Vanya and the Green Knight

Sword Piss

“Faster.”

Glaedrigh crossed the sixth feet between them at a run, but the guardsman boots that had been jammed unceremoniously on his feet felt heavy and floppy. Did horses feel as awkward when they were fitted with iron curves and nails? How did anyone run this way? He could remember, years ago, the Lady DoNotCallMother had insisted booties of softened, thin leather be strung on his feet whenever he was brought out of the room that had been ‘his’. The nursemaid had always made sure a finger width of space was in the laces so that the leather didn’t pinch over the stockings.

His bastard sword rang against the Captain’s, at level of his hips, a crescendo of blows moving up and crossing without marking the knight with bruise or tear to muscle. It wasn’t mark of lack of effort- he was trying to score on the man. He didn’t want to hurt Maddox, but a mark would prove skill and learning. It would do honor to the teaching.

There was a sharp and spreading burn in his hip? Middle? His eyes weren’t focused at all-no, they were closed. There was they sound of a slap, his eyes were open again and he was looking at the horrified faces of two of the guard off near the door into the castle from the parade grounds.

“Are you going to die, or are you going to keep fighting?”

Glaedrigh pulled back, felt the blade in him slide out of flesh neatly as out of scabbard, but it was followed by pungent odor- blood and urine. The robes under the loose leather armor were staining fast from the broken damn. The stab was below cuirass, angled along belt, right into his bladder. Disgusting—covered in not only blood but his own piss out the wound.

“Lift your sword, higher. Your neck isn’t guarded while you’re nursing your waist.”

“They won’t go higher,” his arms were shaking, but they wouldn’t follow the commands of his shoulders. Leather armor didn’t have a gorget. No, its a fools hope to rely on armor to protect where his sword doesn’t so completely. Maddox would jam his sword just as cleanly though the joints as were there no armor there anyway.

But that didn’t help his arms any higher. His grip on the hilt was still fine- supple but controlled, but the shivers in his body were getting worse. Maddox had been frank long ago about wounds-take a bad one and the body took it as bad as a fainting lady, often succumbing to swoon before a man could conscious choose to give up or not.

Maddox attacked this time, but didn’t go for his neck. Mercy blows, or toying maybe, forcing him to command limbs to defend even the limited range of speed and area they seemed willing to respond to. His bracers thocked with a blow that finally drowned his sword into the dirt and he felt metal as a bar along the side of his neck. There was a cold line, the edge drawing blood as it parted the thin skin there in threat of biting deeper. Maddox was close, his breath hinted at the dark stout the guard were given at meals. “Men can still fight with some wounds if they have the will for it. You’re fine. Fight.”

At least until the end of the battle. He’d seen a Kyffon knight take a wound similar, he’d made it through all the raid battles and back to their side of the wall. He’d smelled the sickness building in the red and gold tent over the next couple of days while he assisted Baynton on the field. That knight never came out of his tent again to any of the other battles.

Maddox had never slouched at marking his arms and legs in practice, but this was the first serious wound. It had been deliberate and calculated. “The is practice to ignore wounds. Not get more”

The captain neither smiled nor spoke, but backed away to swordlength again, “You can still run out of spells.”

‘And what will you do then’, finished in an imitation of the Captain’s voice in his head. A situation wasn’t guaranteed to go better than it had been just because a paladin or priest revealed themselves with blessings of healing. It could even get worse, focusing efforts of an enemy on the dangers of a combatant that could revive others. Once blessings were exhausted, wounds could still cripple and the fight drag on. He had to be able to outlast all, to stand with wounds others could not bear. To stand upright and unbent even given wound unto death. Paladin was symbol as much as title.

Maddox look expectant again, so he replied repeating the attacking strokes they’d been practicing all day.

Faster. The pain paralyzing his limbs was starting to lift, familiar trickles of whatever heat entered men’s blood for minutes at a time at best. It made the leather armor less leaden. He could lift his arms again in spite of the shivering, could swing and parry. At least for a few minutes. Blood was making cakey balls of dough with the dirt of the practice ring, pungent with worse. At the end of the volley, Maddox didn’t look sour, at least. Still nothing had landed.

Eoghan and Domnall looked ill, fidgeting their hand on kilt-pins or sword haft. Not aggression, it looked restless. They must want to step in, say he should go back to the abbey and give up swordplay. They’d passed Maddox’s muster to be guards, plainly he couldn’t even do that- shouldn’t be a paladin. His own breath was coming in swallowed pants. The feeling of fire in all his middle was coming back, it had to be the urine just leaking out into the rest of him with all the original pressure gone to spit through all the flesh out the wound.

Maddox looked annoyed maybe. His brow was crinkled with a few furrows. “Put the sword on the stand where it belongs. If your arms aren’t good anymore, the least you can do-”
Least. Glaedrigh winced hearing it. He hating being the least that could be hoped for or expected. It hurt worse than the pulling wound.
“-is practice running the course with that scratch.”

The course was the circuit of the parade ground, horse-jumps for riding lessons on the path or runs of deliberately rocked ground for dangerous footing to simulate the fields purposed so as to cripple cavalry here and there. Glaedrigh nodded mutely. He could at least do that-running and jumping. If he couldn’t manage that at speed and agility, he deserved the contempt he suspected. As soon as he’d wiped the blade down he jogged over to the well worn beam of oak that was half-buried in the packed earth and waited for signal. Maddox drew it out a moment, looking him over before giving a guttural growl cough that was familiar as a replacement for speech. Glaedrigh ran.

Along the near inside palisade closest the circuit was clean grass, kept tame by the guards’ cheese goats, then over flagged stone and over a few planters of flowers of a garden kept for the noble ladies of the keep. His foot tipped the edge of every planter, refusing to lift high enough to be a full clear. His vision was woolen black at the edges as he rounded along a tower and two more of the guard, Cillian and Kempsey. He almost fell into Kempsey as the man stepped into the path, saying something and looking not at his face but at the caking dust on his robes that was slapping his calves as he ran. It was annoying, the material getting heavy and losing its fluidity. He didn’t stop, though. He had to at least do this- must be swift. If he got back to start quickly enough, with the wound, maybe Maddox would stop looking dour, and his brow would smooth.

Maddox’s arm was across his chest- he’d made it to the finish bar again already? Glaedrigh looked up at the captain’s face but there didn’t look to be a change in the line and furrows. Maybe next time. There was always a next time with practices, even if there wasn’t in battles. It was a distinction the Captain had made clear in their first practice 7 years before. The arm at his chest was mirrored by another fishing under his shoulders, making the epaulet straps and cuirass awkward. The armor was off in a blink, falling heedless aside. His own knees were giving in without the momentum of running to keep him upright, “Maddox, I’m sorry.”

The captain started puppet-walking him over to where Horse was boredly clipping glass and eyeing some of the guard menacingly. Maddox gave him a look. For what?

“I can’t stand. I’ll do better.” He didn’t know exactly how. It would be a hard thing to practice outside of lessons unless he was going to willfully stab himself, and badly, before going about sword forms and swings. Baynton probably wouldn’t approve. He always looked him over hard after practices. He didn’t know why, but he didn’t think Baynton liked the captain much. Maddox didn’t appear to care what Baynton, or anyone, thought of him.

