Author: Isabeau of Greenlea PM
As the son of a teyrn, Corin Cousland can afford a very expensive hobby. And it gets him into trouble. A glimpse of his life before DAO. Rated M for strong language.Rated: Fiction M - English - Adventure - Cousland - Chapters: 4 - Words: 14,609 - Reviews: 21 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 4 - Published: 10-26-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7496667
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"You know, Bryce, I've been thinking," Cailan said, as they all strolled back towards Loren's manor for dinner. "Fereldans don't have cavalry. And maybe it would be nice if we did have some. Perhaps your boy can learn a little more from the Orlesians and then help me with this. It would be something for him to do, don't you think?"
Bryce Cousland was surprised. The idea had never occurred to him.
"It might indeed, Sire. It might indeed."
When De Mornay showed back up at the Cousland encampment he was not surprised to see Corin, still in his armor, walking Flambeau out while Damon did the same for Beauvisage. Both horses were blanketed, and from the looks of things, pretty much cooled out.
"Lord Cousland, might I give you a hand? I know that you came equipped to deal with only one horse."
The young Fereldan turned towards him, surprised to see him in a plain leather jerkin.
"Thank you, Lord De Mornay. That's very kind of you."
"Very well then. Let me take your old warrior while you get acquainted with your new horse."
The horses were brought over to the picket line and the blankets swept off of them. Damon went to find another set of brushes and the two horsemen settled down to a companionable silence for a while, as brushes swished rhythmically against hides.
"I want to thank you for this, my lord," Cousland said eventually, stroking a hand down Flambeau's silken neck, under the golden mane. The stallion had calmed considerably under a gentle touch. "He is truly one of the most beautiful horses I've ever seen."
"No thanks are necessary. He is an extremely well-bred horse and now he will be well-used as well. I was glad to do it."
"Lord Egile won't be glad you did it. Are you going to get into trouble for this?"
Surprised at the young lord's concern, De Mornay smiled genuinely. "No, though I thank you for the courtesy. When I tell Lord Auguste of what happened, I think he will agree that losing Flambeau is an appropriate punishment for what Egile did." He paused to scratch the center of Beauvisage's chest and the roan mouthed in approval as he found an itchy spot.
"Flambeau is the third tourney horse Egile has had in two years. He ruined the first two treating them just as you saw him treat Flambeau today. His father was growing tired of the expense. I think Egile will be sitting the tournament circuit out this next year."
"I've been wondering if I should join it myself," Cousland said, a bit glumly. "Father was not much pleased at what my armor and the new horse are costing. We Fereldans aren't as rich as you Orlesians. I don't know that I can justify spending this sort of money, just for something that's fun for me and doesn't help my people. And what if I'm beaten and somebody takes my horse and armor? I understand that you pay ransom for it and it's not as much as if you had to buy it all over again, but it's still money. And there are the entry fees and blacksmiths and grain and all the rest of it." He brightened a little. "Though now that I have Flambeau, maybe we can get word to Ser Gervais, to stop him from buying me a horse. That would help."
"I would not, were I you," De Mornay said. "It is better if you have two. The tournament circuit is a grind. Horses last longer if they're given a chance to rest. And they do sometimes get injured. Best to have a spare." Brushing finished, he began to sweep a rag over Beauvisage in long, soothing strokes. "Has Tallyvere told you much about the tournament circuit?"
"He said that there were minor tournaments and major ones and that I should go to the minor tournaments. He mentioned Lydes."
"A good choice for a first tournament. The minor tournaments have smaller fees and smaller prizes and no confiscation rules. They're a good thing to cut your teeth on. It is not until you hit the major circuit that it gets cutthroat. I don't pretend to know the exact state of your finances, but given that your father hired Talleyvere, I would be very much surprised if you could not enter several minor tournaments without straining your purse over much. If you can manage even to place, it cuts down on the expenses. There is money for all of the top four placements, most of the time." He gestured to Flambeau. "And I would put this fellow to work with some of your heavy hunter mares before you go, possibly get some replacement horses down the line."
