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Subject: Honor on the Field, 10

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Date Posted: Friday, November 11, 08:28:40pm
In reply to: Nell 's message, "Honor on the Field" on Tuesday, November 01, 08:53:54pm

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Chapter 10 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“So? How is my royal brother?”

Samuelle looked sideways at his companion and shrugged. “Ready.”

Charles Valois, Dauphin of France, laughed lightly. “I would expect no less of Louis.”

Samuelle nodded his agreement, but said nothing more as he and his cousin continued to make their way across London to attend Prince Edward’s Grand Banquet, held to mark the end of the London Tournament. Charles was not as much of a fan of the tournament as the Black Prince, or even Samuelle himself, but like many others, found that it was easy to see many influential men at once by attending the largest and most prestigious events, and the London Tournament, thanks to the prizes purses Edward provided, was the most prestigious of them all.

Samuelle had visited Louis, Charles’s younger brother, in his box at the tournament grounds not long after the final joust. Louis, along with some nearly forty others, was stuck in England as hostage to the hapless efforts of his father, Jean II of France, to pay the enormous ransom agreed to in 1360, in the Treaty of Bretigny. In many ways, Samuelle knew, the Treaty of Bretigny was a step forward. It had resolved any number of thorny issues of succession and inheritance and suzerainty over several different French provinces that had fueled warfare between England and France for almost an entire generation, and cost him alone two of his elder brothers among uncounted others as a result of the fighting. In other ways, however, the Treaty was proving an unacceptable burden.

In particular, the need to raise the equivalent of three million crowns, gold, to pay ransom for Jean’s capture at Poitiers in 1356 by Prince Edward was proving impossible. King Edward III of England, the Black Prince’s father, had allowed Jean to go home to raise the money, and as a sign of Jean’s good faith, Louis and the others had been left for what was supposed to be six months. But despite the great wealth of France, no one had that much gold just lying around, easy to hand, to give to the king. It was now nearly two and half years later, and Louis and the others were increasingly frustrated by their apparently unending captivity – mild as it was, for they were all able to move about as they pleased, having given their own word as knights to abide by the terms of the treaty.

Charles spoke again, “The world is changing.”

“Or, perhaps, we are seeing it more clearly and acting accordingly.”

“My father will not like it.”

“No.” Samuelle shrugged again. “Does that matter, any more?”

It was Charles’ turn to shrug. “No.”

As they mounted the steps, Charles said, “we can rely on you?”


“Any second thoughts?”

“None.” Seeing some doubt lingering in his cousin’s eye, Samuelle added firmly, “I would do the same.”

Charles smiled then, and clasped his arm. “Good hunting, then, cousin.”


Samuelle fought his way across the party through knots of fawning admirers, each eager to say something to the most accomplished knight of his generation, and he was finding it a singularly depressing moment. He had expected to feel nothing but immense satisfaction when he achieved his goal of dominating the tourney season in three events, but instead he felt flat and empty. The loss of the driving purpose that had ordered his life for the last six months, combined with the knowledge of what he was now party to, deprived him of any true pleasure in his success.

Prince Edward was holding court in a small alcove off the main hall, and as Samuelle finally cleared the ring of squires serving to protect Edward from the crowds, he discovered, to his increasing sense of gloom, Sir Phillip Wirth standing in front of the Black Prince. He was just in time to hear Phillip say, in what struck Samuelle as a particularly unctuous voice, “And may I hope you and the Princess Joan will honor us two days hence in Marlborough, your highness? To celebrate this most magnificent, this most historic tournament?”

The Black Prince rewarded Phillip with one of his more fatuous smiles. “Certainly, Sir Phillip! We wouldn’t miss your party for the world!”

Phillip bowed until it appeared his nose almost touched his knees and backed his way toward the main room, almost stepping on Samuelle in the process.

