueline was on her feet in a moment giving chase. They rushed through allys and byways, the banner flapping proudly in the breeze. Jacqueline was gaining on the boy but not good enough. She took a chance and lunged for him, catching his legs and bringing both down. The banner went flying and Jacqueline scrambled to her feet, lunging to just barely catch it before it went into a muddy puddle. Though most of her right side ended up in the muddy puddle.

Panting heavily she pushed herself up from the puddle, dirty water dripping from her shot hair. "Are you done here?" She asked the boy. He got to his feet and crouched as if to start a fight again but then stopped. With the chase he was alone against an opponent who not only knew how to fight but was armed. He spit on the ground, turned on his heel and stalked away. Jacqueline heaved a relieved sigh. She looked up at the banner, still clean. Praise God. She was able to make her way to the river and back in peace though very uncomfortable, winded, and bruised. Stupid boys.

Finally she made it back to the tournament grounds. With the brawl it had taken her nearly half an hour to get there and back. Her clothes were dirty and still wet, the knees of her britches a little torn. A handsome, black and blue bruise was already blooming on her jaw. Split knuckles still gripped the haft of the banner which fluttered in the breeze, still clean despite the state of it's bearer. Jacqueline said nothing to Friderick as she passed him the water skin, now filled with cold and clean water. If he knew the story he might be proud she didn't draw cold steel on the ragged little urchins.
 

BennyQ

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Canada
There was no urgency for Friderick in the time that Jacque had gone and returned. Two tilts had gone by, one taking nearly nine passes before the bout had a final winner. And between each, he watched the stands where the ladies gathered in their colourful hues and conical hats, the silk plumes dancing in the wind as they laughed with one another. He watched as male retainers, or guardian knights, or a brother or a father, or a husband with affectionate kisses, would interact with them, receiving their attentions, their laughs, their smiles. It was not that he hadn’t received them. It was that he felt those of Lady Aurianne should belong to him. She was the woman he knew. She was the one who’s hand would make the politics so easy. But was she the one who made him happy? Did he make her happy?

Would it be right for him? Not for Alnerwick. Not for the Baron of Alnerwick. But for Friderick, alone and his true self.


He felt Jacque’s presence return at his side, though his eyes didn’t dart to the squire. Who gave a shit about squires? Squires were invisible. His hand did stick out for the water flagon, not looking at the boy as he used his teeth to bite off the stopper and drank deeply from it in spurts. Another tilt was being conducted, the knights flying towards one another in a crash of steel and wood, the bright harness of their gear catching the light of the sun. Minutes passed by while he held the skin and simply continued his stern observation of the matches and competition. He didn’t look at Jacque. Fifteen minutes went by. Not a word. Not until some unhappy loser of a previous tilt voiced something in rage as he parted, causing Friderick to turn and look, before he saw Jacque’s face.

His eyes lingered a few seconds. The bruises, the rips of her clothes, the filthiness of it all. He went back to watching the sands and the ladies beyond. “You slipped and fell in the river.” Friderick decided that must be the answer. “How is it you can dance like a butterfly on the sands but you are clumsy on rocks and water? You bruise as easily as a girl.” He snorted softly, lecturing the boy to be more careful with his footing. What if he really hit his head and didn’t come back? That might be two Lancaster children missing. The boy needed to look after himself more.

Regardless, any attempts to correct his assumption would be cut short, as Friderick would shoot up his hand to silence any speech. “This next match will determine who my opponent shall be.” He explained, demanding silence so he could observe with all the focus of his mind. Baron Malaric against Ser Evrard. Both were well armoured, rode competently enough, and even their squires were a bit older and more experienced. “Five gold pieces on the winner.” Friderick suddenly said to Jacque. “I take my equal, the Baron.” He suggested to Jacque, which meant she got Ser Evrard. It took four passes, until Ser Evrard pierced the Baron on his tilt and the man had to be carried away with a bloody wound. Not a good day for Barons, someone jested behind them.

Several more hours passed and the first round of the tourney concluded. Thirty-two matches had been concluded between dawn and dusk and they decided to fold it in for now. There was a closing ceremony, with orders of the Duke to have a public banquet hosted for the attendees under his own coin (which would be distribution of beard, vegetables, and very cheap wine), while those select few would get invites to the feasting at the castle hall. A messenger delivered one such invite to Friderick and Jacque. After all, Jacque was a Lancaster and his father a powerful man. His surname carried weight. How did more dancing, good wine and proper food sound? Amazing by all accounts.

That is, until Friderick mounted Wingfoot and the stirrup broke, the metal breaking into two parts. It nearly caused the saddle to be misplaced. Friderick immediately stepped back and away, reaching down to pick up the piece that had snapped off. “Jacque.” Friderick then beckoned, turning to him after removing the entire stirrup on that side, holding it and the broken piece in his hands. “You need to find a smith, tonight, and get them to fix this. With the proper metal. It needs to be fixed. I can’t have any other stirrup. I need this one, or everything will be off.” He said, hoping the boy understood how a saddle and its stirrup were built for the horse. He couldn’t just get a new one that wasn’t broken in. And Wingfoot might become discomforted, affecting his chances. He needed this one fixed and reattached.

It seemed a simple job. There were a few smiths, knowing there would be an abundance of work here. Friderick returned to camp with his horse to dress down from his armour. Yes, he could do it without the need of his squire. This was more vital. Only, there was a problem. None of the smiths had the needed iron in quality to do it. Sure they had cheaper alloys but not the sort to blend with the stirrup. They wouldn’t get it until tomorrow morning. Because, they all said, each and every one, by the familiar name…Audoneus.
 

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
Silence. Focus. Jacqueline huffed an internal sigh at Friderick but let it go. Never mind his squire came back with the specially requested water bruised and dirtied. Have to watch the tilts. With tight lips she sat near him and turned her eyes to the field. Might as well watch too. They had some of the best seats in the arena, might as well enjoy it. What a sight it was though. Despite being so much apart of it there was still a thrill to watch. For Friderick it was sizing up competition, seeing flaws and weaknesses to exploit. For her it was all the excitement. The dream getting closer and closer at hand. If she could keep the ruse up that could be her out there. Folk cheering her name. Well not hers of course, her brother's name. Close enough. Though what a world shaking event to have a woman out there. Let the men quake in fear at the arrival of Dame Jacqueline...

Jacqueline jumped, startled out of her reverie when Friderick spoke. Her head whipped around to look at him and his assertions. Fell in the river? Her brows pulled into a frown. She was not so clumsy! Her mouth opened to refute his assumption but stopped at his hand came up for silence. Already onto a new topic and completely unable to defend her own honor. Typical man. Here she had been singing some of his praises to Serlena and they were right back there. She glowered some and huffed, looking back to the field as he spoke. Five gold to the winner and he selected his own already. "Very well," she grumped back in a small huff. He was utterly infuriating! Jacqueline could hardly enjoy or pay attention to the match as she mentally berated Friderick. Oh the choice words she had for him. Though she didn't speak them. Bold of her really. The match ended with Friderick's 'equal' on his back and wounded. Some equal. Jacqueline gave a little sniff of amusement. So much for his cocksure attitudes.

