Page 1 2 3 4 5 Main
was a good day for walking to the tavern. A good day for enjoying
the comforts of the tavern. A good day for partaking in the fare of
the tavern. A good day ... period ... and Lazare meant to make the
most of this one as he did each and every other good day. Which, for
the King's Man, was most days at that. Why have a bad day when a
good day worked far better? Up the steps and in, with a sweep of
hand which acted as a wave for Alex and he continued on toward the
Such grace of motion could have a man thinking of warmed oil, slick pasta, sticky glazes. He continued on to where Alex had placed a glass of wine and had now disappeared into the kitchen to fetch a platter of foodstuffs for the King's Man. He turned, sidestepping a few paces as he acknowledged the lady. "Velvet MacShire. This is a stroke of good luck for me. Quite the pleasure to find that you've chosen this precise moment to be in the exact location as me." A grin followed and he reached for his libation without even glancing in that direction. "Would you mind overly much if I joined you? Seems you've a chair or two close to spare."
"I would argue that it is a stroke of good fortune for myself. I had yet to meet the esteemed Lazare Carno of the infamous four horsemen. I would be honored, in fact I was going to ask. Had you been Vincent this day I would have hesitated for he probably would have refused or asked me on my intentions. Then I would have to say it was solely to ravish him in public." Obviously a tease but one she would have used on the man had such a scenario occurred. "Alas, he is married." Hand waving to the chair near her on the side where the swath of velvet didn't reach. One that held pieces of jewelry, precious stones and the fine equipment needed to set them. Jeweler's eyepiece was placed to one eye as she picked up the polished onyx stone to set in a stylized silver ring made for a man.
He started over. "On the contrary, M'Lady. I doubt he would have wasted the breaths to refuse or to question you. More likely you would have just received a grunt of response." He pulled out a chair with a quick look to the door which led to the kitchen, only to find no Alex yet. As he lowered, he continued. "Considering his lady wife, Miss MacShire, I would say Vincent does not lack in ravishment." Nor had he before his married state, though granted, never in public. "If you've a need, however, I would place myself in de Beauvais' stead." Alex stepped into the common room, bringing over the platter of food. "That is, if you can hold that thought until after we partake of the hour's meal." A flash of a grin and he smoothed that velvet just slightly to make room for his well-filled plate.
prongs were carefully folded over and the ring set down as she took
the eye piece off to set aside too. "I have heard his grunts at
other women." She sat back with spreading smile, eyes alight
making them more vibrant. "I wish him and her all the best,
maybe his disgruntled disposition will finally be sated." Which
had her stop and the laughter musical that followed. "I never
had that kind of need for Vincent but this offer, surprising as it
may for being unexpected, is not something I would toss aside. I
find it intriguing." Mostly she had not been thinking in those
terms but now that it was brought up and certainly Lazare was a
handsome man. "Of course such offerings are best considered
after a full meal." Amused certainly as she reached over to
take up his one hand before he could start. "If you don't
mind..." Like he really had a say unless he jerked his hand
back. She slipped on the man's ring on his forefinger and studied it
against such a masculine display. It fitted perfectly. The coiling
of panthers on each side gave way to the black onyx that seemed
to reflect objects around them in an endless depth of pitch.
"Yes, perfect." Murmured as she slipped it back off.
"Thank you for the use of your hand."
"Maybe after a few more meals and a couple of days to make it all proper like." The laughter was in her eyes as she helped herself to a wedge of cheese. Having been in France for a period of time she came to drink wine as such still waited her aside her work. Wine and cheese were especially good together. She held the wedge as teeth sunk into the tip to bit off that small bit. Blue eyes in study of his features being they had not really spoken before or had she seen him up this close. She was an artist in her own right and appreciated the strength exhibited there.
He wouldn't even begin to speculate on any changes in Vincent's mood now that he was wed, to the positive or the negative. But to her words, he did retort. "Ahhh, so you're a proper lass then, Miss MacShire? Now there's the pity. A couple of days is more than enough time to make it proper when a meal or two has already been consumed." Since Lazare really wasn't the one to wink, he plucked up a square of cheese and tossed it in his mouth, reaching for his glass of wine to compliment the flavor.