"Oh, don't worry, I intend to! As soon as I get home! Ser Gervais even helped me find a mare for Beauvisage last spring. He's got a foal due any time now."
De Mornay gave Beauvisage a pat. "Hah! You old rascal, you!" He folded his arms across the roan's back.
"The tournaments, they are not such a bad course for a second son to take," he said earnestly. "If you are good enough, you can actually make some money, even on the minor circuit. And you can find connections and…other things." He grinned. "I met my Melisse at a tournament. "Carried her favor. She gave me her heart…and a rather good-sized manor just happened to come with it."
"You're a second son?"
"Guilty as charged. My father knew that I was good with horses and entreated Tallyvere to teach me, so that I could make my own way in the world. I'd actually assumed your father had done the same for you."
"No, Father only did it because I'd begged him to for a solid year and he finally decided I was serious about this. I don't think he'd be happy with me being a tournament follower. He wants me to make a good marriage."
"Perhaps he will feel differently when he sees the advantages."
"Perhaps. Egile isn't very good, is he?"
"No, he isn't. Strictly minor circuit at this point. It is not that hard to defeat him. But that last run of yours…" De Mornay smiled in reminiscence. "That was beautiful, regardless. Picture perfect. I doubt even Tallyvere could have found anything to criticize."
"Oh, I don't know about that!" Both of them laughed. De Mornay gave Beauvisage one last swipe of the rag, then threw it into the basket that held the brushes. "I think we're about done here, my lord." He came around to Corin. "Hold out your hand." When Corin did so, he received a small purse that was pleasantly heavy in his palm.
"I got five to one from everyone, and Raimond gave me ten-to-one! This might help a little with that money problem you mentioned earlier."
"I suppose I could reserve it just for that," Corin agreed, smiling. De Mornay bowed.
"It has been a pleasure, my lord, the profit aside. Do send me a letter next spring, if you intend to go to Lydes. I will write you some introductory letters, to some of Tallyvere's other men. We look after each other. And each other's horses." He walked off into the gathering night.
"What do you mean, you gave Flambeau to Cousland!" Deslarnes screeched. He'd been healed and bathed and was now in bed. A decidedly empty bed, since Sophie had declared he wasn't touching her now and perhaps for a long time into the future- "for letting her necklace be won by a Ferelden dog-pig and given to his hag of a mother!"
"He unhorsed you," Antoine said, leaning casually against one of the bed posts at the foot of the bed. "Flambeau was his by right. Everything of yours was. You should be grateful he gave the rest of it back."
"It wasn't a real pas!"
"Wasn't it? You made a point of having me explain the rules to the crowd, along with the changes to them. You let me state that Cousland's horse was not at risk, but you didn't say that yours wasn't as well."
"Why would I have? I didn't think he was in any danger! Cousland was supposed to go down!"
"Yes, I know. Because you thought Cousland was just someone who'd tilted at a quintain now and again and you could knock him into the muck and make yourself out to be a big man. A big, bad Orlesian chevalier. In front of the King of Ferelden." Antoine frowned. "Thank you for admitting that you intended all along for this contest to do bodily harm to the son of the Teyrn of Highever."
Deslarnes was purple. "You are finished, De Mornay! Finished, I tell you! When I tell my father what happened here-
"-He will probably thank me profoundly and agree that giving Flambeau up was a gracious way of defusing the situation. The only thing I will be chastised for is for being stupid enough to think that you had some discretion and sense in the first place, and for letting you get into trouble. Which chastisement is quite valid and which I will happily endure." De Mornay reached within his rather plain leather doublet, pulled out a sizeable purse and bounced it on his palm, smiling at the jingle it made.
"What is that money?" Deslarnes demanded.