The day droned on and on, tilt after tilt. After so many it grew rather boring even if Friderick stayed enraptured by it. The sun passed on high and sank into the distance. The tournament was called to a close for the day. Jacqueline heard the quick talk of feasts and dancing. What a joy, she couldn't wait. Seemed a bit odd really. Get the knights inebriated the night before. Should be an interesting next day with half the knights nursing the effects of good wine and a long night. Jacqueline shouldered the banner she had down so well to protect, ready to leave, when Friderick's stirrup split. Her eyes went wide as the metal cried a harsh song and fell in two. That was certainly odd. Metal didn't often have a habit of breaking so easily. Her eyebrows pulled together. Friderick certainly did seem to be having an odd bit of bad luck.

At the beckon she stepped forward and peered down at the metal. Her lips pressed together at the order. Finding a smith so late in the day to fix it would be a decent enough challenge. Still, despite her irritations with him, she could hardly say no. "I will see it done," she said with a sharp nod. It was promise. Her mind wandered to the urchins that accosted her. Tried to accost her anyways. It didn't seem likely the incidents were related. How could they be? Just odd luck. "I'll see you at camp then," she said before turning off to find a smith. Surely she'd have to pay a decent bribe to ensure it was done immediately. Though, as it turned out, a bribe was enough.

Smithy after smithy couldn't accomplish the task. The finer, pure iron had already been bought out. Audoneus. Every bit of fine iron purchased by the count. For one smith it might be understandable, despite the man not competing, but all of them? With each smith her frustrations grew. Why would one man, some pompous ponce at that, need so much of such iron? After being turned away by the last smith she sat on William's back, head bowed and brows furrowed in frustration and confusion. Something was amiss. How could all of that iron be gone just when Friderick's stirrup had broken? It seemed so, painfully, unlikely. The obvious answer was the count. Somehow. Those urchins too. The possibility was too wild but what other explanation existed? Well there was one way to find out.

It was well into the night as Jacqueline plodded down the quiet streets. William was tired and his limp was returning, the arrow wound still sore. How hard could it be to find street urchins? Where on earth did they linger? She took a chance and dismounted, heading into the back alleys. Behind whore houses of lower regard and pubs she wandered. Behind on such bawdy establishment she came upon a group of them. All the boys and her froze up in shock.

"Shit it's him! Go!" One boy shouted. They up and scrambled. Jacqueline's legs stuttered to start but she gave chase. They were quick as cats. Running and splitting directions. Funny how eager they were to fight before.

"Wait! Wait! I just want to talk!" She shouted after them. "A silver piece just to talk!" Two of the boys skittered to a halt. Jacqueline stopped to give them their space, holding both hands up and well away from her sword. "Just to talk."

One boy eyes her warily but edged forward. "Silver first..." He said warily. Jacqueline reached to her pouch and drew out a glimmering silver coin. Lord above it was like dealing with dogs. She stooped down and tossed the coin halfway between her and the boy. Slowly he edged forward and snatched up the coin. Still he kept his distance, the other lingered in the background.

"Why did you attack me?" She asked, easing up her stance. Needed to appear relaxed and non-threatening.

"Paid to..." the boy said, still wary but holding his ground. "Didn't go well but we was paid good."

"Who paid you?" She questioned, keeping her voice steady.

"Some lord fella...count somethin'-or-other," he responded with a scoff. "Wanted that banner. Steal it, dirty it. Whatever we could. Piss poor job of it eh?"

"How much?" She questioned curiously. The boy's head jerked back in surprise, clearly not expecting such a questions.

"Erhm...gold piece...bit more'n yer willin' t'pay," he said with a cheeky smirk.

Jacqueline raised a brow and reached to her coin purse once more. She drew out two gold coins and held them up. "What's say...you and I strike a deal..." She said with a sly grin. The boy's head cocked to the side. He approached and reached out his hand. Jacquline dropped the coins in, leaning back on a heel and her hip cocking out somewhat. "Anything he pays you...I will double it. That is, if you don't carry out the task and come tell me."

They boy's brows raised and he rubbed his chin with all of four beard hairs. He mulled over the offer a good, long while. "Alright, done," he said and thrust his hand out. Jacqueline stepped forward and took his with a firm shake. "Got small hands fer a boy," he said with a chuckle.

"So i've been told...now...I'm looking for some Iron..."

It was well after midnight, only a few hours until the dawn, when William came plodding into camp. Jacqueline, utterly exhausted, slumped in the saddled, yawning widely. She dismounted and got William food and water before taking off his saddle. "Good boy," she cooed quietly. Wingfoot was dozing nearby, his saddle close. Jacqueline stooped down by the saddled and attached the near seamlessly mended stirrup. So much trouble for so little iron. With a wide yawn she wandered to the tent. For once she paid Friderick nearly no mind before collapsing into her bedroll and curled up, fast asleep within seconds.

When dawn broke she was difficult to rouse. Her hair stuck every which way and there were dark circles under her eyes to compliment the bruising. Oh the things she had put up with for Friderick. At least the tournament should be near at an end. Friderick with his victory and that idiot count befuddled with his lack of machination ingenuity.
 

BennyQ

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Canada
Friderick waited. And he waited and waited. And waited some more. The sun had already reached its zenith after he returned to camp and was soon dipping to rest and still he waited. Had his squire got lost? He calculated in his mind what the delays might be. There was certainly a bustle of knights and travelers to Archensheen so prospective smiths would have followed suit, bringing both availability of service as well as enough variety to keep the prices low and competitive. But surely the same traffic of knights and folks that drew them would also keep them relatively busy. He estimated three hours for completion of the task. Two full cycles, six hours, went by and there was no sign of Jacque.

Frankly he started to worry. And more so for the safety of the boy than his own continued participation in the tournament. A broken stirrup wouldn’t disqualify him, though it could easily make or break his next match due to an imbalance and lack of anchorage for his body to wield the lance correctly. But it was only a competition, a game, and he could do without one for a while. It was the boy who was vital here. His family was already missing a sister. What if some trouble had befallen the lad? He seemed to have a knack for attracting it. He could also hold his own in a fight, Friderick judged. He just had to trust the lad in this.

He waited in his cot. Jacque didn’t go off by himself to the castle feasting did he? Maybe if he just closed his eyes…

He awoke just before dawn, jerking awake with alarm as he recalled the urgency of anxiety and worry for his squire. Barely awake, eyes scarcely open, he rolled over and felt with his arm at the space beside him. And breathed a sigh of relief when he felt the boy there, though he knew not that his hand happened to brush upon the boy’s chest. And the lump there that was compressed. But his mind didn’t register it, merely content that Jacque made it home. When had he made it back and fallen in? There was no time for questioning though. Friderick got out and saw that the squire had did his job and he had a brand new stirrup adorning his horse. “Well done.” He spoke, as he patted Wingfoot’s side. Well, this is what a squire was for right?

The Baron let the boy sleep until the last possible minute. Friderick could dress and armour himself, as he had for months before Jacque came into his life and came to rouse Jacque with his boot some fifteen minutes before they needed to depart. “There’s warm porridge on the fire. Get it while its hot. There’s a bucket for washing.” He simply instructed, focusing on the present and the near-future that was to come. He needed his boy focused. Not yawning or drooping his eyes or anything. Alert, decisive, and quick. When it was time to go, he offered up some words of comfort for his squire’s efforts. “This week, we’ll start training you to joust. Plenty of time between here and Lancaster for you to aim a lance properly. How would you like that?” He asked, patting the boy on the shoulder. And Friderick, the Baron of Alnerwick, would be the target.