"Oh, but of course. Proper on the outside and devil in the inside." Another bite was followed by some wine. A twinkle there as the glass was set aside. "We should start counting and ordering the feast. Such would have a feast to partake of while the vows were taken like the Last Supper." She broke off a wedge of brown bread to fit around what remained of the cheese she held. "Plenty of wine to flow in a fountain of it with all kinds of cheese around the base to taste." She was mussing as the bit was eaten. "Your forte is knives?" She knew each of them had one particular weapon they were an expert in even if not shabby in any of the others.
The motion of food to lips ceased, and the King's Man acted, for all his dramatic ways, shocked with her words. "You were thinking marriage? I was speaking of ravishment." He chuckled low even as he nodded to her question. "I've a fondness for that particular weapon, yes." Although, his true weapon was that which made him One of the Four.
that is even better!" She was laughing as she leaned a little
closer and got a wedge of baby Swiss before leaning back.
"Marriage is not a walk I have ever taken. It was more the
scenario if you ever wedded." Why all the food as she waved the
wedge of cheese his way before drawing it back for a small bite.
"mmmmm," was purred as her eyes closed and a look of
heaven over her features. Brief as it was before they were open
again. "Perhaps we can throw sometime. I use to use knives
quite a bit when younger. My brother Draven taught me." Pausing
a moment. "If you might indulge me but if you have some code
against it, I do understand."
"Please, do call me Velvet or.." Leaning closer as if to share some big secret, "Venessa." Not too many knew her rightful name. Wink tossed in sassily before leaning back. She also had a wedge of Muenster cheese confiscated this time. There was no one else around and she was feeling a tad feisty. "Care for a taste?" Placing it between her teeth on one end with the other offered his way. Would he take the bait? Devil blue eyes dared even if in essence it was all innocent enough. There was that edge. She slightly wiggled it up and down to entice as she moved closer.
a lovely sound to be sure. I prefer it." His gaze dipped to her
lips and his grin twitched. "I would very much appreciate a
taste." And he leaned to the table, and there, he pinched up a
piece of Muenster himself which quickly disappeared behind his lips.
Afterall, it was the cheese she wanted him to taste, correct?
Lazare gasped that she would compare him to de Vimeure! He had not chickened out of anything. She had offered a taste, he had taken it. "de Vimeure is a Frenchman, Venessa." Lazare waved a hand. "He is a cheesy sort by nature." Here he laughed, low, but sincere, bringing up his glass to drink again. "He cannot help himself."
She remembered that now, the Frenchman. "Word has it he is very smooth with his words and will have a swarm of women swooning, moony eyed and dreaming of the Frenchman. Perhaps I'll just be bold and ask for a kiss to see if he is any good." Just like tasting a bit of cheese. "More often the smooth talkers...." leaving it go there as she finished off her wine. "So, Frenchmen cannot help themselves being.." wave of a hand but she chose to use the cliche, "French." She should know after all the sweet nothings Etienne Laurent would ply to her ear. She never did have an affair with him. So the light banter lasted until all was cleared of the plate and the two headed out to tend to their respective intrigues before it got any later.
Rings and Things
Velvet was situated at the same table she had occupied yesterday. She was finding the tavern to be quiet, food and drink handy and Alex an exceptional conversationalist when she felt like hearing another voice. The black velvet swath was spread out with the pieces she was working on. There was an arm band that matched the ring with the panther's heads and onyx worked into the swirls between. A glass of lemonade spiked with potcheen was her choice this overly warm day. Summer was hanging in there like a trooper.
More like a pitbull. Summer had bit in and intended not to let go, at least for some time still. Dana sought out the usual quiet of the Thistle. Even when filled with patrons this particular tavern possessed a positive energy that Dana always enjoyed. Since he had spent some time at the Farmer's Market, he entered the tavern with a peach in hand, gently rubbing the fuzz against the shirt at his midsection. His gaze found and rested on Velvet although his steps continued to the bar and his words were for the tender. "A chardonnay, Alex, to blend with the fruit." He tossed the mentioned peach up and caught it, a nod to Velvet before switching his notice to Alex. "If it's chilled, all the better."
This day the silks she wore were of black with splashes of white, red and blues in a flowing design. More dramatic as her hair was fixed the same. Long black curtain with one side lifted and affixed with a pearlized comb. A water lily crafted to tuck at its edge. Vibrant blue eyes lifted in such contrast to her hair and colors worn. A crinkle at the edges matched the smile forming on full lips. Slow was the dip of blue eyes in a languid perusal. She knew who he was and he too cut a fine figure. All the kings men had that in common. Lifting again as she uncoiled to stand, for her height she was as graceful as a nymph. "A good morning Sir Dana."