Horse didn’t bite at them as Maddox hauled them both up to saddle, and only nosed Maddox’s calf in playful threat. The Captain of the Righ’s guard didn’t give him and answer. He gave the same guttural, growly noise and Horse bucked a little before settling into a canter. He knew his business, and could smell the blood as easily as any human, if not keener. The road down to the Abbey fields from the Keep was still twenty minutes at that pace, along the gay cobbles of the old, noble quarters and high merchant houses that served the needs of the court. There were warm candles here and there in the failing light of the evening, and hearty rye bread and scents of stewed dinner on the air in the cottages. Clouds were gathering low near the roofs, whispering of the night’s spitting rain to come. He leaned back against the Captain, matching his posts and looking to the road again instead of the sky. It was less dizzying.

All the herd was busy at evening chores- passing out night flake and cleaning or refilling troughs, reviewing the pastures for any harmful plants threatening to grow where they might be eaten by a foolish yearling. Colleen was the first to follow the horses snorts and perked ears at their approach, and she screwed up her nose at a glance. His robes were sopping from below his ribs to their edges. She came out the horse-gate to the street and boldly up to Horse’s flank, eyeing the stallion sternly. Horse still made a try at biting her arm. She gave loud, disapproving nasal sound like what Uma sometimes made and used her nails like a bite back. Horse looked pleasantly satisfied.

" We don’t always pray for healing from gods of grain’s plenty. The crops need tending, sometimes. You could tell someone if you plan on wounding our waif at lesson."

“I could,” but it didn’t sound like would.

Glaedrigh slid down clumsily to Colleen’s upraised arms, offering quiet peace,“There no predicting when I’ll get wounded on a field, so I have to get used to it.”

“Oh, is that it now ? Well you’ll not go around stabbin’ yourself or jumping off the Cruach either to know what it feels like and if you kin still walk after.” But Colleen wasn’t looking at him, she wasn’t even letting him down off her hip. She gave a respectful but wrote nod of courtesy to the knight, " He won’t be running up the castle tomorrow. W’ve only small words left tonight to make sure you’ve not killed you student, so he’s to be resting. "

Glaedrigh shifted to try to squirm down to his own feet, to try to prove he’d be alright with a little bandaging and orisons. He didn’t want to miss a lesson. He already missed so many opportunities to practice martial skills with chores and Cadfael’s lessons taking all the hours of the sun. He adored Cadfael’s and Baynton’s hours with books and writing and illuminations, but it felt like learning combat only a few nights in a week for these many years would put him at disadvantage to a noble’s heir the same age. Ser Neils’ son was already practicing wearing chainmail, and he was just 10 the past month. Glaedrigh had been for 3 months already. Colleen did not relent, " Settle, colt."

Maddox nodded to her, lifting his brows at her choice as if to say, if you see so fit, it is no trouble to me.

Glaedrigh settled, downcast. His sword master probably WAS more bothered to have to deal with him coming by. But he never just scowled when he Glaedrigh came panting up the streets at a run and knocked on the barracks or canteen door and asked for him of those on evening duty. He’d seen enough scowls and sour looks at the approach of others interrupting their lessons over the years. It was no use looking at Maddox with a pleading look- want me, be proud of me, please enjoy time with me, fight for time with me.

There was no use in looking like that at anyone. It didn’t work. It didn’t change what had to be done by everyone in a day, just because he was lonely or wished someone would want to do…whatever it was close families did. The best he could imagine was crawling onto the foot of Cadfael’s bed sometimes when he was younger and had nightmares of the ancient longwyrms devouring whole horses and riders, white on their steeds and swallowed into the sharp maw and dark-valiant but slain. Worry that this would someday happen to his beloved teachers. All of them gone in gulps and the sated serpents curling round mountains to suck up the sun and leave the Abbey and castle empty. The ribbons fluttering limpid in rain while he stood and looked at a useless, notched sword in his small hand.
Not even paid heed to eat.

He did not remember more, lost in dream just the same as memory in Colleen’s arms.

Waking after passing out was never pleasant. The body always felt weird, stale and disused like a house that had been abandoned for years look among bustling neighbors. His muscles always creaked like wooden beams. This time, he could easily roll, and couldn’t sit up on his own. His middle and hips were wrapped and splinted to prevent most ideas of getting about without help. His robes were gone-just his blanket and the Abbey tabby, Guine next to his head on his pillow. Guine was squinting at him, commiserating of drafts and lack of want to be awake. She usually slept the days away. Finn perked from his devotions nearby, bustling over as soon as he heard Guine purring. “Glaedrigh, brother ride the light to your feet at last? Do you feel sick? You might, wounds like that take appetite right out of men.”

It was already a lot of words to wake to. “I don’t feel famished.”
Which was saying something.
“Did Maddox say anything?” It was plain enough Colleen had carried him in. Someone had bandaged him and spoken at least one orison on his wound. But he still felt awful.

“Not that Colleen seems to share, if he did. I expect not, though. I’m praying for you a bit today, get you silver again. You’re tarnishing inside out, I think. You’ve got the wound fever. Don’t feel cold on waking, for once , yeah?”

“I have to do my chores, " he lifted on of his hands to his own field of vision, grimacing at how flushed and blotchy his freckles were. “What time is it?”

“Late morn, lunch is soon. Maybe some hot cider to sip?”

“Maybe” Glaedrigh settled. Finn wasn’t going to let him up. “Can I study at least?”
“Cadfael might come by to go over another scroll. Wound-fever usually addles people too much to do a good deal of remembering, but you can give it a go for comfort. Hooves and hearts beat together and all.”

‘Might’, means sleep after cider. They’ve all growth to tend with the fields getting on in the late sun. Plenty to sing and war to make on beetles and grubs. Will it be more than today? Baynton is away for another week at least. Maybe Guine will stay for company? Beds are boring without books. He lifted his hand to stroke the soft chin, earning heartier purrs. Guine stood and stretched, then meandered in distracted fashion to lay nearer his and Finn’s hands both on the sack coverlet on her side in a luxuriant heap of catness. Finn snoodled her, then left about the cider.

He was supposed to be working ground manners with Lady Deirdre’s new palfrey all morning and copying the records of her lines sent by Godfrey from Cooraclare. He was a good breeder, and kept tidy lines- it increased his business with the blue blooded of Armagh. Still the creature was one of looks more than other virtue, so unless it grew a brain overnight it added a day onto when she would be ready to be sent over to the Westfold Arch that the Lord and Lady Muirfennen held for the GwynnedRigh. Another day of arms practice was likely to be victim.

“Lessons by Guine- how to sleep all day.”
The cat was indifferent to his making any noise, and crossed her front paws contented. She would have a warm body all day.

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Silent Paladin

“Not a word. Not at devotions, not to the horses, not at lessons- not even when Maddox meets him to steel and flesh. Not even sound. Just breathe as it’s forced out his lungs. " Baynton crossed and uncrossed his arms before his middle as his cuirass allowed. “I don’t understand why. He hasn’t been like this since he was small. At least then I could get him to smile.”

Roland looked impassively out the panels of glass-turned-gold by the late afternoon sun. It was the same expression Baynton was already sick of seeing. "He hasn’t smiled in weeks. Not at Cadfael, Uma, Colleen. Not at me. Not at Maddox. "

“The Brothers?”

“Not at them. " The boy watched them more these weeks. He never missed his lesson with any of them, but he’d ceased to do any of the extra chores he’d seemed to assign himself around the grounds, nor had he been playing chase with the colts or kittens. He didn’t run much at all, not unless asked. His eyes were lightless, whatever drives or motivations had lit them before evaporated.

“When did it start?”

