Here we go with another Romy! I thought you fluff-loving gals would like the thought of medieval times, with handsome knights and beautiful ladies, in times of sword fighting and courteous love… mmm, this is going to be fun. And no plot, I promise! I don't even know what could happen. I designed the first chapter to be sure no plot could slide in and ruin everything…
Disclaimer: Well, I haven't done that in ages… Lady Constance of Blaye and sir Remy of Fontainevrault, along with appearances of other characters, do not belong to me, they're Marvel's (at least they used to, before I messed them up and change them to fit them in the story). Other characters such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II and Jaufré of Blaye are real historical personalities, and the description of their appearance and attitude is based on books and web sites, with personal adding. Other characters, such as maids and other ladies, are purely home-made characters, popped up from my brain. Medieval characteristics are based on real facts, as much as possible. The story occurs in 1155, in England, at the court of Henry II and Eleanor. There's no need in noticing the absence of accent in Remy and Rogue's speech, for obvious reasons: the only people living in Mississippi and Louisiana in 1150 were the Native Americans, and Cajun and Southern accents didn't exist yet. Also, I read somewhere in my history books that French was the language of the nobles in Europe in the Middle Ages, and that would explain why French, English and German all understood each other. This would also explain the large number of French names in my story. Oh, and by the way… Remy isn't a very medieval name, but I couldn't really go on and change it for Geoffrey or Bernard now, couldn't I? The LeBeau disappeared, though, sorry.
Constance of Blaye, gripping the skirt of her dress to stop them from shaking, looked up from her curtsy to meet amused blue eyes. Eleanor of Aquitaine(1) was looking down at her, a smile on her fine, delicate pretty face. Constance quickly looked back at the ground, suddenly remembering she was facing the queen of England, wife of Henry II, and duchess of Aquitaine in France. "This isn't the time to make a false step, Constance" she thought, reminding herself. She heard a light chuckle, and a soft, light hand on her shoulder.
"Please, Lady Constance, stand up. You aren't facing your death sentence here." The amusement in the queen's voice made Constance smile, and she straighten up, letting go of her dark green dress, the fabric lightly brushing her legs.
"I am honored to meet her Majesty, Queen Eleanor…"
"Oh, Lady Constance… I have so many names already. Don't add any, child." The queen walked a few steps, nodding at the soldiers accompanying Constance to the castle. Stopping in front of a small window, she looked outside for a few moments, and turned back to her, her rich gold ornamented dress brushing the ground. Even after seven months of pregnancy, Eleanor of Aquitaine still held a grace no woman could equal. Constance never guessed she still had the face and the smile of a devilish child, even at thirty-three years old. Pointing the blue armchairs in a corner, she walked towards them. "Please sit down, Lady Constance. You are daughter of Jaufré Rudel of Blaye(2), you said?" Smiling at Constance's small nod, she sat in one of the armchairs. "Why, Blaye(3) is quite far, dear. What is the honor of such a ride?"
"My father sent me here, your Majesty. He said you were the center of a world of music and poetry." Eleanor's face lightened, and she smiled dreamily.
"Music and poems, Constance, are food to a healthy spirit… I know your father, a troubadour himself. But Aquitaine itself is a world of culture."
"Father said I might as well travel and learn different cultures while I listened to music…" Constance's voice cracked a bit. She liked it in Blaye, and didn't want to go in England, so far in the north. Eleanor noticed it and laughed, a crystalline sound in the almost silent hall.
"Lady Constance, you are welcomed here to do as you wish. Troubadours and poets fill this castle, and ask for nothing else than to make your mouth curl into a smile, your eyes twinkle with amusement, and your skin flush with flattery. And please, Lady Constance, be our guest at the tournament in two days."
"Who are you going to ask to be your lady, sir?" Remy turned to meet young Robert's eyes, glittering with excitement in the dark room. Robert was his new squire, full of energy and willing to learn everything from the one he considered no less than God himself. Remy nearly chuckled and turned back to his sword, sighing. A little bit too willing. "Sir?" Remy smiled and stood up.
"I don't know yet, Robert. I'll see when I'm in front of them." Robert looked disappointed for a few seconds, but his face lighten as he pulled the chain mail suit from the wooden chest, his face flushing with effort. He dropped it heavily on the pinewood table, and Remy walked to him. "Too heavy for you?"(4) Robert shook his head, blonde locks falling over his eyes. He tucked them behind his ears, and reached down to the suit on the table, running his fine fingers on the cold steel mails.