That greeting stole his attention from Alex, even though the man was placing his glass upon the counter. "A good morning to you, M'Lady." Since she stood, and tit-for-tat, Dana passed a slow dip of appreciation along her figure before returning to her features. Eyes such as hers in such sharp contrast to the darkness of her hair were what dreams were made of. "I've never minded being at a disadvantage where ladies are concerned since, to find myself in such lovely company is already disconcerting...but, it seems you know my name, and though I've seen you about Heathfield." For surely he had, how could he not follow her in a crowd when she passed within his range of vision. "I know of you only as Lady MacShire." Indeed, he had asked after her. More than once. But it seemed those available to his inquiry were rather formal in their knowledge. Formality was a nuisance when whispered words were more to his liking.
you have such the reputation that any lady, who is anyone, knows of
the dashing debonair French kingsman. His name on the tips of their
tongues as if they can taste what his kiss would be like." She
could really lay it on strong and it sparked to life those intense
blue eyes. The graceful flow of a hand indicated a seat near,
opposite of where his comrade had sat just the day prior. "Of
course more than just good looks is the talk of your skill, a Robin
Hood, minus his merry men and every lady vying to be Marion."
The smile was broadening. "I am Venessa MacShire, although the
nickname of Velvet has been attached for a very long time. I answer
to either and both."
"Only if you answer to Robin. We could explore the forests together and see if your legions are still about. I will take a bite of your peach if you so offer it good Sir." A quick curtsey executed as if she was the fabled Marion. Instead of using her hands, she stepped closer as the slice of juicy fruit was carefully taken from the blade by her teeth. Blue eyes held under the fringe of black lash before she straightened back, the delectable morsel behind pursed lips that held a dusty rose to their tint. The mmmmmmmm was purred as she resumed her seat. A moment later swallowed. "It is of perfection, the one which you chose."
A fractional cant of head, a twitch of arched brow, acknowledged that sensual act. The blade lowered slowly and that hand touched to the back of her chair so she'd seat herself again. "I've a knack for recognizing and appreciating the most delicious in the bushel." Once she was seated, he took his as well, slicing off another bite which, balanced on the blade, he enjoyed, watching her for that passing moment of silence while he chewed and placed his glass on a smaller table beside them so not to disturb her work.
"If I may." Curiosity had a grip and she went with the flow. Once his left hand was free, to take it up as she slipped the ring along his forefinger. She was able to turn it so a touch too loose as she slipped it off then slid it down his middle finger. Ah, here it fitted as it would not turn so easily when given that test. Smile was brilliant as she eased it off and set it aside. "Thank you for obliging." Like he had a chance to resist? Not that one needed to resist such.
One eye closed as he studied her after that task. "Was there a purpose for that?"
"Yes. It is a man's ring and I wanted to see if it was too large or too small. It seems the answer is that it will fit on one of the fingers if a man so desires to purchase it."
"Or...can it not be adjusted to fit perfectly? No matter the man? No matter the finger?" He smiled, resting his shoulders to the back of his chair, carving off another section of peach which he held out to her. She'd have to lean to him if she wanted it. Dana de Vimeure knew how to accomplish his goals. In this case, a rather tempting view might be offered to him while he offered ... the peach.
"There is always the perfect finger for the perfect fit. This is far better than having to adjust the ring to fit that which is less than the perfect fit. It means taking a piece out or adding which then breaks the perfect circle making it weaker. It can be polished over and hidden but in time it ends up showing as that imperfect line that darkens." She leaned as the wedge of peach was captured between her lips. There was a view and if she knew he'd take advantage of such, she never let on. She'd been around Frenchmen for far too many years. There was no harm in it and so didn't matter in the long run. If she made his day, nothing wrong in that either. The slippery morsel was sucked in as lips pressed closed as the end disappeared. Pursed for a moment before swallowed followed by a smile as she leaned back. "I have a notion to craft a ring befitting all four horsemen, each having one that signifies the unity you all possess."
The man had a difficult time deciding where to rest his gaze - on the movement of her lips or the exceptional show of feminine charms, in the end, however, he met her gaze. "Who better than you, Velvet? I would be honored to possess such a ring."
