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Subject: Honor on the Field 3/26

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Date Posted: Thursday, November 03, 12:05:59pm
In reply to: Nell 's message, "Honor on the Field" on Tuesday, November 01, 08:53:54pm

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Chapter 3 *~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Edward was sitting in his chair at the head of the room, watching the last dancers wheel through the final verses of the country tune, when Phillip appeared and sank heavily down into his own chair next to him, a satisfied sigh leaking from him as he did so. Edward nodded and smiled at his host, “Excellent party, Phillip.”

Phillip radiated quiet pleasure. “Thank you, your highness. This has been the most successful year yet.” Phillip waved his hand at the crowd. “This year we have all six champions from the London games.” Phillip turned and bowed his head toward Edward. “And you, your highness. My little house party has come a long way.”

“It certainly has, Phillip. You should be very pleased.”

“Oh, I am. I am.”

Edward looked curiously at Phillip, whose sharp eyes were tracking the crowd of dancers with an alertness that belied his attitude of physical exhaustion. Following his host’s gaze, Edward caught sight of Nikita’s blond head, weaving through the thinning crowd. He said, “Nikita appears to do an excellent job managing the crush. You must be very proud of her.”

Phillip nodded again, his eyes still tracking the last late-night revelers. “She does indeed, and I am quite proud of her. Nikita has proven herself a very talented householder; most worthy of the office I have given her.”

“She’s also an extremely lovely girl.”

“Aye.” Phillip sighed quietly and continued, almost to himself, “more is the pity, really.”


Phillip shrugged and spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. “Well I can’t afford to dower the gel, your highness. So, the interest she generates falls off when they realize she will come with nothing but her beauty. That in turn has brought her interest of a less honorable kind. She’d have an easier time of it without the burden of her looks.”

“Like young Peplow, earlier.”

Phillip’s tone was sardonic. “Exactly, you highness.” Then he chuckled dryly. “I thought that great noddy Robert Claremont would knock his teeth in, but Nikita handled it. She always does.”

“What’s Claremont’s interest in her?”

“Him?” Phillip snorted. “He’s been following her around like a puppy once a year now for three or four years. I once thought he might offer to marry her – he’s not too badly situated and I would have been happy to see her settled so suitably. But Robby’s mother has set her sights on a dower to improve the family finances, and he dares not cross her. So once a year he comes to moon over Nikita.”

“Why didn’t you step in, instead of Claremont?”

“Look at her, your highness!” Phillip inclined his head toward the opposite wall, where Nikita was standing quietly and observing the crowd while she spoke with a servant. “If she depended on me to step in, I’d spend my entire life at her side, beating admirers off with a stick.”

Edward raised an incredulous eyebrow. “So, you let her beat them off herself?”

“She’s a bastard without portion. There will always be those who scorn her for it, hope to take advantage of it – shielding her from it wouldn’t make her stronger. She needed to face it head on, if she is to be happy with her lot in life.”

Edward looked curiously at Phillip. “What do think her lot will be?”

Phillip shot a wry grin at Edward. “I think, short of finding another Robby without the terrifying mother, I will have an excellent housekeeper for as long as I live. After that, it will have to be the church, I suppose. Assuming she keeps her nose clean enough.”

“Do you worry for her, um,” Edward thrashed around for a word, “for the safety of her nose, with this crowd?”

Phillip’s expression turned rather fierce, and Edward found himself suddenly remembering Phillip’s glory days on the championship fields. “Never fear, my lord, no man will press her against her will in my house.”

“Can you be so certain? I’ve known Hugh Barbant since he was twelve years old, and I would not place a wager on what he would or wouldn’t do in the right mood.”

“Nikita doesn’t care for him either, and has sent him about his business more than once. I keep a close eye on his whereabouts, my lord, never fear.” Phillip suddenly smiled. “After your neat trick tonight, your highness, I think he’ll leave her alone. If it relieves your mind any, know Nikita carries a throwing knife, I taught her to hunt with it as a child, she’s very good with it too. I also taught her a few basic self-defense strokes.”

Edward tried not to sound as aghast as he felt. “You expect her to defend her own honor with a throwing knife?”

“No, no! Of course not! Either a manservant or myself are always within sight or sound of her, until the last of the guests have gone.”

“Does Nikita know?”

“No. Wouldn’t do to tell her either. She’s got to believe she stands on her own two feet, or she’ll never survive.”

Edward felt that he should argue with this assessment, but he didn’t know how. So he was about to change the subject, when Phillip spoke again. “I’ve always thought she’d guard her honor with her life, Nikita would, till I saw the way she was looking at your friend Rouen, tonight, and he at her.” Phillip turned to look directly at Edward. “What kind of man, is he, your highness?”

Edward was aware of his own inconsistency, given how quickly he had warned Rouen off Nikita himself, but he rose to his friend’s defense regardless. “Not a man to trifle with meaningless seduction, Phillip. He’s got a wife he’s very fond of, and two small children.”

“Ah, but he’s a knight and a man, and a champion, far from home.”

“He considers himself a man of honor Phillip. He won’t take what doesn’t belong to him and he has fortune enough to pay for his pleasures.”

Phillip nodded his head across the room, to the far shadows where Rouen stood, his gaze locked on Nikita as she laughed at something a young knight said, her hair glowing in the firelight. “Let us hope you judge him well.”

They sat in silence for a while, watching Rouen watch Nikita, and Edward hoped that he judged Rouen well too, or he could have a very angry Baron on his hands. A sudden movement caught his attention, and he saw Rouen start, as though he were coming out of a daze, then abruptly turn and slip out of the room. Edward immediately sought out Nikita and with more resignation than surprise, watched her watch him leave.

Turning over the possible complications in his mind, Edward reminded himself that Rouen had already gone out of his way to ease things for Nikita tonight, that he had already put himself in the role of Nikita’s protector. He also told himself that his friend would never intentionally hurt or abuse a woman he admired the way he appeared to admire Nikita, and would hate to be the cause of unintentional harm as well. That Nikita appeared equally drawn to him was a pity, but they would be soon parted and their nascent attraction would be nipped in the bud before it could grow into something too powerful to forget or ignore. As Edward followed out this train of thought, a new idea beckoned, and an old desire came floating back up to the surface. He said aloud, as though he were making only idle conversation, “Rouen is very strategically located.”

Phillip looked curiously at him. “Yes. It is,” he agreed.

Edward went on, “I have often wished for some means to encourage her Duke to look favorably on England’s interests across the channel.”

Phillip’s face stilled, then he flicked his gaze back towards his eldest daughter as he said, “have you, your highness?”

“Oh yes,” Edward replied. “I haven’t found the key myself, but I would be very grateful to the man who could.”

“Rouen is said to be a man of remarkably few weaknesses.”

“Remarkably few. But every man has at least one. And when you find it…...” Edward let his sentence trail off.

After a moment, Phillip said, in a very thoughtful tone, “indeed, Your Highness. Indeed.”


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Subject Author Date
oh myskThursday, November 03, 01:02:50pm
I really like this storyTNThursday, November 03, 05:21:45pm
Oh, oh, what is brewing in their minds? (NT)signme1Thursday, November 03, 05:39:09pm
Wonderful (NT)SisFriday, November 04, 07:41:29am
More please. More! (NT)AnnFriday, November 04, 08:00:14am

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