“Dinner, two and a half weeks ago. He ate as usual at first, then half through he dropped his apple from hand to table. Didn’t catch it, didn’t watch it as it rolled off the table onto the floor. Finn leaned down and grabbed it before it got too dusty, went to give it back. He was just looking out the main doors, mouthing something. Then he got up from the table and walked out of the Abbey into the pastures. He didn’t finish his apple or oats. He’s always hungry, Roland. "

Ardrain’s expression still didn’t change. He was pretty sure it couldn’t- stone couldn’t bend. The man was a statue. Maybe he should be glad and assured that it wasn’t a curse of blood afflicting all of the Warden’s line. "I checked on him at nightfall. He was curled against Hersa’s leg, and merciful Brothers the great charger was nuzzling his tangled mane like a hurt foal. He let me pick him up, didn’t answer a damn thing. Just looked at me. Not even nods. "

“Something must weigh on his mind.”
“You don’t suppose.” The words came out more wild and sarcastic than Baynton knew was polite or proper. "He’s a fucking copy born true of you as the Brothers’ own foals when one dies. Help me, Roland. You’re the only one with a shot of figuring close what is crossing his mind that would steal all words and hope out of him. Everything. I can feel it, feel what was building there just….fading. Light building even before he’s vowed formally. "

He’s perfect and we’re losing him, Roland.

“I haven’t spoken with the child in five years. I don’t know the lessons of your cannon. I can’t divine what is troubling him.”

“That’s it? You’ll listen and look serious as a righ’s court statue, but that’s all the fuck you can muster? He’s your-”

The Warden stood, shoulders set and resolute as his jaw. The paladin of the abbey was undeterred. “Son. Bastard or not. Given over or not. I’m out of options and I need help. Maddox is no good. He doesn’t give a shit if someone breaks and dies at the abbey anymore than he does if one of the guard does and throws themselves off the Cruach. His lessons haven’t changed whether the boy makes a noise or just lift his sword and attacks wordless as directed. If he’s even noticed that he’s getting thinner.”

“I don’t have to order him to eat yet, but he keeps just wandering off from it out to the pastures. Uma’s going to ask the Brothers into the Abbey near the table for meals. She thought maybe if he was nearer his food maybe he’d be reminded of it and finish it. Or Hengest or Hersa nose him to it.”

“He won’t sleep inside unless one of us brings him in specifically. If we do, he stirs at the mid of night and wanders out again. He’s not looking for something. He just finds one of the Brothers and stands or sit near them. Its been long enough he’s started falling asleep out by them” Exhausted and tattered. It doesn’t help that that robe is getting to be too short for his frame and that he hasn’t been brushed out unless caught for it.

“What does Cadfael think?”

Baynton shrugged, his epaulets ringing bells of the motion, “He suspects lore more than martial practice. They’ve been covering all the noble heraldry of Worthing Keep, Ardglass, and Kyffon Hall. All the houses of extinct title, blood and history to the riochts, as well as current houses, members, awards, vassal oaths and holdings. Maybe some bother about abbey titles not having much connection to the riocht? Maybe the numbers and heirs both him…he loves the old stories where many brother and sisters bear naked blades and face this or that on behalf of the herds. He asks often about empty beds and the last paladin before I oathed…Ser Naoise, died at least 4 years before I was bothering Cadfael to teach me to read and how to be a man of substance.”

“It seems to sudden a blow and drawing malady to be limited to small concern of historic comparisons.”

The paladin shifted, plainly annoyed at the word choice but in mastery of manners again to protest more concerned for the feedback than the slight. The nobles should take more concern of giving their unwanted to the churches instead of to poison, dagger tip or hillside. Baynton wasn’t certain which law had managed to save his student’s life before, as a blemish on this man’s honor that could have easily been erased and forgotten like so many other things not kept in abbey books, but he thanked whomever wrote that obscure and obtuse law. “So it does.”

“More likely related to the first, when he was first given to the Abbot.”
“He has a loving family now, many hands to lift him and arms around him. The mares have been in positive fits to have one so young that they’ve been able to raise as their own. "
There. There was the twitch at the line of Ardrain’s sculpted throat that said everything words from his mouth never did of pain, regret, jealousy and envy.

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Summer Break Live RP - Glaedrigh
  • returned from Ogbheanmire with Prince Merlyon as Ward, having packed up all the important things in a cart to be pulled by Gryphon Bait (Goga), and what couldn’t be brought hidden in secret passages and oubliette. Drystan and Laerwyn buried in the same grave, topped with an old stone cross by Innis.
  • Wild Hunt resisted/bored to death, and moved on, but Innis has wolf back.
  • Lathuren, knight of the wood, sworn now as knight to serve merlyon.
  • reached Upminster again. Innis, Wolf and Maddox stayed at Pig & Barrel, Merlyon and Glaedrigh to the abbey to return the news, sword and remaining good armor of Ser Hale. Started the Spring Runs. Comforted Ser Justinian.
  • Educated Merlyon on economics and money, took him shopping for the first time ever to learn to barter and sell some books. Two book dealers in Upminster, one of a scribe who’d lost his place and one in the noble quarter of a skinflint who is overpriced.
  • dueled Justinian and lost in a show of horsemanship, split donations with him from the display. He seemed better for it. Merlyon put on a show as an actor.
  • considerations of what the religion of the Moon is, and what alliances the gods are making/to what purposes they make them. Elves reveal that there were Moon Elves who visited the wood.
  • Captain of the guard summoned the “elves” to the court to present themselves, Glaedrigh went along as acting lead. Upminster Righ questioned purposes, dismissed innis fom any considerations with his lack of weapon and derpy self, but then drilled Iefan as a scout of the wood who likely is one who has (non-mortally) shot many of the upminster knights to prevent their entering the Elves’ wood. He was apparently bitter and vengeful of one of his friendly losing a leg out of hiding a wound that then festered. Iefan willingly begged for leave to pass through upminster, rather than risking battle with Innis there amid them all to murder the whole riocht. Upminster Righ gave the group a day to find a boon to offer him as recompense then left.
  • were invited to tea an lunch with the queen and Princess, who were smitten with the elves. It was awkward, but the Mist was discussed, the doings of the Forge, the likely coming war, and what the righ would mostly likely consider valid boon. Iefan was given holy symbol and mount to travel to the wood in hopes of procuring another restoration potion to restore the fool-knight’s leg.
  • Innis, Lathuren and Maddox went to the edges of Upminster Riocht to be out of the Righ’s direct reach.
  • Merlyon sold his original Frost Giants of Brethelwait Abbey Kells book to the fallen scribe for 270 gold +inks and palimpsets and paper supplies. Had a day of riding lessons then the Captain of Upminster guard came and found them at the abbey to report to the Righ about Boon.
  • Iefan not returned, Glaedrigh reported what he’d hoped to bring as boon. Righ declared it was not his problem what they could or could not boon as scouts or otherwise and he didn’t care about an elf having to deal with a council. Then declared Glaedrigh must be hostage until such time as the potion was delivered, trying not to give up his right to the boon.
  • Glaedrigh demanded right of Champion to settle the honor immediately. Upminster righ set the challenge to take place immediately, right there in the court and called for his champion as a grizzled, large, doughty man called “Thane”
  • blows were traded until both were deep bloodied, likely to a last blow for either and the Righ claimed he did not want his champion killed nor saw use of killing a paladin and said hi shonor was sated and them both winners. Glaedrigh did not protest this on his own or the elves honor, as he could have since the righ was only half the contesting. The righ gave them freedom to leave his riocht, but declared that none of that company were welcome ever again in Upminster on pain of Death excepting Iefan to deliver the potion.
  • he did not offer if the delivered potion then absolved the death penalty or not. The combat of champions already absolves all the honor, so his proclamations regarding the potion are officially only good faith of the elves then- he has no rights of honor to the potion. It is also questionable what he would do to Iefan if the elf did deliver the potion once it was given over.
  • Lathuren left the party to keep watch and hopefully waylay iefan before they either got caught by Upminster guards and imprisoned or worse with potion or without.
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He Spoke to the NorthEast Wind

Konstantine climbed the easily rock walls and wet thatch of the roof, so much less slippery and treacherous than shale. He ended up ground level with the hills, the little town all down in the valley. It felt like he was on top of a wave in a lake. The sky was so grey with fast, tatty clouds. He rarely got to see all the clouds- all the shapes they make. The huge pattern of it. They seemed wondrous and menacing, far more than the spitting rain.