Eyes were that kind of vibrant and her best attribute as she would call it. Males might argue which counted over the other. The smile that found her lips reached her eyes. "Then I shall set about primary sketches and have them approved by our League. I see the stones being onyx and all from the same vein. Highly polished with a griffin finely etched over its surface. The difference will be for you, the hand will grip an arrow and his feet will be upon water."
Dana laughed softly, sitting forward to her. "I am different and so it should be. But, Velvet, I am not so addled of mind that I can't imagine that you would make each ring...unique for the particular man who is to possess it." He reached over to her and touched his knuckle gently to the tip of her nose before dropping his hand to his lap again and relaxing back in his chair.
"Ah, but you are each a king's man. You are all set apart from the rest. Each of you is uniquely different from the other, it would have a woman find it hard to choose," teasing him with that comment as it lit up so very blue eyes. Smile lazy upon her lips as he sat back and a twitch of her nose for the ghosting touch left. "but each of you are equal as a whole so a ring devised of the same with minor alterations will also be symbolic."
Although she had originally made it sound as if his would be the only unique one, he knew what she meant. His smile remained, had been in place most of their conversation. But then, what man wouldn't be in a state of constant pleasure around this particular female? "No woman should have to chose, Velvet. Especially between the lot of us." A glance to his glass and then he raised it, finishing off the liquid within it. "If ever you need to size me up again..." He stood slowly, and in doing so, his lips came very close to her ear. "It would be to my extreme pleasure." He canted his head to look her in the eye and added a wink, then started for the counter to bring Alex his empty glass.
"Thankfully," followed with a husky laugh. She had complimented him in her own way and no reason not to. "I might just do that," if there was a legitimate reason, she was using him as her guinea pig in making these rings. His would be the first and would test her skills. She was excited in getting them done for what she had in head she could see them already. Visualization some call it but it helped to have one see it become a reality. Few fall victim to it for what is perceived is beyond their skill and they fall short of it discouraged. She sat back enjoying the view. Ah yes, he was as enjoyable to watch approaching as he was to watch leaving. Preferring the former over the latter but she could not complain. He had his unique way. "hmmm," came quietly to herself. She would make the ring, bring it to King Karl then see each of them to have the perfect fit. No cutting that which was formed solid. "It would be my pleasure as it has been in meeting you, Sir Dana." Liking how the title fit the Frenchman too.
A smiled dip of head to Alex in thanks and he turned to look to Velvet once more. "My pleasure will be in seeing you once again, Joli Velvet." There was a tilt of head, a tap of temple, and a wink before de Vimeure started for the corridor that would lead him to the private office of the King's Men.
Rings Fit for a King and his Men
leaned back in his chair to glance out the window, marking the time in
that way rather than seeking out the hour glass which was perched on
that far mantle. Lazare had mentioned that the Lady MacShire wished a
few moments of his time and, not telling him why, Karl waited
rather impatiently. Knowing the woman's skill well, the King was quite
anxious to see what she may have in store for him. The chair was
vacated to pace to the front of his desk where he stroked a squared
finger along the edge.
Karl's gaze snatched up from his fingertip over to the door when it opened and, with a nod of head, started toward the entrance in order to greet the lady. The guard stepped aside, allowing the lady to enter. "Lady MacShire, you are a lovely sight in the midst of the day." He offered her a dip of shoulders and head in the form of a bow and then motioned her further in with a sweep of hand. "Lazare was quite adamant that I see you as soon as possible. You have spurred an otherwise easy-going man into action it seems."
A smile touched as she passed the guard. One she recognized helping out at the morning practices they had and at times participating. She'd seen him half naked and maybe that knowledge glinted in vibrant blue eyes or just they way they were. There was often mischief about the lady that one could legitimately wonder. An elongated box was held to one hand as the other took up the folds of rich velvet into a curtsey. Eyes lowered in respect before the fluid motion had her up again. "You compliment me, Sire. Thank you," she wasn't allergic to compliments like some but always kept them in perspective. "You have quite the unique personalities in Sir Lazare and Sir Dana, I've had the honor of enjoying. I come to you with a gift I was compelled to make," offering up the box that had the two finished rings and three with only the onyx set into the velvet casing that needed the ring to be sized and made. The largest stone (without the ring) setting in the middle of the case had the Black Griffin etched into its otherwise smooth surface holding the symbols of air, water, earth and fire. It stood upon a castle tower with the Dragon at his side. "I've come for your approval and for a ring size." Which she had plain rings of varying sizes to measure.