“Unless I see you yawn even once.” He warned seconds later, threatening to redact the offer completely.

The final sixteen. Eight matches. Whittled down to four rounds, then two, then the final. Friderick would be going up against Ser Evrard, a man known for uncaring whether he just knocked his opponent down or pierced him clean through with his lance. Friderick could seriously get injured if he wasn’t paying attention or didn’t have his shield up to cover his torso entirely. The checkered black and white kite shield had taken plenty of damage during the tournament. Who knew how its structural integrity might be. It was the prematch ceremony. The squires had to walk up and down the sandy track with the banners held high while the herald announced them. There were a lot more applause and cheering for Ser Evrard. He gave the mob the type of bloody spectacle they wanted.

The two warriors mounted up and took their positions. The drums beat and the trumpets were raised, blaring out a note. The Duke stood and gave the signal to begin. The first tilt was serenaded to the thunderous cheering of the crowd. Both men scored hits in a clash of splinter, but no one fell. Friderick rode back to receive the next lance from Jacque. The drumbeat summoned them again and once more they tilted. Friderick missed, because the last second Ser Evrard aimed for his neck and Friderick pivoted to throw his shield up to protect himself. He avoided being killed and nearly went off balanced on his horse. Luckily, with his core strength, he straightened himself. “Bastard.” He scoffed when he came back to Jacque. “No, get me the heavy iron lance.” He said, sacrificing mobility for power. It was personal now.

He managed it too, taking a full on hit himself on his breast, but his heavy spear pierced right into Ser Evrard’s shield and weighed it down, dragging the knight off the horse to roll in the sands. Friderick rode back…and flicked a bloody splinter at Jacque that had been lodged in his torso. The black squares in his checkered surcoat covered the leaking blood up nicely. The white squares didn’t show as much.

It was moving fast though. Friderick was now in the quarter-finals. After getting patched up, he rode another series of tilts against the elderly but experienced Ser Galerius. Putting him in the sands seemed easy enough, but far more exhaustive given his chest wound. A wooden splinter had driven an iron ring of his chain mail into his very flesh. He was losing blood and sweating a lot more. Now he was in the semi-finals. Getting closer to the victory. Just two more matches to go! But could he do it? No more standing and watching. Friderick had to sit on a bench. There was less and less wait times between matches. And Jacque had to go out on the sands more to display the proud standard of the Baron of Alnerwick.

“I’d send you for water, but I fear you might get caught in something worse just to do something as simple.” Friderick mused to Jacque as they awaited the results of the next round. Surely the better riders would extend the length of matches due to more tilts required? Yet the contest between masters of the sport sometimes decided it instantly through sheer skill and technique. Or some other cheat or trick.
 

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
Jacqueline was sound asleep, exhausted from a long day that lapsed into a long night. Usually the sun woke her with its brilliance. Not even a surprise, accidental, groping caused her to stir. Instead she felt a kick at her boot. She gave a light groan and pushed herself up, hooded eyes blinking in the light. The squire gave a sudden gasp and scrambled out of the tent. Rather than a stern berating she pulled up suddenly to find a kinder Friderick offering still warm porridge in his armor. Green eyes blinked up at him for a moment as if she had suddenly forgotten their language. "Oh...right, thank you..." she said quietly, stiffly turning towards the fire to grab a bowl. It was a sudden start with a slow wind up before she was shoveling down porridge as quick as possible so they could get ready. It was hard to wash up with Friderick lingering about and no chance to rush to a bushy copse at the river. Her undershirt got a bit damp from trying to wash up and she hurriedly put her surcoat on over to hide the chest wrapping from the steadily sheer growing shirt.

Once done she prepped everything they needed. She made sure Wingfoot was brushed out, his hooves picked, and the saddle tightened. Once the horse was set she grabbed the banner to head out, hesitating as Friderick spoke. Her mouth fell open a little though her lips stretched to a bright, shining grin. That was what she had looked forward to the most. Sure she had done a little with rings or a quintain but never against another! Though before too much joy and adulation poured over he set his warning. "Me? Yawn? Preposterous. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. I look forward to it!" Of course she was perfectly confident of being attentive as his squire. When had she not been otherwise? It was time to go.

Another day of tilts on the field. Friderick's first tilt would be with a one Sir Evrard. Jacqueline had never seen the name but had heard of his reputation. A stone settled in her guts. It was a dangerous sport but only more so with men like him on the field. She proudly carried Friderick's banner to the field for his tilt trying not to think of all the ways it could go horribly wrong. Not just the accidents either but with such a callous and vicious foe. The first passed caused the crowd to go wild. Nothing like some drama as splinters flew but both men remained seated. The neck passed caught the breath in her chest. Even from down the list she had seen where Evrard was aiming. Friderick was lucky to make it out of that one unscathed. She ran to fetch another lance before Friderick barked for the heavy iron one. Her eyebrows rose but she grabbed it instead, struggling just a little with the weight, and passed it up.

The crowd still as they ran and hit. Splinters flew but Evrard was unseated. Only one more moment of silence before raucous cheers erupted. While the crowd had seemed to favor Evrard they cheered just as loud for Friderick and his victory. Though as he rode back Jacqueline noted the odd posture and the dark wetness of blood. He was bleeding. Again. She ran up but flinched as a bloody splinter was flicked her way. While she gave him a surly sort of grin she grabbed the banner and waved over a healer to patch him up. Of course she hovered nearby, watching the healer carefully not entirely trusting him to do good work. Too many odd things had happened since the tournament had begun. Besides he needed a little more than just a simple wrap but there was hardly time. Nothing seemed amiss so they only had to wait.

His next round was nearly as worrisome. Out there, riding with bits of metal and wood still in his flesh. If it healed over it would be a bit of a surgery to get it out. Something she could likely do with ease but wouldn't help him much if he ended up bleeding out on the field. There was enough worry to keep her other worries concerning Aurainne and Friderick's reactions to her engagement at bay. It struck her that she seemed in a constant state of worry about Friderick. Nonsense of course. He was a grown man after all. Still, she worried for him. Coul hardly be helped. The aged knight, even if skilled, was hardly a match and it was back to waiting. She watched Friderick as they waited, seeing the sweat on his brow. Pain or heat? Armor didn't exactly breathe well. It would be over soon enough and she could cease her worrying. Some of it at any rate.

The energy of the tournament was reached a fevered pitch as they reached the semi-finals. One tilt would decide who Friderick would face in the final tilt. The one that would decide the champion. Ser Lochland and Ser Ulrich faced one another down. Lochland was smaller than Ulrich but wielded his lance with an impressive grace though he tended to use a lighter lance for superior control. Ulrich used heavy lances, his size and might making up for his lack of finesse. Their first pass only Lochland scored a hit sending shards of wood flying though the bear-like man, Ulrich, took the hit without wobbling a bit. Their second pass both missed, Lochland narrowly avoiding a hit to his chest from Ulrich. They passed and passed, Ulrich landing only glancing blows and Lochland's hits barely rocking the large man. On their eighth pass Ulrich struck Lochland like a bull, plowing the man right off his horse. Lochland screamed with pain, his shield arm shattered by the blow. Squire and medic rushed forward to help the knight and his dangling arm off the field.