His eyes felt like moons. There was just as much sky as wet mother. ::: Surely that is a sea just like the water….with its own castles and cities…::::

It was so easy to imagine the Hunt. Great horses and hounds and cats, wings and manes. He was in the wind up there, able to hear all its odd moaning and whistling. There were a few faces in the un-glassed windows of the town around the inn, freckled and wondering people staring as if he were naked and mad out there on the roof in the rain.

He listened hard to the winds, looking wide at the clouds. Just as wild, but not just as naked, nor as mad he hoped, as they thought. The wind was coming from the north east. He could see the Wall, which made direction easy even if the sky and land gave no other indication. It just marched on and on, the Wall, from east to west. The wind buffeted him, making it a fight to stand. Trying to knock him off the roof and smattering him with freezing rain.

“North East whistle, howl and blow,
“Cherry red is maiden’s nose,
All cold are the melting snows,
Can you tell me where She Goes?
The North East wind that’s blowing..

Logs on fire women throw,
For, as every old wife knowst,
We will have a fall of snow,
When the NorthEast wind be blowing,
blowing. When Pestle creaks o’er stables…

Freedom from the silver wheels,
changed mountain clouds for castles
blowing ‘way, song’s lure strong,
where jewels in eyes don’t belong,
but must follow on her heels…
Tell me North East wind blowing…
Where Does Baba Yaga stay, or where is she now going?"

He could hear it… hear a lament in the wind, it wasn’t just that it sounded like moaning and sighing, it really was. The sound and strength picked up, being sung to, howling around him, pelting the inn windows with ice and rain and stinging his cheeks,
“From nowhere to the south
Houseless fleeing
The ice spires our fathers
Fallen, fallen
The green bough sea
Where built our singing
We come from nowhere
Southward flying
Carrying broken wings
Floating sails
Cast down dragons
We asked the caves
Deep holes for howling
We asked the waves and roiling waters
Where does her pestle stir
What of winds without her?”
“mother….”

This wind spoke Vlahiskoi, maybe the only one that did. He could taste salt as if the rain were tears. :::: do they not know then? Its sounds kinda like that. The wind doesn’t know and is searching too.::::
::: Maybe she’s off beyond the mist right now.:::

::: and it’s got the winds and the riders all confused.:::
::: We’re all houseless.:::

There was nothing left but to call out his thanks, express solidarity in it and gladness of the trouble it had gone to and talking to him. He climbed down again, dejected, not feel even a little bit warm. His silver bones were chilled.
“I don’t think it knows either. I think it’s being a gypsy like us right now. Looking and not finding her. I wonder if the riders are out. On their strange bright horses in their strange bright armor.”

“You seriously spoke to it?” Orel looked something…he wasn’t sure if it was incredulous, annoyed or fed up. Maybe all or none.

“Yeah? You couldn’t hear down here?”

“”/campaigns/konstantine/characters/ffion" class=“wiki-content-link”>They can’t tell you you aren’t a ranger," She said it like a proclamation. “No I couldn’t even hear you. Just rain.”

“I think it’s sad. The rain tastes like tears.”

She licked her nose. “It does doesn’t it. Salt rain…”

" I wonder if Aneirin is talking to it at all? Or listening." There was a pause between them as he considered. “I’m going to go see if I can find him back at his….stones or the camp. Ask him. It doesn’t seem like waiting around here is any good. They seem like they’re going to take all the whole night and maybe even morning making up their minds.”

He was off like a shot, as the crow flew through the camp of all that remained of vlahiskoi to the stones, and he was there- a dark silhouette on the crest of the nearest approximation of a hill topped with strange standing stones…surely if couldn’t be anyone else. He guessed right, slowing to a trot before halting next to the strange druid. Aneirin was staring up into the storm like he’d been before. “Can you hear it?”

“Yes.” It was proclaimed with amaze. “Can you?”

“I think it’s sad. It’s lamenting. It’s as homeless as we are, I think.” He paused as they both listened a while. “Can you talk to the wind?”

“I can.”

“I asked if it knew where Baba Yaga was. It spoke to me. Can druids call them?”

“We have to know their names, and do a rite.”

There was no use in that then. He doubted it was information that was given away simply, or to just a ranger apprentice. And he had no training in rites of any sort involving …druid…magics? Were they called magic? It meant there was no assurance that he would find the wind again. No certainty it would be alive, maybe…in days to come.

“We will have to find or make a home for it,” Aneirin sounded maybe uncertain, and he was looking at him.

::: Well…that seems a lot beyond a ranger, more like druid work::: Konstantine looked up to the sky as well, instead of at Aneirin’s profile. ::: maybe he’s talking to himself anyway:::

There were snippets of moon, silver and black behind all the whirls of grey. Konstantine moved on again, for the nearest high hill. Aneirin came along, seeming to be listening still and for once not talking.
Konstantine called up to the wind again once he found the peak,
“White, Red, Black and Green,
finest cloaks and banners seen,
As She’s not at Hearth or Home,
O’er the lands linnorn they roam.

Watching East and Guarding West,
Mourning North to South must Rest,
Vassals keen with swords so bright,
Where is South, the Mother’s Green -
Where look I to find him best?"

Anerein looked impressed. ::I know their names, but its better this way. Better to beg rather than summon::
::things don’t like to be summoned by their names::

There was a faint pause in the wind, a sudden quiet where the ice on the grass was tinking.

::: I can hear my breath, like its ragged in my throat. What has made me so desperate? Just the inaction of the afternoon? Of spending a day in testing…knowing that Wiesbaden is sieged like Minsk while we wait and wonder if we can be called a title, like waiting at Aleksey‘s feet wondering if he’s going to have Sasha kill me.::::

A sudden skirl of snow and howling, and they heard sleigh bells and hounds and thundering hooves. Aneirin’s eyes were wide as saucers, just black pupils and he muttered things to himself and made signs with his hands. His own had dilated to black disks as round as the new moon.

Aneirin wasn’t making any sound. ::stone protect me::

Konstantine’s breath felt fast as horses’ hooves. :::: Mama never wanted any of us to be going out into the woods looking for the knights.::::

He could see it- the clouds full of riders. They were pale skinned and black swirl painted like wode, some riding stags, some riding unicorns, some just running, some fawn footed, some have antlers. Unlike the sad wind, there was happy, terrible music of pipes and drums. Konstantine pulled his hair out of his rain slicked face.

Aneirin “the northwest comes to answer you”
“If we die, I just want to tell you, I’ve always wanted to see the Wylde Hunt”

::: Wylde Hunt? Is Illarion here?::: The cavalcade passed close, low as tatty clouds touching hills. He could see shadow spotted cats. If he ran with them…. he could just go. He could feel it. Konstantine gave an ick in his throat- longing :::: I’m supposed to be there.:::

It earned a look and an ick back, open-mouthed and teeth so huge. Aneirin had gone all very still.