"No, of course not, sir. My brother's an armorer, he made tons of those. But this one is beautiful, sir." Remy sat down on the small stool and cocked his head at his twelve years old squire.
"Thank you, Robert. Now call for Denys, so you can see how much better it looks once it's on someone's body." Robert frowned.
"I can help you put it on alone, I don't need Denys' help, sir." Remy laughed softly.
"I doubt it, Robert. Call for Denys." Robert's face darkened, and he went for Denys, a young man who failed as an assigned squire, but helped putting on armory during tournaments. Besides, he was tall and well built, which made him a much better help putting the heavy suit than poor Robert, despite his will to help. Together, they lifted the heavy chain mail suit and slid it down Remy's body, letting the weight fall on his shoulders. Denys smiled down at Remy and presented his hand to help him up. Before leaving, he ruffled Robert's hair and smiled.
"Nice new laddie you got there, sir Remy."
"Of course. He still has lots to learn, but he already knows a lot." Robert, probably tired of being talked about like he was a part of the furniture, glared at Denys. He turned his head to glare at Remy, but quickly looked at the ground, his face flushing as he realized he was about to glare at his only chance of ever being a knight. Remy hid his smile by turning to the window giving to the tournament court.
It was full of people. At the right, on a covered stage so the poor ladies wouldn't be in the direct sun, the king and queen of England sat side by side, talking to each other. On Queen Eleanor's right side sat dozens of young ladies in long dresses, chatting excitedly on which knight would pick which girl to be his lucky lady in the tournament. He nearly sighed. All of those faces he knew, and none he liked. Excited, squealing young ladies too happy to be chosen to say two intelligent words in a row. That 'be a beauty and shut up' thing they taught young girls was getting on his nerves.
Suddenly he narrowed his eyes and focused on one of the ladies. She was sitting right next to the queen, much to her usual best lady's dismay, who sat at the back, a dark shadow in her blue eyes. Remy smiled. A new lady, perhaps somewhat more interesting and intelligent than the other ever-chatting magpies around her. She was sitting restlessly, her hands folded on her lap, and her dark coppery hair was tied up in a nice bun at the back of her head. He couldn't see her face clearly from where he was, and he turned back to the table. Grabbing his knight's tabard, he put it on, buckled his thick leather belt and finally looked at Robert with a large grin on his face. Young Robert handed his chain mail helmet, his brows lifted up to his hairline. Remy slipped his head in and looked down at the boy, the rustling of the steel mails music to his ears. "I have a favor to ask you, Robert."
Constance's attention drifted away from the clowns goofing around in the court to look at the boy trotting in their direction. Dressed in a plain brown linen tabard, he shot glances around him, and she could swear she saw pride in his eyes. She smiled. He looked like he couldn't be more than 14, and he was like a page who had just been 'promoted' at the rank of squire. He stopped in front of them, and Henri and Eleanor looked curiously down at him. He cleared his voice, and the ladies around Constance stopped talking, looking at the squire bending in front of the king and queen. Silence filled her ears, and she nearly sighed in relief. "You have something to tell us, young squire?" Henri asked, his loud voice bringing shivers in Constance's spine. "Tell us who it is you are working for, and look up, so I can see your face." The young squire lifted his head, determination written all over his face, and looked at Constance. She smiled at him, surprised of his attention. He flushed, and looked at his feet.
"My name is Robert, son of lord Kirkland of Northern England. I am at the employment of sir Remy of Fontainevrault. I come here to ask his king's favor for my knight. May I ask a question to the queen, her Majesty Eleanor?" King Henry's brows lifted, but he nodded to the boy. Queen Eleanor smiled and looked down at him.
"I know sir Remy of Fontainevrault" she said, a rogue smile on her lips. "And I am more than curious to know about what favors he wants to ask to me?"
"Sir of Fontainevrault wanted to know the name of your new lady's companion at your side, your Majesty." Constance felt her face flush, and swiftly looked down at her hands in her lap. Eleanor laughed, and put a soft hand on her arm.
"Why don't you tell him yourself, dear Lady?" Constance looked up at Eleanor's devilish grin, then back at the boy.
"My name is Constance of Blaye, young Robert. May I ask you why he needs to know my name?" Robert looked at her, his blue eyes twinkling with excitement.