Jacqueline took a long, heaving breath. The final match for Friderick against the great bear of a knight Ser Ulrich. Strength against strength really. Jacqueline muttered a prayer as she marched out with Ulrich's squire.
 

BennyQ

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Canada
It was time for the final match.

His previous showdown with Ser Timothe had been easy enough. Four passes they made at each other, scoring hits but never a knockout blow. It surprised Friderick when on the fifth tilt, Ser Timothe had fallen off his horse barely a half dozen paces from his starting point, without Friderick even needing to lower his lance. Turns out his fourth blow had rocked Ser Timothe so massively he had slowly gone dizzy and knocked himself out from exerting himself through it. Though it turned out to be a surprise win, it left Friderick with a worry over his own medical condition, as he was currently bleeding in at least two spots. How long before his own body grew too weak and exhausted to keep going? He could see himself in Ser Timothe’s position.

And this Ser Ulrich didn’t look to be a wobbly pillar to fall with a gust of wind. Both he and Friderick, the Baron of Alnerwick, were large fighters and no doubt their size and endurance got them this far. For Friderick it was unnerving enough, as he had not been in a finals match in over a year or more. The roar of the crowd, the pounding of his own heart, and the uneasiness of his mind didn’t make for a round-winning concoction. He saw how Ser Lochland fought and Friderick cursed his meagre resources for not having lances of a similar style, to change up his thrust and spearing. He only had the one length, which limited his capabilities, whereas Ser Lochland could be more versatile. That was the way to beat Ser Ulrich’s mountainous power, had he been more keen with the lance. Shit. The squires went out with their respective banners and the moment drew closer. Shit. Shit. Shit.

The two knights rode out, told to show a little flourish given they were the final competitors, circling around the railing while the crowd cheered. And Lady Aurianne cheered more loudly it seemed for Ser Ulrich. Count Theodore had put his money on the knight. And Lady Aurianne, given a small purse by the Count to gamble with, had done the same.

“Look.” Friderick said to Jacque. “His longer and heavier lance means he has to settle into his course seconds before and is stuck to it due to the forward momentum. Trying to turn it mid-motion will be like turning a ship at sea. You need a wider berth and you’ll be going slower. You think riding faster will allow you to dodge faster but I feel otherwise. Ride slower and you’ll have more time to anticipate and parry. Do you agree, little lord?” He said with a glance down to the red headed boy. It felt strange though. When the boy looked up with his blue eyes there was something remarkably…well, remarkably feminine about it. It was weird. He couldn’t be thinking of his squire’s girlish looks right now though.

He put his theory to the test on the first tilt, very dangerous. One hit and he would be knocked clean off, probably even skewered and near-killed. But he didn’t drive Wingfoot into a race and the slower movement did throw Ser Ulrich off, who anticipated Friderick would come riding like a bull into the path of his heavy lance. Instead Ser Ulrich thrust too early and Friderick had to bend himself backwards onto his horse as the opponent’s lance grated right over his armour. It counted as a hit for Ser Ulrich but it was a soft hit really, doing little damage. “Damn. My steed stumbled on the charge.” He apologized rather loudly. Ser Ulrich’s squire heard Friderick speak it to the crowd. No doubt he reported the comment to his knight as Friderick returned to Jacque.

Twice more Friderick put his theory to the test and each time it worked. Ser Ulrich was betting on the common practice of charging straight down the line, right into his heavier, longer lance. Each time Friderick slackened his pace and anticipated the strike, though he never lashed out in return. Each time Ser Ulrich rode to the end, snarled, and turned his horse heavily, spraying Jacque with sand as he rode back to his end. Friderick had gotten inside his head. He was not competing in the customary way. Some people were starting to boo his antics. But the Baron, despite spitting a glob of blood into the sands by his squire, had a wide grin on his face.

He was a big man himself. This had been done to him before by smaller, quicker opponents. Learn from one’s mistakes. In the next tilt, he not only anticipated Ser Ulrich’s thrust, but used his shield in a slanted motion to help guide it harmlessly past him. Meanwhile, Friderick thrust his spear earlier as well, but in front of Ser Ulrich’s riding path. The knight rode and clanked his head right against the shaft of Friderick’s spear. His own momentum did the damage and knocked himself cold. Ser Ulrich fell off his horse when it wheeled at the end of the railing by Jacque and he fell like a hewn tree into the sand, rolling and even threatening to bowl Jacque over if he didn’t move.

Friderick was the last knight left in his saddle. And after a moment of silence the crowd broke into thunderous applause and cheer. He came back to Jacque just as they were swarmed by other knights, squires, guards, and eager fans. A flagon of wine was thrust into their hands and Friderick drank. Someone told them a hour until the rewards ceremony at the castle. “Let’s go back to camp and freshen up. There’s someone else I like to meet to accompany us there. Your reward will be given as well so look nice.” Friderick informed Jacque as they fought to get themselves and their horses free of the thronging crowd. Most were going to follow them anyways all the way.
 

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
The pair wheeled about making their final show. The crowd was whipped into a frothing frenzy as the horses charge about, the knights showing off for the sea of folk. Jacqueline held tight to the banner as she marched out with Ulrich's squire, the black and white checkers waving proudly. As the showmanship ebbed she turned as Friderick came back. His posed question brought a curious quirk of her brow and she nodded. "And it will wear him quicker." Being small she had learned to bide her time. Let the bigger foes wear themselves out before bothering to strike. No matter how big and opponent their energy only last so long. She knew to save her strength for a decisive strike when the enemy was weakened. Trouble was Friderick was weakened. The bleeding had never properly stopped. Jacqueline handed off a lance for Friderick, her heart thumping. Nervous and excited. Certainly she wanted him to win but was growing ever more concerned he might get himself killed.

The first tilt brought a rushing hiss sucked between her teeth. Ulrich had missed but Friderick'd had to some wild maneuvering to miss. How he sat himself back up with such ease was a mystery for God. Twice more Friderick had to put his theories to the test. Twice more Jacqueline nearly felt her heart fall out of her ass. She needed to get ahold of herself and stop fretting so much. Friderick was strong and competant though she wondered if, like most men, he was utterly unaware of his own limits. Clearly not as he just seemed to keep testing his theory rather than lay Ulrich flat and be done with it. Ulrich was clearly growing frustrated with the games Friderick were playing. A couple mouthfuls of sand made that evident. Ulrich was losing his patience. Then it dawned on her. Friderick wasn't just testing theories. He was making Ulrich angry. Angry people did stupid things.

The air hung heavy with malcontent as Friderick played his games. Had she been in the stands she might have been with them. The competition turned farce. Though they didn't understand what was happening she was starting to grasp the ploy. They charged again. Friderick thrust on the tilt. A heady clang reverberated through the stands. Horse and rider came barreling forward. The horse wheeled about but the rider did not. Jacqueline had to nearly dive out of the big man's path as he fell, rolled, then lay still. Silence. Jacqueline stared at the unconscious knight. A roar erupted around and Jacqueline joined in, just as slow to grasp what had happened as the crowd. "You did it!" She screamed, her hands growing numb from fierce applause. Of course her high shout was drowned out by the cheering crowd. She was beaming up at Friderick as he returned but he wasn't alone. They were swarmed with other knights, squires, even some bystanders. Wine was thrust forward, yells of congratulations poured in from every side. Being relatively small in a sea of men Jacqueline was bustled about but managed to stick close enough to Friderick. She heard the comment about the award ceremony and gave Friderick a sharp nod. It was hard to wade through the raucous crowd but they finally managed to get out.