“I’m supposed to be there. There. With them. Those are my brothers and sisters.” Konstantine’s voice came as no more than a whisper.

Aneirin offered no reply. ::what a thing to know and feel those that go do join it, can’t stop::

:::: I’m not allowed to join yet, though. He healed me again. He healed my legs. ::::

The Hunt passed so close for a swing that they saw the very swirls on their flesh and leather, painted on horse, on hind, on cat. It was so like the hunt of Vlahiskoi that he had felt but had not seen behind him. Even though it was all different, he knew it was the same.

It was gone as quickly. There was a path of snow where they’d gone. Way off though on that path he could see a white rider, not running with them anymore. The rider was cantering a stately pace toward them, wearing plate armor from crest to toes.

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Post Japan Slav Live and online rp
The Miracle to Run

Met ranger of Hexewald named Lutger/Rutger?? – told him about army, immensee, crimson castle. Learned Vasiliy, ranger of Kluj, is alive and in the keeping of the druids of hexewald. Apparently he went into the mist somehow and was torn nearly apart by it, now near hysteric afraid of the mist. Vasiliy does speak Hexewald.

Had altercation in the fief of Ritter (between the Towers of Lord Frey and Immensee) – spoke with the very reasonable nobleman but then was confronted by the Lord of Ritter half an hour later as scapegoat for the ‘crimes’ of rangers. Implored horse to rear, horse decided to be done with Lord Ritter and dumped him, then came along to join the herd and go south.
Bartered crossing of the Lord -— with the two silver fish sigil. Promised free passage any time if he could broker a promise that the airship plans would never be sold to any of albion.

Met up with some strange, non-shirted men with torcs at a giant wall, followed the yarrow stones to where aneirin had parked the caravans. Aneirin had told everyone of Konstantine’s run into the army outside Minsk, the fight with BlackHair (Jakob) and mortal wounding, and the pursuit by General and Rose Knight into the Mist. The whole camp had been certain that Konstantine was dead.

Sevastyn fainted dead out. Told Lord Pyotr everything so that the council coudl make decisions. Laurente left angry and jealous of Roman and Voelkher. Yevi left angry and bitter the same. Pyotr left angry about lunastus. Lunastus given his own tents away from everyone else.

Spent day with passed out sevastyn and Francois. Learned about damage to organs and spine, presented choice – go on with wounds as they were and suffer a certain deterioration over time or undergo surgery that had a ‘good chance’ of paralyzing him but would fix him if it went well.

Aneirin came, talked about Tzar and Ard Righ, learned that 2 rangers had been called using druid help to have ranger test/rite. The Council is decided that Pyotr, Sevastyn, Laurente and Kira are all going with aneirin to Tara to talk to the Druids and touch the Liath Fail. The Druids apparently believe there is a chance the ard righ is among the vlahiskoi as they are from ‘across the sea’ (river). They are curious of Konstantine’s intentions – whether he will come too, stay and guard the caravan, go in search of baba yaga, or otherwise. He feels strangely outsider, the council of all groups that is making decisions, leaving his own fate to him.

Underwent surgery. 12 hours, dreamt and met Luka and Koit and spoke with them. Spoke with the strange oak woman. She said to speak to the sea pines and the broom trees and the northeast wind to find news of baba yaga. Koit said that baba yaga had indeed been beyond the mists.

woke paralyzed. Frost pissed off as all hell at Eric and Francois and they are told to go. Get strange cuddles from frost. Get hoisted to the door after being still the 8 hours after surgery to let it settle. Sevastyn comes up in a quiet way, brings kira to heal him. Kira GETS Konstantine, and heals his legs, but the flailing means everything hurts and he has to stay still another 8 hours.

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Paladins and Brassieres

Every morning, while the sun was still cool and the light still the long half light of the Cruach hiding the sun, a pair of sisters from the Hrongar Stead made their way to the lake’s edge. They carried a basket, filled it with greens dripping from the waters, then returned as the shafts of gold were cresting the rock faces to signal mid-morn. He watched it all the early summer, his own business being the cleaning and refilling of the herd’s cisterns in the four meadows. He leaned on the old stone wall between Westfield and the lake, watching this morning’s cadence from spot to spot. Herb lore was an art of women and wizards, it was said. Ser Baynton usually gathered him for other tasks when the young girls went with Gram Gersron to learn poultices. But herblore meant foraging.

His stomach gurgled loudly.

Horses foraged grass and other things all day to supplement their hay and oats in the evening. Why didn’t any of them? He liked the porridge, nothing flavoured a bowl like hunger, and he took his time with every apple given him- even shared a few bites with Hersa when the great Stallion joined the table.

The decision to vault the wall was one of a moment- a flash of white calves freckled with pale rust and silver and he was making long-shank strides down to the water’s edge to great the sisters. They heard his calling, and returned his wave, so they didn’t mind company. They were wearing colourful yellow blouses, worn but well tended leather brassieres and their kilts were drawn over their shoulders and heads like scarves to keep the wind off their braids. Even their ghillies looked well kept and well used at once. His own shapeless, uniformly indiscernible brown robe and rope- used likely by no less than five other 11-year-olds who’d grown up in the abbey- was well cared for, but bore the marks of restitched holes more than most warriors. It was too large for him, meant to serve for an older sister or brother he thought, so it draped more than robed.

“You come from the Abbey, dress’d all like tha’ “ They both giggled, but had that sort of sad look he’d seen often enough when people found lost, orphaned creatures and were deciding whether or not they had the pity to take the creature in.

“I do. I’ve seen you come many days hence to the edge and gather your basket full.”

“They don’ give you a brassier there? Never find a man withou’ plaitin’ your hair, neither. Just a mare come from the fields wild as the bruthers.”

“Find a man?” He couldn’t puzzle why he should care about that. His hair wasn’t braided though, and the length of it bannered at a run, but looked tattered from too many days of horse spit and tangles down to his knees. “Well…I wanted to ask..what you gathered?…Rushed for threshing or …food? My jobs always deal with the horses or tending the Paladin’s gear, so I never get to go with Gram Gersron.”

“You don know what to garden or gather?” the more freckled one looked aghast. “They don want you leavin the Abbey is sure. Pretty one, Abbot wants not to wife out. If you knew what was proper, might even get a guardsmen, or one of the Sers.” They’d both stood to brush off and take slow circle around him. It was much like introducing new horses to the field – let the mares inspect first.

“I…thank you? I…like to think I’m not ugly.”

But they seemed to return to ease, deciding they wanted to take this kitten in. Each grasped one of his hands and pulled him down to the bank with them.

“It’s th’ reedmace we’re gatherin. No’on but the Righ owns the lake, an he don’ ever come to use it or want it. So it’s free for those who want to spend the time. Our farm’s all cabbages an barley, ‘cepting the small corner near the birds, so its good to learn to go out and find the variety you be wanting for on the table. “

“The reedmace? With the long brown ends that look like sword handles?”

“Oh aye, the straight flatways stem underwater are good as taters, or you can grind ‘em in your pestle to make a goodly flour. The bases of the leaves can be eaten cooked or raw if ye ‘ave a mind. “ She rummaged their basket for one of the cleaned, more delicate looking spears and offered it to bite. “It taste green, but no worse for tha’. “

He obliged, leaning over and biting the pale, still wet end. It certainly wasn’t any worse than the clover he’d eaten with the horses. Green was a good word for it, but it didn’t have any bitterness, nor linger on the tongue of anything unwholesome. “Can the handles be eaten?”