"Forgive me, Lady Constance, but I was forbidden to say more." He bent down in front of Henry and Eleanor, and after a brief word of thank, he ran back out of the court, and in the knights house. Constance looked at Eleanor, who just smiled back before returning to her husband. The ladies returned to their never-ending chatting, and Constance fought back the urge to cover her ears.
It wasn't long before horseback riding knights came out of the stable, one by one, and slowly paraded in front of yelling excited spectators. They finished in a perfect line in front of Henri and Eleanor, and bent their heads in salute. Curious, wondered which one was sir Remy. Not that it would have helped knowing, since they all wore tin masks over their faces, eyes barely showing through the slit on the mask. The first knight drove his horse in front of Eleanor and raised his sword, and Constance recognized him as Bernard, the head of the royal guard. Eleanor smiled, and threw him a light blue handkerchief. Several knights did the same with other ladies, all squealing as soon as they realized they were the chosen one, and Constance's heart began beating faster. Until the last knight slowly made his way in front of her, and drew out his sword. He took it in his left hand, presenting the hold up to her, and bent his head.
"Lady Constance of Blaye, may I request you keep your eyes for me, and your prayers for my sake in the next games? For I would want nothing more than to fight for the emeralds you have instead of eyes." Constance held her breath, and she heard Henry hiss in some air through his teeth.
It was at the limit of courteous love, almost indecent.
As she stood there, silent, he looked up, searching her eyes for an answer.
When she saw the glint of amusement through the slit, she knew he wasn't any ordinary knight. And her heart fluttered.
She opened her hand and let her green handkerchief fly right to him. He caught it with his right hand. Sheathing back his sword, he tied the kerchief to his left mail glove, and saluted to her, bending his head. "It is an honor to me to fight for such beauty… I shall not dishonor you, my Lady." Constance nodded, and sat back, placing her shaking hands back in her lap.
He didn't dishonor her. She watched, mouth slightly agape, as he and the other finalist sword fought to the great amusement of the crowd. Constance wasn't amused. Back at home, knights liked to practice and play, but this was the first time she witnessed a real tournament. And she could see it was serious.
Both men were getting tired, and their hits were made with the last of their energy, and a lot of despair. They were getting easily disturbed by the shouts of the crowd, and Constance put her hands to her mouth when her knight almost got hit by the deadly sword, dodging the blow at the last moment. Dodge, hit, hit, dodge, step forward, dodge, hit, step backward, hit, the sword gleaming in the sunlight coming down at impressive speed only to be stopped by the other one with a clear clanking sound and a spark. Soon, the shouts of the crowd transformed into silence as the fight between sir of Fontainevrault and the head of the royal guard stretched over ten minutes, then half an hour. Both of them were now yelling with each of their hits, fatigue gnawing at their arms. Henry frowned and got up, ready to put the fight to an end if one of the two was to fall. Suddenly, Bernard made a false move. The other knight dodged a hit he thought he wouldn't see, and he lost his balance when Remy tripped him. His chain mail suit did the rest, weighting him down, and he fell to the ground on his back. Sir Remy quickly put the sword to his throat, and tapped at the mask, tilting it back to reveal Bernard's face. The crowd erupted into shouts, and Remy bent down and presented his hand. Bernard smiled and took it, and Remy helped him up.
Constance wanted to wait, but Eleanor took her arm. "Follow us, Lady Constance. Food is awaiting you." Constance was pulled with the movement of hungry overexcited ladies running for food in the large dinning room of the castle, so she followed. And when she managed to look back at the tournament court, she found it was empty.
1. Her real name was Aliénor, but she is called Eleanor in English (and in this story, for your sake…*grin*) Even if she was the queen of France (until 1152), then the queen of England (she always liked putting herself into trouble, books say), she always stayed the duchess of Aquitaine, and ruled over the Aquitains, who liked her a lot.
2. Anachronism number one : Jaufré Rudel the troubadour, prince of Blaye, had no known children.
3. Blaye (France) is situated in the south West of France, near the city of Bordeaux (in Aquitaine).
4. Chain mail suits could weight up to 50 to 60 pounds, sometimes more, depending on the armory work. Believe me! I made a helmet in mail chain, and it weights 10 pounds alone… A knight couldn't (really couldn't) put in on or of without the help of at least one person. But that's nothing compared to the full plates armors, but these won't appear until the XIIIth century.