They made it out before the streets got too packed and headed back to camp. The excited euphoria was beginning to wane as Friderick mentioned meeting someone else. Lord above she had a hunch who that someone was. She quietly prayed Aurainne would just go back to powder and primp or something rather than show up at the ceremony. "That truly was spectacular though! I was worried for a little but....Lord above..." She heaved a relieved sigh. Smart, strong, brave. Lord above indeed. Jacqueline's mind was a whirl of mixed emotion. She was near to bursting with the want to follow Serlena's advice then and there. No, let him had his victory. With luck Aurainne wouldn't be around, no dedication to her, ugh, beauty and all would be well. Of course God was not often so kind with his gifts.

Back at camp Jacqueline hurried to get the horses settled and perfectly primped. It was a quick job but she had to wash up a little herself. She stole away to the river for a quick wash, mostly hair and face, and changed into something just a little cleaner. Nothing fancy like what she wore to the feast that seemed like ages ago. Once they were both set and headed back to town for the ceremony a rock was settling into her guts. If God was truly watching he wouldn't let Aurainne be there. "You know I hear rumor..." she began but stopped when the other knights joined them, some already deep into their drink, slapping Friderick with cheers and congratulations. They insisted on walking up with the pair. Might not have won anything but they damn sure wanted to be there for the awards.
 

BennyQ

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Canada
It was a struggle to get out of the throng but once everyone had given their praise and congratulations at the hard-fought victory, the pair managed to detach with their horses and get free. Honestly it was all passing by rather rapidly for the Baron. He had won! He could scarcely believe it. A fourth rose to adorn his personal standard with. Few could claim such numbers, though there were knights of legend and lore who attained greater. Still, Friderick was proud, proud of himself, and of his squire, who assisted him greatly. It was indeed remarkable, as they were both champions in their respective areas. He had everything he could ever want in that moment, except one.

They were at a crossroads. Left took them back to the outfields of the castle-town to their encampment. He glanced back more than once, catching sight of the noblewomen in their colourful dresses and long conical hats. It wasn’t the time, though the idea certainly burned at the forefront of Friderick’s mind. Today would be the day. It just had to be. He would dedicate the victory to Lady Aurianne, earn her hand in marriage, and it would be akin to all the tales and songs ever made. Perfection made flesh. He could hardly think of anything else at camp. He polished his gear, sharpened his blade, washed his face and hair and made sure his wounds were patched up. He ought to rest given the blood loss and hurt but he pushed that aside. Just one final hoorah to make, then he could sleep in tranquility for the rest of his days.

With a wonderful, beautiful Lady at his side.

The ceremony was all prepared upon the arena grounds, now repurposed for the event. “Save it for the drinking.” He simply told Jacque when the boy tried to bring up a rumour. Hearsay and gossip, why now? Why such falsehoods when this was so very real in front of him? Even the remarks of his fellow knights didn’t irk him for once and he genuinely smiled with them as they all went to the ceremony. Yes, she was there. First row, to the right, seated with other ladies and the best thing? No Count Theodore at her shoulder. Friderick smiled at her, even raising his hand to wave awkwardly despite the need to stand still and strong for the admiring crowds. And Lady Aurianne, she broke into a wide smile and waved him. It looked so genuine to him. But she herself was awkward why this man was waving at her, a betrothed woman, and spoken for.

He hardly kept track of the ceremony. Jacque’s victory was praised first, the Duke of Archensheen, Lord Tancred, presiding and beckoning the lad forth. “Kneel, Esquire Lancaster. If only your father could see this moment. He would be very proud, as are we all.” He stated with a smile, patting the boy (girl) on the shoulder, before gesturing to his subordinate, who came forward with a covered item. The Duke removed it and behold! There was a kite shield, of slender yet strong metal, and painted upon its face was the sigil of House Lancaster. Quality metal, strong craftsmanship, it was no cheap piece like the training or rugged ones they had now. Though it could be used in battle to great effect, it felt more a item of beauty to hang on a wall. But the choice was Jacque’s. Tucked in the right corner was a small rose, indicative of a tourney victory. Not as bold or as large as the ones Friderick had, but it was something, a start, and worthy of praise. But because no one really gave a shit about squires, Jacque garnered only a polite applause for his prize.

Lord Clotaire, the Duke’s son, glowered jealousy at Jacque.

But at Friderick’s turn, the crowd cheered loudly, as he had given them great entertainment. Jacque had to put aside the shield and bring forth the banner, which was taken by the church clerics, who rapidly had the fourth victory rose sewn upon. The Duke said words of praise but Friderick barely heeded them, his head always turning aside to glance to Lady Aurianne. He was going to do it! The ceremony ended to another cheer and a feast was issued for the nobility to attend soon after. The crowds began to break and like them, Friderick and Jacque could move to join the feast. But instead, he made a start to Lady Aurianne, moving like a man possessed through the crowds. He had a singular focus.

“Lady Aurianne! Please, a moment of your time.” Friderick beckoned to her, approaching her and her cadre of ladies, who all gazed at him with varying degrees of scrutiny. He turned and gestured for Jacque to follow, with his standard, to display his proud achievements. He came to a few paces before her, before dropping to one knee before her. “My Lady, please just hear me out.” He pleaded yet again, as if he owed her much just for this request. “I have adored and admired you for many years. I’ve laboured long to make myself a man and knight suitable for your favour. If it pleases you, I would like to declare my intent to dedicate and honour my victory to you and your beauty.” Friderick said in a firm tone, loud and proud, before her and the small throng who gathered. Some even applauded his chivalrous words.

“And moreover, my Lady,” Friderick said, taking a deep breath, “you would honour me in granting this one request, held so dearly to my heart. Please…give me your hand in marriage, and I in turn will give you happiness, safety, and a loving life to the end of our days.”
 

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
Jacqueline glowered at the dismissal. With the knights gathering to congratulate it was impossible to talk anyways. He was going to do something stupid she just knew it. Though they didn't dally long and soon were off to the ceremony to receive accolades for victory. Jacqueline should have been exhilarated. She had been part of something so grand. Assisted in her meager way for Friderick to win the day. Yet a hard rock had settled in her stomach, rumbling and churning with every slogging step. As they approached the throng of people once more she glanced up, her eyes falling on the seated nobility. Aurainne was easy to spot and as Jacqueline glanced to Friderick she saw the mooney smile and awkward little wave. Worse yet, Aurainne waved back. What in the great and holy name of God was going on with that woman? Jacqueline wondered if she even remembered Friderick's name.

For a moment Jacqueline was startled when she, or rather her brother, was called up. She had already received the iron circlet from her fight. It took a moment to force her legs forward, her heart steadily beating. With so many eyes on her it was terrifying. One of those eyes had to see the truth. Yet people were simple. They were told she was a boy and they believed it. She managed a small smile at the Duke and took a knee. The praise made her ears feel warm but she glanced over her shoulder at Friderick. It was really his praise she had enjoyed hearing. Her ears were buzzing with Serlena's advice. Tell him. Not right then obviously. That would be a quick path back home, maybe some lashes if she was lucky. Turning back to the Duke and his attendant her eyes went wide as the item was revealed. It was a beautiful shield, emblazoned with the rampant badger of her house over a quartered field of green and purple with the tiny rose in the corner as a symbol of her minor victory. Slowly she rose and took the shield. "Thank you," she breathed, brushing a small hand down the paint. With a polite bow she backed her self away and returned to Friderick's side, propping the shield up nearby and taking up Friderick's banner.