“Early summer ye kin remove the sheath from the green spike an boiled its nice with fresh salt and butter.”

“Will you teach me? I mean..” It was blurted out, excitement pushed out on a breath like he’d taken one of Maddox’s shots to the gut. “More than today…I can’t pay you. I don’t have money…or anything really. Just these robes and another pair the same. The rest is the churches, really, an this too if I die. The trade work, like ropes that the abbey sells all goes to the coffer, and that’s all in Cadfael’s keeping. But…I want to learn. “

The two conspired in a few short whispers, and the one with the larger, doe-like eyes and shortish nose smiled, “If you’ll be a friend and kin sing and dance with us sometimes, and we kin dress you up a doll proper, then we’ll glad to teach you how to gather reedmace or asparagus or chickweed or whatever you like. Jus’ wave when you’re comin down an we kin meet here to start. Da won’t mind you, he likes the abbey girls exceptin that they let you be wild. He’ll like us given back a little for all the crop blessings.”

The freckled sister laughed, coming behind and cupping his waist through all the robes, “An art you a little one! Might have an old brassiere from three year back to fit you up proper.”

“A brassiere? I’ll…wear whatever you want if we can be friends and you’ll teach me. “ his stomach growled again, punctuating the point and making them look pitying again.

“Issa true then? You don get not but apples an oats?”

“Well, we get ale and wheat sometimes. What’s good for the horses is good for the menkind, the cannon says. Anything else is just at festival or when someone donates. “ He wondered idly, not for the first time, how much was tithed for the abbey to take him, if anything. Had flesh been enough payment? It usually wasn’t so, if his reading studies and heraldry with Cadfael spoke true of how much great houses paid in tithe or bribe for the care of bastards, simple or insane family members by holy places or lesser towers owing fealty. Did the Warden’s house still tithe an extra pittance? Or did the Warden pay the Captain more, for troubling to teach him? In the few times Cadfael and Baynton talked to Maddox in his hearing, he never heard mention of fees changing hands. Maddox certainly didn’t seem the sort to keep stock with any gods and his own fate. Not pious, except to legitimate reason and sense. “I’m always hungry, though. The clover helps.”

“Like a sad horse innit you.” He was hugged from behind, heartfelt arms around his shoulders and the other came over to pet his hair and cheeks. “Eatin clover off the ground next to the whole herd, no doubt”

“Well…it’s safer near them then off further in the field.”
“Innit tho! Da dosn want either us alone in the fields, less Kyffirs come an ….be unspeakable. The stallions must protect you, anyway. How old are you?”

“Eleven. “
“Not even proper marrying age yet, at least, plenty of time to pretty you up. Soft as silk you are! Your hair, anyway. Hands are rough, but tha’s what a man needs. Sile’s thirteen and I’m fourteen. Even got some suitors maybe for the harvest dances. I kin teach you right before then though, an even if I’m married come winter I’ll still be vistin and we kin have a cuppa chicory an catch up. I want to warn Sile anyway what she can expect once I know the secret.”

The last was conspiratorial to both he and her sister. He was now part of the group, and remained so until before dinner when they finally tore themselves all away from a fast and new friendship, each with a basketful of foraged goods, though him without a basket and carrying it in a lifted bowl of robe like an apron and showing his calves. He’d saved all he gathered to be shared with everyone, however hungry he was, it would be shameful not to help the whole herd. Uma might laugh that he hadn’t thought about baskets. And there was practice late that night with Maddox, after his guards finished their duties and mess and changed posts with others fresh for the night.

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Corbaeren, the betrayer

One came who promised him a throne. Curse him…curse his name if only I knew it.

The snows got so deep even birds couldn’t fly, and Laerwyn was happy anyway, there with the hound. But just as the snows began to melt and he thought of leaving, he came…He. He came in elvish guise, like my daughters first husband, and he called himself by his name, Lathuren. But he was no elf. He offered my other a throne, said that hell followed hard after him, craning to catch him, but if the throne was filled it would let him go. No king wants to leave his kingdom, but my other is mad with want always.

He said he could not go while he was chained, and the one who was not Lathuren said only to wait. And then…even the next day, Laerwyn’s love…Innis. Innis and Drustan, those were the names he cried. Innis came, and Drustan was sore jealous at first. But even chained to my other Laerwyn followed my path, and Innis had no jealousy in him, and by that eve they shared a bed. Oh if you could have seen them. The hound mounting both by turns…
She came on them in their sleep. My daughter. Freed from her tower and knife put into her hand, and she went for Drustan like a harpy…she has long hated him, every bit as much as love. He was mortal wounded, and Laerwyn’s heart was breaking. The chains near untethered. And he fled, my other. He strained with all might to go to the one who was not Lathuren and claim his throne.

Mist…mist crowded round the tower, wrapped my others arms and legs. But Laerwyn would not free him. Not even though Drustan lay bleeding with Innis trying to staunch the wound and my daughter had run out into the snow. Innis saw, saw the chain, saw the mist, saw the heart tear from Laerwyn’s chest, saw my other and knew him to blame."

He went wild. If he had caught my other then, he would have torn him to pieces with his hands and teeth…that is the last I saw. For my other was gone from his reach, and in a place that is not his home.

“Now I see only a great city, and the faces of those he goes to in the night.”

Laerwyn, he is not free. He is yet chained, tormenting my other even as he would satisfy himself, keeping him from the worst of his actions."

“If you killed me, you might free him.” “If you cannot, surely your companion could.”

He keeps it in a satchel at his hip, the chain into it.

Innis wanders lost, craving revenge.

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Pre-Japan Armagh live RP

Plot Notes:

- learned cadfael was raised and from inverness, and became head of worthing keep abbey on death of the previous abbot and their requesting a more senior person of the Inverness abbey

- Learned from Cadfael that Cymyr is of some fame and always spoken of as Cymyr and her daughters – there are at least three sisters, possibilities of other half siblings. That Mab is his Uncle.

- told owain he’s not a virgin, its a secret. The person is noble and not pretty.

Arranged the three days with the knights, and stood between Ardrain and Maddox in ardrain’s fighting maddox

learned of maddox – his father has vanished from the fishing village on the coast. He was a man of unique and strange and evil magic. Fascinated with elves. The father had washed up on the sea. He was the death of Maddox’s mother. Both his eyes were the strange eyes.

they came to cufola after two days ride, seeing the fine, old style wooden architecture. at the edges, found fine horses thtat Glaedrigh could not resist approaching, and so met Brock. Brock invited them to dinner, and then to eat.
-learned from brock that Maeglin has teh gay, and was warned that he might not want to go to Blackpoole.
-learned the brock stole kirsti and his now old arabian horsie
-learned that the war of blackpoole/runfeld was mostly decided by one man, a strange ….maybe mercenary that was victim of the God’s Rage.
-learned that that man (innis) was being kept after the war against his wishes, and has escaped again and is pursued by Maeglin’s men.
-likes Brock’s horse figurine carvings
-learned there is no serpent banner in runfeld,blackpoole,cu fola worth mention of ogram’s
-learned Mab is neither beautiful nor terrible like Cymyr
-agreed to come back and build mab a wall of stone when abbey business done
-learned that he had a brother, Laerwyn, and that this person is dead
-had a service with Brock and Kirsti
-was given a small bag of peppers by brock as a gift and joke of his inability to handle hot food on his diet of oatmeal and apples
-met Herger, was warned off Blackpoole and associating with Runfeld to Cu Fola.
-advised to take extra supply and be wary of brigands, bought hard tack and jerky from the inn
-Maddox bought him a new bastard sword to use since his is ruined but for the hilt
They’ve set off for Runfeld, supposedly a day away at quick pacing