"This? Oh, this is the two hundred sovereigns I won for asking a few questions," De Mornay said airily. "You know, little things like if Cousland really knew how to tilt and if so, how long had he been doing it and who had taught him? Those little things. The things you couldn't be troubled to find out; assuming that just because he was Fereldan, he couldn't possibly know anything about the noble art of the joust. And when I discovered that Cousland did know how to tilt, that he's been tilting for the last two years under the tutelage of Ser Gervais Tallyvere, and that Tallyvere had cleared him for the minor circuit, well…I made a few bets. You know how I am."
He smiled down at the apoplectic young lord. It was a very unpleasant smile.
"You're stupid, Egile. Stupid and careless and arrogant. It was those sorts of failings that lost us this country in the first place. And it's those sorts of failings that will cost you your life in the Great Game." He paused to consider for a moment. "Or perhaps they will gain you lifelong employment instead. In Val Royeaux Chantry. Cleaning those lovely mosaics in the vestibule. All day long. With a very tiny brush."
The next day, the tournament participants began to set off for their homes. Last to arrive, the Highever party was almost the last to leave as well, waiting until they were sure Deslarnes was well down the road before returning Iona to Lady Landra's care. It was close to noon before they finally got on the road.
Eleanor Cousland looked out the carriage window at her youngest son, who was riding his beautiful new horse. It might have been a silly fancy, but she thought that the stallion looked much happier beneath her son.
"I'm afraid that I still don't understand this obsession of his, Bryce," she told her husband, who leaned close to gaze out with her. At that moment, they were cresting the lip of the valley Loren's manor lay in. The early spring sun was scudding in and out of clouds. It peeked out and ignited the stallion into red and gold flame. He launched into a gallop and they could hear Corin's laughter falling down the hill behind him.
"'And the Maker took the airs of the Heavens and the fire of the Earth and he made the Horse,'" Bryce quoted softly. "Perhaps it's the power and beauty, all tamed to your hand."
"Well, whatever the reason, he is a good lad, Bryce."
"On that we certainly agree, my dear. And I feel certain he'll make his own way, on whichever path he decides is his."
From the monthly packet from Auguste Deslarnes, Marquis Deslarnes, Ambassador With Portfolio to the Court of Cailan, King of Ferelden, to Her Imperial Majesty, Celene I of Orlais:
In closing, there is one small matter I would bring to Your Imperial Majesty's attention. Antoine De Mornay recently had the opportunity to meet the Teyrn of Highever's younger son. As you know, he has not been seen at court during the time I have been here.
It may interest you to know that Corin Cousland has been studying the art of the joust under Ser Gervaise Tallyvere and that Tallyvere is back in our country at this moment, procuring a competition horse and armor for him. You will probably have acquired this information from other sources already, but since I know that you desire greatly to have conversation with Ser Gervais, I tell you myself as well.
Antoine's judgment is good, as we both know. He asks me to tell you that Cousland speaks fluent Orlesian and that despite having only seventeen years, is shaping to be a gallant and courageous gentleman. He also says that he shows some interest in and skill for the joust, unhorsing my own son in a friendly competition. Antoine feels that these qualities and his rank, which is equivalent to the son of a duke according to our College of Heralds, may make him a possible choice of husband for the Princess Henriette, particularly since she appears to be disinterested in any male not possessing four legs, a mane and a tail. According to Antoine, Cousland is handsome enough that in combination with a handsome horse, he might attract even Henriette's eye. There was the inevitable jest about "a good seat". Given that the King is married, and Fergus Cousland is as well, Corin Cousland is truly the only high noble Ferelden male available at present, other than the Arl of Amaranthine's two sons. Rendon Howe's eldest is said to be a drunkard and the younger son is in the Free Marches under some sort of cloud of familial displeasure.
Such decisions are yours, of course and as Henriette has just turned fifteen I know that there is no great hurry as of yet. But I also know of your concern about this matter and your fervent desire to make a good match for her, so I give this information to you for your consideration.
In your service, I gratefully remain,