The crowd roared their praise as he was called forward. She stood behind him, clutching his banner with white knuckles. The glow of happiness for his victory was overshadowed. She could see him glancing Aurainne's way, barely listening to the Duke's praises and showing of prizes for Friderick. Jacqueline quietly prayed Aurainne would leave quickly, keeping Friderick from doing anything foolish. Though it seemed God couldn't hear her prayers. With the announcement of a feast and dismissal Friderick nearly ran to catch Aurainne. Jacqueline's heart flopped between panicked thrumming and icy stillness. Below the chill foreboding a small, white hot ember lingered. Jacqueline tried to ignore it but it was hard as it singed her lower guts. She felt like she was going to vomit.

Of course the lady stopped at Friderick's call, looking to him curiously. She glanced to her ladies who bored scathing yet curious stares with amused, quirked lips. He was certainly behaving oddly, falling to his knee to proclaim for her beauty. Apparently the man had not heard. She opened her mouth to tell him to stop but hesitated when she noted the attention received. More and more people stopped to watch the display. It was sweet of course, his declaration of her beauty and how he admired her. Though she was notably taken aback when he asked for her hand in marriage. Such a sweet, silly man he was. What could the lord of a swamp region give her? Bugs and moss. A shame too, he really was quite handsome. She raised a hand to her chest and gave him a simpering smile.

"Oh my dear, sweet Friderick (well thank God she at least got his name right for a change.) You honor me with your gift and your offer. I will gladly accept the dedication...but as a wedding present." She let the sentence linger a moment. "Yes such a fine gift you have given me for my marriage to Count Theodore. I shall treasure the gesture always sweet Friderick." Around them the crowds tittered quietly. Most had known of the engagement. "We were going to formally announce it at the feast but this is, perhaps good. I should not wish for too many noble knights to beg my hand before then," she said with a gentle laugh, the crowd laughed along and louder. "I will see you at the feast then." She gave a polite curtsy before turning away with her ladies who began tittering and giggling well before out of earshot.

Jacqueline let out a low, long breath. From her perspective it was painful to watch. She couldn't imagine what Friderick was feeling, what coursed his mind. The white hot stone was gone. It was over. Now he knew though he learned in a painful, nearly violent way. It would have been kinder if she had just reached into his stomach and pulled out his guts by hand. Maybe she should have told him. Though then he likely wouldn't have done so well in the tournament. Nothing like love to drive one's ambitions. Slowly she approached, though kept a little space in case he was going to lash out. "Maybe...we should go now...skip the feast..." she said quietly as the crowds parted.
 

BennyQ

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Canada
At first Friderick was at a loss for words. Aurianne would accept his gift, as a wedding present. Yes, isn’t that what he meant here? A present, from groom to bride. But in the next heartbeat that illusion that he held so dear to his heart for so many years all came crashing down. It seemed as if the wind itself ceased for him, that no air entered into his lungs, and no conscious sense of his functioned anymore. Nothing except his ears, which beheld the tragedy alone for what came next. …for my marriage to Count Theodore. It had already been decided? He had been too late? His lips quivered, as if to start saying b-b-but… but no sound came from his mouth. Thankfully.

They laughed at him. He was but one of many, rather than being one above many. He was nothing. Another notch on her long list of suitors. Where before he thought he could prevail over them, now he was buried beneath the weight of it. No, it couldn’t be so. This must be some mistake. Yet he could fathom it. There was Lady Aurianne, saying these things herself, to him, Friderick, Baron of Alnerwick. The women laughed mockingly. The men shook their heads condescendingly. Friderick was left behind kneeling on the sands, swallowing hard for a moment but unable to say nothing. He just stared after her, the conversation and scene replaying in his mind, over and over again. He relived his foolishness and his rejection a thousand times before he even deigned to move.

How pitiful, to dedicate a victory to a woman already wed. He hated it then. He hated his victory, his poverty, even himself. What did he not have that Theodore did? Money? Well what of all the things he had that Theodore did not? If only he could make Aurianne understand that. He may not be rich, but he had strength, honour, fearlessness. Didn’t these things count for something? He felt all his achievements deregulated to nothing when compared to gold. Saving the lives of innocent, defeating knights of renown, did they mean nothing to a man who accumulated gold? Maybe if he just talked to her, made her see it that way, she could still walk away from Theodore and be his.

Or maybe it was all for naught. The decision was made. Aurianne spoke it openly. No one would go back on their word when said publicly, right? Everyone flowed around him as if he was some refuse in the streets, a rock in the stream that all moved around. They went on, leaving him behind, with no remorse for him. A tourney victor, reduced to this state by a woman. How entertaining! He might be a Baron, and one of the nobility, but those more powerful and rich always viewed those beneath as tools and objects for their amusement. He was no different. His life was a spectacle for them, until it was no longer entertaining. Friderick stood up, though his limbs all felt limp and lifeless. What did all these victories even mean, if it got him nothing of his heart’s desire?

Somewhere far away, so it seemed, Jacque’s voice could be heard. Skip the feast…

No.” Friderick said in a very venomous tone, some of that anger borne from his disbelief snaking its way into his tone. “We will go, because not to attend would be weakness. Come on, boy.” They’ll say I fled in tears from this rejection. No, I will go, and I will see this Count Theodore…

And I will bash his face in.


Fortunately the violence and intensity of that desire died on the way to the castle, behind most guests. He was the tourney victor after all. He was there to be honoured and not be ridiculed. He would not run. They would attend the function, eat at the feast, and drink with their noble colleagues in rank and station. It was supposed to be a happy event right? Yet Friderick entered in and passed by congratulators and well-wishers with a broody expression. That shouldn’t stop Jacque from enjoying himself either. He was a melee victor. And the young noblewomen knew his pedigree and rank. They wanted him again. They made those eyes at him. And if it wasn’t for Jacque’s proximity to the winded up spring trap that Friderick was, they would be all over him.

Yes, they were there. Lady Aurianne and her flock of hens, with Count Theodore in their midst. Effeminate, yet of a clear masculine pride, thinking he ruled all those women and not just Lady Aurianne, the prettiest of them all, who was his wife. It all seemed so foolish and stupid to Friderick. Could they not see the weasel for who he was? Or did he have to go over there and challenge him to a fight? Yet Theodore was rich, rich enough to afford a champion, or simply refuse and suffer the loss in face and pride.

He took a step towards them, hands clenched into fists at his side, with all the malicious intent visible in his face. And yet… “Lord Friderick!” A familiar voice cried out and there was Duke Tancred of Archensheen, with his son Clotaire. The Duke had a wide grin on, was clearly drunk, and signaled a servant who bring forth new cups for them four, Jacque included. “A toast to your noble victory, my good Baron. You are surely a warrior of valour and renown.” He praised Friderick. Friderick at least drank politely to the toast, though his eyes couldn’t stop drifting off to Aurianne on the far side of the hall.