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Unknown Story

Note: Takes place in Ravenloft, doesn’t affect current map. This features The Church of Ezra
This is supposedly in the domain of Borca

“Here-tic?” The word caught in his long throat, creaking past his large adam’s apple in a squeak. He swallowed, and then shook his head, copper curls bobbing at his shoulders. “Sentire Aristide? Impossible. There is no better man in the city, in the realm.”
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“Rufinus…Fin…” Ilio took hold of the sleeve of his grey cassock, knuckles white, and pulled him in his wake. Rufinus tripped at first, rigid with shock, almost going headfirst down the stairs. He was always pale, but he looked ready to faint. Ilio went on in a whisper, as if the portraits in the stairwell were eavesdropping. “I heard the charge. Bastion Innocent was waiting for him on the stairs of the great archive as he came out into the forum, and he said it loud enough for the entire market to hear. Behind him, a small army of his Wardens, full armed. He expected a riot.”
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“He probably wanted one, the devil. More people to burn in Our Lady’s name. He would light the streets at night with heretics! But he cannot kill everyone. Surely the Don will not have it.”
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“The Don has no love of Aristide. He calmed the crowds just by lifting a hand, Fin. He walked to armored cart like it was his carriage and these men his escort. He is too powerful, and the commoners offer up prayers to his name. Innocent hates him, and now he will have his way.”
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“But our order shuns wealth and politics! He has no worldly power, and he has done no wrong. Surely Innocent cannot just say the word ‘heretic’ and make it so.” He stopped on the steps, defiant, as if Ilio were an opponent across the forum. Ilio looked at him with a sneer and sad, dark eyes.
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“He can, Fin. You are so naïve. There is nothing but politics, whatever one wishes, and Innocent has the favor of the Praesidius and the Don and all the aristocracy. He means to purge the church. Your whole order, Fin. The trial is tomorrow, and all your order will be welcomed to speak in Aristide’s defense. Any who gainsay Innocent will be called heretics. Everyone loyal to Aristides will join him. The widow, the rack, the tongs, Fin. He can make anyone say anything he likes. Within the week the Greyfriars will be outed as having orgies with demons and burining Books of Ezra for their hearthfires. They’ll say you cursed all the wigs who have been poisoned in the past year, that you caused the pox in Lowtown, that you would cast the whole city into the Rift. It will be ludicrous, and everyone will delight in the gossip. And Aristide, who calls all men fools, will be laughing from his grave. If they let him die. Innocent is as like to keep him.” Ilio looked ill, despite his fervent satire.
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Ilio was a good friend, even if he was a Whitefriar and liked his wine and his wealth. Rufinus had seen him dissect corpses without flinching, seen him laugh back in good humor when a wig threw wine in his face and told him religion was a blight. It was Aristide had told him to keep Ilio as his friend. “A sword hand needs calluses,” he had said, though he had never chided Rufinus for his tenderness. “You are good for each other,” he had said. But now Ilio’s smiling, fair mask was twisted, and his eyes had tears in them unshed, making them seem twice as large and dark as when they drank belladonna for holy days. People lied often, and Ilio more often than most, but by his face Rufinus believed him, and he found he could not move or speak for horror.
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“How…how do you know these things?”
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“Because I have eyes and ears. You must trust me. Leave. Leave now. Take food and wine and whatever books you treasure most and don’t worry of stealing them; I know you Greyfriar’s don’t own anything. Nay, choose your books, not more than you can carry a distance, and I will get food and wine for you. Meet me in the kitchens. I know a way out of the city.”
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“No! How can I leave my master to die in such a way, leave all my brothers? It is cowardice.”
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“This is why Innocent will have you all.”
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“Have you told the others?”
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“I will. Though I think most of them know by now already. Still, I will use my connections to help those of the Greyfriars that I can, I promise you. But I will not lift a hand for anyone until you are gone from this city.”
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“What connections?” The implication was frightening. Stranger, though, that it sounded like Ilio had come straight from seeing the scene at the forum to tell him this, before even reporting to the Baileys of his own order. “Ilio, why me?”
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Ilio growled and grabbed him by the rope at his hood’s collar, jerking his face close like he would spit a curse in it. “Your master is a saint to have such patience for you.”
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Rufinus’s feet tipped off the stair, and his hands caught at Ilio’s white velvet robes. He expected Ilio to let him go, maybe even toss him down. Instead Ilio kissed him, holding him up by a fist at his throat. It was violent, confusing, the taste of wine and fear on a tongue that forced its way into his mouth. Like one swept into a dance, he followed the motions without understanding, opening his mouth, pushing back. It burned his throat and eyes the way brandy did, and he was dizzy. He panted as Ilio pulled back and let him slump onto his shoulder.
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Ilio…hugged him, burying his face a moment in the worn grey folds of his hood, in wild red hair that he never bothered to style, like Ilio’s black ringlets, or shave off as some Greyfriars did. The moment was broken when he hugged back, worried now for his friend’s sanity. Ilio pushed him away, holding him by the shoulders. “Go get your books. You’ll pine without something to read, and you’ll find nothing in the countryside. Meet me in the kitchens before the hour’s bell tolls. Don’t speak to anyone. Don’t do anything stupid.”
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He stood glaring, like he would slap him if he asked a question, waiting for him to move in the direction of the library. Rufinus found his balance and hurried down the stairs, looking over his shoulder once. He had never kissed before, and still his lips tingled. Truly he had not eyes nor ears, if Ilio had felt this way and he never noticed. If he suspected nothing until the moment his master was snatched up to be taken to the White Tower. He should bide his friend’s wisdom. And perhaps he could do some good. At the least he would save his master’s favorite texts, the ones he had copied to preserve them.
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He rushed to Aristide’s study, an odd room jutting over the kitchen gardens. He turned a corner at the end of the narrow spiral stair and hit the chest of a Warden in full plate, iridescent white tabard over all. A hand clanked onto him, clawed armor piercing his shoulder. “You’re the apprentice.”
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Rufinus’s arm jerked like a marionette’s, adrenalin puppeting him. He didn’t realize his own intent, and the Warden certainly didn’t. He grabbed the man by the slit in his visor and hauled with all his weight, tossing the man head first down the small stair in a clatter of armor. As another came into the doorway to see what had happened, Rufinus slipped past him. He was thin enough. The books were already half-stuffed into a white satchel with Innocent’s crest on it, probably taken as evidence or some rot. The window to the garden was open. Rufinus grabbed the satchel and was out the window in a motion. The fall was farther than he’d thought, a moment in the air to wonder at himself. He’d just attacked a warden. And the ground!
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It hit him like a mace, and everything went white.
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The first sense to return was scent. The air smelled like shit. He turned over and vomited, and the third sense to return (taste was of course the second) was sound, the wet slosh of bile onto wooden slats, and an annoyed voice. “I think your friend wakes. You clean him. It is not included in the favor.” Then came feeling. His chest was full of poniards, sure as if he was in the widow’s embrace. He choked on his breath.
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A hand rolled him over, and finally sight came, Ilio’s luminous white silhouette, framed in black curls. “Easy. You broke most of your ribs. Breathe shallow, don’t gasp.”
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He calmed seeing his friend, and he realized they were on a narrow barge, sliding along the Luna, which explained the stench. He would rather not have breathed at all, but he found his breath, and he wiped his face on his sleeve. “How am I here?”
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“I saw you fly into the radish furrows like Saint Ida casting herself into the Rift, and I ran out and caught you up.”
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Rufinus looked to one side.
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“The books too,” Ilio said. For the first time he sounded gentle. The satchel was there under the seat. “Whatever are you going to do without me?”
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“I’m going to go to the Don of Tyrol and beg him to help my master.”
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“The fall must have knocked sense into you; that’s the first you’ve spoken any.”
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It was true that Rufinus wasn’t sure when the idea had come, before he hit the ground or just now. The Don of Tyrol was a known heathen, a hedonist, antithetical to the church and a favorite sermon topic of Innocent’s. He was also rumored to be a friend of Aristide’s, a rumor so preposterous that upon hearing it, three years ago, Rufinus had demanded the truth of his master.
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. “Yes, we are friends,” Aristides had said. “He is a man of learning.” And waving a placating hand at his stricken apprentice, “And yes, of many faults. At least he does not pretend otherwise. If such a man invites me to speak of Our Lady’s teachings to him, why should I deny him? I pray that someday his heart will follow his mind into truth.” Few Greyfriars felt the same. They said it was mockery when Tyrol gave a blanket invitation that all Greyfriars (and their sect alone) would be welcome as honored guests in his lands. No one had gone to take him up on it, even though they must live as guests on people’s good graces wherever they went. For men and women sworn to poverty and celibacy, Tyrol would not be a comfortable haven. Still, Rufinus thought the decree to be not mockery but a show of regard for his master. Maybe even a dare of sorts. He would take the Don up on this, and pray that he had power of some kind to set Aristide free. If indeed he could reach the Don in time to do anything. He must try.
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“Tyrol is the only place you can go that Innocent cannot follow. I’ve asked Nemo to take you there.”
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Rufinous looked to the man poling the barge. He was slight, dressed in deep indigo hose and a black tunic, with a short velvet cowl, hood pulled over his face. His hands were gloved, and his tall boots had padding at the knees. He looked like an assassin.
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“Nemo is ‘no one.’”
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“Rude,” Nemo said. Rufinus felt a cold shock at his own boldness. This wasn’t the abbey, where he could speak thoughts to himself as they came to his mind. One shouldn’t be clever with assassins. Nemo’s voice was a rich alto. Maybe he was castrati. Well, don’t say that aloud, at least.
.
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“I’m sorry.”
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“If it has to do with language, you’ll have to forgive him,” Ilio said. “I told you how he is.”
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“Indeed, you speak of little else in the grey hours of morning.”
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Rufinus flushed to match his hair, and he wasn’t sure if it was to be in the presence of some lover of Ilio’s (he liked castrati?) or that Ilio would speak of him.
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“You feign jealousy," Ilio said with forced levity.
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“You are right enough. I see by his face you have never had him.”
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It seemed cruel, if Ilio really felt for him—he remembered how angry the kiss had been—for Nemo to lay it bare. Rufinus drew himself up. “No, I have lain with no one. I am a Greyfriar. But were I not so vowed, I would not spurn such a friend.” It was easier to boast because he was so vowed, and because Ilio had never asked. He didn’t know how he felt for Ilio. The kiss made it confusing. He had never desired him in all their friendship, though now he felt some heat and ache, and he feared to part from him. But feelings were bad weathervanes, best ignored. He would not see Ilio abused.
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“Perhaps I should be jealous,” Nemo said. “That you earn a confession of a Greyfriar.”
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Ilio had no retort, and Rufinus hoped his attempt at kindness had not been a cruelty of its own. They went on in silence, awkward between the two of them, though Nemo seemed at ease, drifting on the sludge of the Luna under a dusk sky. A peal of hymns drifted over the city like invisible banners, the carillon of the White Tower, triumphant.