“Pardon me, my Lord!” Phillip bowed again, this time at Samuelle, talking the whole time his head went down and bobbed back up again, his face wreathed in smiles all the while. “Your play this tourney was magnificent, Sir, magnificent! It was an honor merely to be in the audience! I was just coming in search of you, to beg you to grace my manor with your presence, in this most spectacular year!”

Before Samuelle could answer, Edward laughed and asked, “Where else would the greatest champion of the age be, if not at the greatest festivity of the season?”

Smiling easily at Edward, Samuelle said, “No where else but there, your highness.”

“Wonderful, most wonderful! Rouen and the Black Prince - together in Marlborough!” Phillip cried as he gripped Samuelle’s shoulder, a gesture of familiarity that Samuelle would have crushed at any other time, and beamed around the room, making sure everyone in hearing distance was fully aware of the social coup he just scored.

Turning his shoulder so as to speak only to Samuelle, Phillip adopted an appropriately solemn expression and dropping his voice, continued, “I was so sorry, my Lord, to hear of your losses this past winter. Your Duchess and both children.” Phillip shook his head sorrowfully. “I can well sympathize with what you must be going through. My wife and I lost three boys . . . then I lost her.”

For a brief moment, Phillip’s gaze turned inward and his expression softened into something like sadness and regret. But before Samuelle could improve his estimation of the man, Phillip looked back at him with a flicker of some emotion Samuelle couldn’t identify swimming deep in his eye and said, “but ah, Nikita was such a comfort to me then. I don’t think I would have made it through without her. She not only kept me living in the present, she always reminded me that my life had joy as well as sorrow.”

Rendered temporarily mute by surprise, and more than a bit of anger that Phillip would presume to know either what Samuelle had felt at the loss of Simone or their children, or that Nikita could or would be a comfort him in his grief, Samuelle was silent long enough for Phillip to jump into the breach again.

“Well! I can only say that you seem to have recovered remarkably well. The Triple Crown! I never thought to see that feat again in my lifetime! Ah me, it makes me wish I had still been on the field to be part of it all! Might have given you a run for your money, eh, Lord Rouen?!”

Taking Samuelle’s grimace as a smile of encouragement, Phillip produced a fifteen-minute exposition about the finer points of the broad axe, one champion to another, before finally leaving the royal presence. Long before he left, Samuelle was ruing the day he ever decided to take up Phillip's weapon. The skills of the tournament had come easily and naturally to him as a child. In time he had learned technique and discipline, but these only honed his native instincts, and never occupied much of his conscious thinking, especially in the heat of the contest. Talk of equipment, grips, footwork patterns and the like bored him silly. As far as he was concerned little in the tournament required much finesse, especially not the broad axe, which required only that you keep swinging.

When Phillip finally took himself away, Rouen shrugged his shoulders as though he were shedding an uncomfortable cloak but otherwise didn’t move.

Seeing his friend start to sink into abstraction, Edward leaned close to Rouen's ear and said, "well, nobody ever said the broad axe was a subtle skill."

His eyes tracking Phillip’s determined progress through the hall, Rouen replied, "It is as deadly as any other."

Belatedly feeling a little guilty for presuming that Rouen would naturally come to Marlborough to raise the tone of the event, Edward offered, "are you really sure you want to go to Marlborough, Michel? You’ll only encourage Phillip. And the gossip."

"And what do you propose I do instead, your highness? Stay here in London while you and your wife and every other champion goes to Marlborough? Return to Rouen to bask in my empty home? Surely that will call as much or more attention to the issue to which you allude than to go with you. And none to her advantage."

“Well, you could take Phillip up on his offer. I can not think of another man more likely to treat his lover well than you, and there is no dishonor in that.”

Rouen turned to face him, and Edward found himself on the receiving end of a stare so cold and devoid of life he almost flinched.

Edward placed a hand meant to be comforting on Rouen’s back. "Forgive me, my friend. I should not intrude in your personal affairs."


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I am loving this storyLauraFriday, November 11, 11:26:12pm

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