Clotaire just sneered at Jacque with a smirk. Little shit was lucky he wasn’t in the melee tournament. Secretly he had been scared of getting his pretty face injured.

“What’s next for the decorated victor now? The tourney at Veluca perhaps?” The Duke inquired and Friderick’s eyes roamed back to him. For a moment, he didn’t answer. The pause was…awkward.

“No.” Friderick declared. “I must go to Lancaster now, to help my squire in the search for his sister.” He had enough of tournaments, all of them forever stained with today’s disappointment. They were nothing to him now.

“I had forgotten. My apologies to you, Lord Lancaster.” Duke Tancred said gravely. “Let us hope she is recovered quickly. I was hoping this was just another one of those…you know, a woman’s brief madness. We all know how flighty they can be right.” He chuckled, as did Clotaire, and even the servant smiled. Even Friderick offered up a half-grin. And Jacque? They were making fun…of her.

“You aren’t necessitated to go.” Clotaire said. “You are three short of the record for jousting victories. Would you not go and pursue this recognition, instead of playing some bratty girl’s games?”

“Some other time perhaps. My youth has run away it seems. I don’t think I can expend the next decade competing with the younger competitors, such as yourself, Lord. Shame you did not attend. You might have won over old greybeards like myself.” Friderick answered the boy, who flushed red but muttered a thanks to the Baron’s praise.

“So back to Lancaster then. Shame your squirehood is being cut short, little Lord.” Tancred then said to Jacque, finally letting the boy enter the conversation about his own family. After all the things they said about her.
 

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
Full stop. Jacqueline’s limbs filled with leaden ice at Friderick’s tone. She had wondered how he would take the rejection, knew it was only a matter of time before he felt it. Part of her was honestly surprised he seemed to be so collected still. At least externally, despite the sniping tone in his voice. She released a long, slow breath with his determination to attend. Maybe some food and drink would do him good. Seeing Aurainne there on the arm of the Count, however, that could be disastrous. Part of her wanted to feel sorry for him, the other part wanted to punch him in the back of his big blockhead. There were plenty of other women in the world, far more worth such fawning and admiration. Jacqueline vehemently denied the quiet voice that whispered her own desire for him to see who she really was and perhaps garner the same admirations.

It was a long trek up to the large keep; long only given the sheer number of folk flocking to the feast. Jacqueline kept close to Friderick though it was easy enough to spot the big man in a crowd. Joyous should of congratulations and adulations chimed from every direction. Though she couldn’t help but note that he didn’t seem to have a care for them. His heart was broken so it should be no surprise though one would think such a victory should taste a little sweet even with the bitter disappointment. Jacqueline glanced around and noted a few pairs of eyes in their direction. Long lashes in fine faces, sly and simpering smirks. Jacqueline’s guts roiled. Enough had happened that day she didn’t have the patience to deal with women like that. Not that she ever had much patience for it to begin with. They seemed to keep their distance so long as she hung by Friderick’s side so cling to him she did.

Seeing Aurainne was inevitable. Friderick’s sudden halt clued Jacqueline in and she followed his gaze. There the woman was with her husband to be and her attending hens. Jacqueline went utterly still. They stood on a precipice. There was nothing she could do but wait and watch; stopping Friderick would be impossible and she was sure he wouldn’t listen to words of reason. Her breath stilled as Friderick stared. Had he not suffered enough disappointment and shame? Such dedication should be commendable but it was boarding on insanity. The woman had made her choice and nothing Friderick could do, shy of suddenly acquiring a vast amount of wealth, would change her mind.

Salvation came. Duke Tancred’s drunk greeting made Jacqueline jump a little, whipping her head around to the man. Though her eyes passed right over him and fell on his odious son, Clotaire. The boy bore a smug grin. What did he have to be so smug and sly about? Jacqueline’s red brows pulled into a puzzled frown. Her attentions turned back to the Duke as he had a servant press them with wine and toasted Friderick’s victory in the tournament. Jacqueline managed a partial smile with the toast and drank with them. Her eyes drifted to Clotaire once more, the frown returning. What was his problem? Who cared? He was an obnoxious swine and mattered little. Her attentions turned back to the Duke as he question Friderick on the next tournament. She looked up at Friderick already certain what his answer would be. He was distracted, the pause long and painful as he tore his eyes from Aurainne and her gaggle of hens.

An icy chill crept up Jacqueline’s spine. She knew it was Friderick’s intentions to go back to Lancaster to aid in the search for their missing daughter. If it wasn’t so serious a predicament she might have laughed. He had already found her he just hadn’t a clue. Jacqueline took another long but slow drink, barely taking in any wine, just to hide the worried amusement. Tancred’s grave apology was met with an attempt at a solemn nod. Though her eye twitched as he went on. Flighty. A woman’s madness. Heat rose into her ears as the men laugh. Jacqueline’s grin was more of a grimace at the poor humor at her expense.

Then Clotaire spoke up. Fire snapped in Jacqueline veins. Bratty girl indeed! Her knuckles turned white as she glared at the child. She opened her mouth to rebuke the brat but Friderick jumped in first. Green eyes snapped over to him. The sudden whip of fury was tempered with Friderick’s melancholic response. Grey beard? Heaven above he was dramatic. Though she gave a derisive snort about Clotaire being able to win on the field. He wouldn’t be able to joust a chicken.

Squirehood cut short? Jacqueline quirked an eyebrow at the Duke. “I should hardly think so. I’m sure Jacqueline will be found with…some ease,” she said with a small, dismissive wave. “Our mother did joke that she should weigh down her skirts to make running off more difficult,” she said with a small laugh. “Perhaps she found a man worth her hand,” she said with a direct stare at Clotaire. “But it’s hardly a childish game now is it? Regardless of the reason you’d be wise not to speak about my sister in such a fashion. She’s one person I wouldn’t want to make enemies with.”

While more than ready to leave the pedantic conversation she wasn’t so sure about leaving Friderick’s side. There was sort of safety from the women there. Maybe she slightly understood why they thought of women the way that they did. These women were a strange breed. They type she never wanted to befriend or to become. Despite all the attempts from her mother to make her like that. Jacqueline shuddered at the very notion. To be like Aurainne. Choosing some inane, pompous, peacock over a man like Friderick.
 

BennyQ

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Canada
Friderick hardly paid any attention to Jacque’s retort and response to the Lords before him. Not even to correct the boy’s informal naming of his sister. As a squire he should know to address a noblewoman, even if it were his own twin sister, as Lady Lancaster. But the Baron was too panged at heart to be bothered at present with the proper address of a Lady’s title, after being so heinously shattered by one. Who was standing just across the hall, immersed with her Lady friends, cooing over the nuptials to come. That should be his excitement that electrified them, not Theodore’s. They were so contented in their happiness though. Why should he go and ruin a good thing for another?

Clotaire wasn’t put off by the little Lord’s subtle threats. He chuckled in amusement instead. “A Lady finding a man worth her hand, what nonsense. As if women could ever think for themselves beyond flashy dresses and trinkets. Making enemies with her is like making enemies with ants. You won’t even notice until they crawl up your leg. And even then, you just flick them away.”

“Clotaire, that’s enough.” Duke Tancred suddenly put in. “Lady Lancaster is of respectable stock and would never stray from her upbringing. I’m sure there is some other issue at hand here besides that.”