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Recasting the Golden Rose

Voelkher held the head in place himself, though stitches would not scar. He sat at the edge of the bed, within the circle of weapons, hand threaded through golden curls. The scene was almost one of everyday tenderness but for the circle of solemn onlookers and the raw crevasse where Roman’s neck should meet his shoulders. It felt no less private; Voelkher felt his lieutenants all, always, as a part of himself. He did not mind for them to see his heart; they were his heart. Though each was his own man, to be sure, and usually Gaspar sneered and Jakob looked long-suffering whenever he and Roman were together. Now Gaspar was but a ghost, complete with rattling chains, and his flickering face wore smug curiosity. He assumed Roman would be angry. So did Voelkher. What bothered him more was the relief and approval plain in Jakob’s stance, hovering near and protective, eager as the smallest of the Vyacheslavs for his brother’s sake. Jakob’s chafing to kill Konstantine was characteristic, but this eagerness for Roman to return to his side was unsettling. No doubt he hoped that Roman would stand between him and the boy, perhaps turning on Konstantine to take him for himself, perhaps killing him in a rage. Both likely. But it had not been loneliness for Roman that had driven him to folly, to kisses warm as sunlight and chai flavored, to talks of heart’s desire over what should be a parlay table, to yearning heady as the first steps they had taken out of the mists, a desire for more than conquest. All his lieutenant’s could feel his wild hope, just as he could feel their anxiety at it. He had failed them once. Though they had followed him through the mist gates, impossibly parted, they were no better off here than they had been. Worse, perhaps, for now they knew they were cursed, and now they blighted a land sweet as home had once been. Perhaps this yearning would at last thaw their frozen hearts, and then they would be utterly damned, able to feel in full all they could not have and could not be. All that they had done. They were right to be anxious. Would Roman, who most wanted to be alive, to be human again, understand what Gaspar and Jakob and all the others didn’t? Once the anger had passed, he might.

Barnabus began the chant. The empty space where Bertok’s bone knife should have lain was a chilling hole, but still connected, a flyaway thread that had unraveled a hole in the tapestry, but still ran to it. If only it were so simple to follow that thread to its end and find the thing. But he could not worry of it, pain like the Hammer’s blow bending him low over Roman, forehead to cold forehead. Life, or whatever it was that moved them, broke free the cage of his chest, flew the distance – inches, uncountable spans of ether – to Roman’s body and his soul, binding them as water binds the things dissolved in it. Warm and sweet as chai, fierce as vodka. Roman’s eyes fluttered, and the jagged meat and bone over his collar knit and smoothed. He kissed as though it had been the last thought in his mind, and his expression was soft, confused at the beard and cold hardness. “Voelkher?” Clarity came with memory, and he did not speak the obvious. He had died. He reached first for his blade, and sagged with relief to find it to hand, laid beside him. “Then I have not failed you utterly.”

“I am here.” He sat back so Roman could see them gathered, could see the familiar inside of his tent. “And you have not failed me.” There was no warmth to lift the incense of it, but the scent of roses seemed stronger as he stirred. At the tent’s mouth, there was a groan and the shatter of ice as Walkure rolled upright and her frozen armor shifted, an answering whicker. Eizenhertz nuzzled her wolftorn haunch, only now mending.

Roman lifted his other hand to Voelkher’s face, letting it slide down to his chest. And there he paused. A gold rose on a graygreen field, vines clear in their snaking pattern out from it, the serpent heads at their ends a little shallow and vague, but freed from a crust of green. “Your armor…” Disbelief made him boyish, wide eyed.

Rather than answer, Voelkher drew him into his arms and buried his face in still-wet curls, washed before the ceremony. “I have much to tell you.”

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