What was this now? Karl accepted the box containing the rings with an interested arch of brows. He took out one of the completed rings, setting the remaining ring and stones on the desk he had returned to. "Unique...that's a polite description of their particular personalities, M'Lady." Although, from what he saw of the ring with arrow and water, he could tell she had fully understood each of those 'unique' personalities well. "To say I'm impressed with your skill and your imagination, Lady MacShire, would be a gross understatement and seems almost hollow compared to what I truly feel. This is remarkable." The ring was placed back with the other and the largest stone lifted. The union of the symbols of griffin and dragon brought an easy smile to his expression. He had thought to add the same to Honeee's wedding band. Slowly he lifted his gaze from the work of art. "What need I do?"
need only your approval and the size of the finger you wish to wear
yours upon. I would like to approach Andrew on binding them on
another level in completing the set. If your man Lyons would like one
then I can easily make six. This way there will be a proper connection
that goes beyond the physical aspect if Andrew will oblige me in
this." There was pride in her eyes on this task she was inspired
to undertake. "I am trained by my brother in Druid ways and I was
inspired to create these rings." Which meant she did it not for
money gain but something far higher still.
took the ring of measuring rings as eyeing his finger she picked one
and turned out to be the perfect fit. Not too tight and not too lose.
Sliding it on, turning it once before sliding it back off. "I
will get Vincent's and Trevor's sizes at the first opportunity. Once
all are completed I will seek out Andrew, then they shall be delivered
to each of you. The stones will probably hold an inner glow that when
focused the individual will see you that you wish to contact."
She was watching him carefully, although she didn't have the skill or
would not attempt such on these particular rings she knew the Prince
easily could. "If one could get hold of one of Sir Lyons' rings
to be measured without him knowing such could be
"I will do him a ring as with Andrew's added bond, he could well use it being he is usually most detached?" She wasn't sure only that she only once got a glimpse of the distinguished man. "I know of him the least so any input would be greatly appreciated on this."
"Thank you, Lady MacShire. For thinking to do this...for providing us with these. I'll set Dana on the mission of Lyons. I've not doubt Sir de Vimeure can return to us the necessary intelligence to see a ring fitted for Lyons as well. Thank you again. And, please, if ever you need..." Here he paused, frowned, but began again. "Please let us know, without hesitation, if we can ever be of service to you."
will set to work on your ring next then get hold of Sir Cairns."
Whom she knew would be the next one available while Vincent would
probably be the last for his honeymoon. All in good time. "You
have been of service in a safe haven provided where I can design and
craft my jewelry without worry of having them stolen or that I have to
be wary walking the streets at any time of day or night. Thank you and
My Queen." She dipped into a modest courtesy before taking up the
box that held the rings and stones. "I will be in touch when they
are ready. Thank you, Sire, for allowing me this opportunity to serve
my kingdom." She would not hold him up as she knew he was a very
busy man. "By your leave.."
Velvet had finished all the rings and now it was time to give each theirs. Karl had been very pleased and a smaller, more delicate one had been given the Queen that was linked to his. With the Christmas season, she was dressed festive. A deep wine red crushed velvet corset over a black crush velvet skirt. The peasant style blouse was white eyelet trimmed in tatted lace. Hair was swept up using braids to weave a Celtic knot pattern with lengths left to fall freely down her back; the bangs were feathered off to the side. She headed for the castle where the King's men stayed. All but one anyway and of course Lyons she would have to request permission from his Lordship to visit, not telling him of exactly the why.