Clotaire just shrugged. “If they’re so smart, why is it that a lady’s father or brother must vet her choice of spouse and companion first? They know their women can’t think properly for themselves. We’re all men here. I know it, you know it, we all know it.”

“Clotaire.” Tancred said more firmly. Clotaire smirked, gave a condescending bow to Friderick and Jacque, and went to stroll somewhere else. “I apologize for his politics. There’s a time and place for it, but not today. Today is for you, Baron Alnerwick. Please, eat as much as you like, enjoy the wine, and I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of dance partners for you.”

“My gratitude to you, Lord.” Friderick said with a more genuine bow of his head, also nudging Jacque to do the same to their gracious host, whatever his son might have said or thought. And what did Friderick think? He figured he could agree with that. If women could think, Aurianne would have seen him as the better mate, a hard working mate, then that spoiled and pampered fool Theodore, who’s riches were earned not by the toil of his hands, but through the inheritance of his parents. I am done with romance and love this day. I am done with women he told himself bitterly over and over again. It may just be because of the sting of the recent rejection and denial. Would it last? Or would it fade as all hurts and wounds eventually did?

The pair of them were alone again. Friderick snatched a goblet of wine and forgo his usual style of modesty, gulping down the contents rather rapidly. “You heard the Duke. Go eat and drink as much as you like. And dance, as you seem to enjoy with the ladies. I will not be staying long, but you can enjoy yourself here. I am tired. But do not stay overlong. Tomorrow or perhaps the day after, we hit the road towards your home. These will probably be the last vestiges of comfort we will see for some time.” He said without a glance towards Jacque, raising his cup to polish off the final drops.

There was indeed attentions for Jacque. Two noblewomen nearby, not much older than Jacque, waited until his eyes passed over them before they waved and giggled amongst themselves. They were dressed almost provocatively, low cut dresses, with their breasts perked up by tight corsets that emphasized their figures. They simply loved the young lord’s green eyes. And not to mention his powerful pedigree and rank. A future Duke. Who didn’t want to hitch their wagon to it?

“Those girls can certainly think for themselves.” Friderick noted drily, continuing in his unhappy mood. But he didn’t want it to extend to Jacque. So he nudged the boy again, towards the noblewomen, who had a clear explosion of glee when they saw the young lord’s knight and guardian approving of their meeting. “Go on. Dance.” Friderick ordered Jacque. “Your father expects both a knight…and a gentleman. I want to show him some progress if we see him soon. So go and have your fun.” And not waste your youth chasing up a skirt you can never obtain. Stake your claim now, like those girls want to. At least they had an interest in him, however that might be. Not like Friderick, a simple poor Baron, the lowest of nobility and beneath them, yet still too high in standing for peasant women, even the most attractive, to earn a relationship with him. He was stuck in some strange limbo and he was consigning himself to that fate, after losing Aurianne. But Jacque shouldn’t have to.

Still, just fulfill his wishes, then maybe he could leave with Friderick when he does.
 

LilGunner

Nonsolis radios sediouis fulmina mitto.
Joined
Jul 16, 2017
Location
Virginia
Clotaire was profoundly lucky Friderick and Tancred was present. Jacqueline's fists clenched tightly enough to turn the knuckles white and dig her nails into the soft meat of her palm. Insufferable! To think her father had thought the boy was any match for her! Then again he was entirely different from the meek, mewling boy she had once met. Honestly she would prefer to see that boy again. Her ears rang and burned like hell fire. Every fiber trembled with the effort to not leap on him and at least break his nose if not do more damage. So pompous and puffed in his own self-righteous sexism he wouldn't even listen to the warnings of his father! Yet part of Jacqueline slightly understood where he was coming from. That recognition alone only made her more furious. Many women of their station were insufferable natterers whose conversation delved no deeper than a spring puddle. On and on about baubles and the weather and needlework.

Finally Tancred got his son's attentions and the boy excused himself from the small gathering. Jacqueline stared after him as he left feeling a wetness in her palm. Her nails had gripped deep and hard enough to draw a little blood. She pressed her palms to her breeches to clean them up as Tancred apologized for Clotaire. A time and place for it? When was there a time and place for that kind of talk? Jacqueline gave a small huff but bowed politely. Tancred needed to reign in his son before the boy did any damage to their family. Not that she should care of course. "Thank you my lord," she said politely as the duke walked away to enjoy the feast he was throwing. Alone once more with Friderick. Still broken and melancholy. Jacqueline looked up at him as her anger melted with the duke's absence. Her eyebrows rose as he grabbed more wine to drain. How unlike him. Eat and drink as much as she liked, dance and enjoy. Friderick should know full well she didn't like the idea of dancing. Though she had noted a very splendid dessert display.

Before she could make her escape to some sweets her eyes fell on two woman. Even Jacqueline couldn't help immediately looking at their breasts. Lord in heaven it was a wonder they weren't falling out of their dresses! They waved and giggled in delight of being noticed. Jacqueline glanced at Friderick and his dry comment. Her lips quirked in a mild amusement. Think for themselves indeed. Think they could nab a future Duke for a husband. Jacqueline staggered a moment at the nudge and huffed a small sigh with his order. Dance. More dancing. She hated dancing. Just one dance with each then she could peruse those fabulous looking desserts. "Very well. Try and..." She stopped herself. Friderick probably didn't want to hear even a utterance of sympathy from her, well him. "Never mind," she said with a small shake of her head and walked to the woman who were nearly beside themselves with excitement.

Two dances turned into four which became eight. She was never going to get anything to eat! Yet Friderick would disapprove if she turned down any women. At least she had gotten far better at dancing with women. Of course she knew all the steps but she knew them from the woman's perspective. Stranger still was the fact that she was at height with or shorter than most of her partners. She would wonder how women might find such a short 'man' attractive but she remembered they were probably more attracted to the name rather than her. Twelve dances and she managed to break away for a small nibble and a lemon cake only to be accosted again.

A couple hours later Jacqueline managed to escape the hall. Her feet ached from the day and all the dancing. All she wanted was her bedroll and so very many hours of sleep. The town was settling in for the night as she passed through. All was peaceful and quiet. She took a long, slow breath, enjoying the quiet and the solitude. The moon was nearly full in brilliance, the sky clear and stars sparkling above. She made it to the camp and the tent she shared with Friderick. On the road. She swore she would tell him when they were on their road. Just the pair of them. He should know before they arrived at least though she wasn't confident she could convince him to keep the secret. He still deserved to know the truth at least. Jacqueline removed her boots much to the delight of her hot, aching feet and crawled into her bedroll.

The next thing she knew the sun was rousing her from sleep. Jacqueline gave a light groan and stretched before getting up. She stirred up the fire to get some breakfast started and went to tend the horses. Once breakfast was over it was time to pack everything up and head out. A task she had grown used to she was quicker about it and before long they were off and away from the group. She bid farewell to those she was on better terms with, even saying a farewell to Fabien who was well on the mend but still couldn't speak. She had every intention of telling him once they were well enough away. Though exactly when well enough was she kept putting off. Away from the group. Well, no, away from town. No, actually, off Tancred's prominent lands. Oh well they were passing a farm, couldn't very well speak openly near people. She was distant and flighty, her stomach in knots. Half a hundred times she opened her mouth to speak but it ended in a squeak, a huff, and silence.
 
Top Bottom