As fate would have it, one of the Four was seated upon the chilled stone of the castle's foyer, his back to the wall. He rolled two small, wooden but weighted balls between the fingers of one hand, his eyes closed in concentration. The motion of the wooden orbs obeyed every twitch of finger they passed over, circling the edge of his palm and around to begin the circuit again. The opening of the front entrance brought in the fresh scent of breeze, and woman, and his eyes opened to glance in that direction. Who had he expected to see? It was clear Velvet was not top of the list. Surprise registered on his features and he scrambled to his feet, nearly dropping that which he held in the process. "Miss MacShire..." He shot a glance over his shoulder, then back to her. Was he so lucky as to enjoy her company alone at present?
guard stationed there saw to closing the door with a polite
greeting. One that was returned in kind as well a smile. Eyes were a
vibrant blue that turned as she did to spy one of the very ones she
was hoping to find. First of the four. Sassy saunter of hips
that left the folds of her skirt sway in an appealing way. Sure she
knew, why she did it on purpose as she added a wink while her smile
only grew. Approaching within a few feet she dipped into a graceful
curtsey, one he should appreciate for the nice view as she lowered.
Ruffles accenting the soft swells and gone as she rose. Taller than
most women but just as in proportion. "Sir Dana, I do hope your
holiday was everything you wished it to be. May we have a drink in
the tavern or any other room that would suit a conversation?"
She was quick to step up to the plate, or more to rest her hand upon his offered arm. "One never knows where things will go but never is it good to expect." Wink added as he was safe if he wished. "I have something for you and it would be in person this holiday season to present it." Leaving him to guide her within.
Which he did, even going so far as to wait for her to continue in and then, close the door behind them. "Something for me? Well, Velvet, it seems I am not so well prepared for the season." He started toward her, tilting his head right, left, as he checked out her person in his approach. "And yet, I see not a single bow on you." His expression feigned disappointment that she was not his present afterall.
all is as it seems," one hand slipped away to come up with a
spring of mistletoe. They had a warranty on them to after the New
Year so she was within those boundaries as she stepped close to arch
her arm up and hold it above his head. Daring she was as her lips
touched his, lifted up upon the balls of her feet to accomplish it.
She tasted of spearmint he might notice as the weed was drawn down
to tuck away. "I came armed and dangerous." The smile
sparked in so-blue eyes but he would notice that her other hand was
out, palm up with a black box. "For you, Sir Dana de Vimeure."
itself was cast in silver and gold, the crest of Heathfield on one
side etched as the one for the Black Griffon was opposite, both
offset in a black tarnish in the crevices and design. The stone
of onyx that was connected to the other four, five in all, were
strengthened in their link by the druid prince Andrew. Black
griffon etched on the stone with his feet upon the water. Symbols of
the others held in his hand. Inside they would find the inscriptions
of 'Life is a conscious continuity..within the movement of
change' along with 'One Four All' purposely
using Four instead of for on the Four Horsemen's
and each name respectively. One being the Black Griffon and
they as a whole in service to All. Lyons would be
the Fifth Element that holds all Four and Karl would have Those
Served in Service of Others. "At least I have been smart
enough to be the first to ask. My Lordship Husband, you will find
the fit perfect." Her smile reached her eyes as she dared that
one his way.
Arms slid around him, fine figure he was, to hold and rest her head upon his chest a moment as Velvet never refused hugs or such affections from ones she knew well enough and in his case, admired. Not that she would probably ever say it. The kiss appreciated too just as she had given. Nothing demanding nor with strings attached. Just appreciated and savored. "It is said that the gift is in the giving and I have received the greatest gift in the giving of these rings. It warms my heart that you will treasure it." And the fact that, one much like her in teasing, could be serious too. If they got to know each other they might both find in the other the same reason for it. No one took an obvious flirt serious and so kept them safe in that area yet still able to interact and mutually laugh.
"So they say..." Since she was still close to him, he raised his hand up just beyond her shoulder, admiring the ring again. "Although, I can't imagine that you've received the greatest of the gifts. Whoever they may be, I do believe they are just a tad bit off on this one." His hand lowered and he took a step back, just so he could see her better. "Will you be delivering Garath's? Or will the Black Griffon?"
A slender hand with long fingers cupped against his jaw and cheek a moment as she studied his features while still this close. He was a handsome man. French, that was a deadly combination for setting women's hearts a flutter. The thought had her smiling again. Another Frenchman she knew had such charm too. "I have delivered the Black Griffon's and his lovely wife one that connects too. There is power in these rings that is a sum of the five that wear them. No matter where you find yourself in a time of need, separated, you can reach them through the ring like a homing device. Yours would show the green blue like the ocean in a beacon. I have sent word to Sir Garath Lyons requesting an audience. I did not specify for I wish it to be a surprise. I am hoping on my name alone it will not be turned aside. If it is then I shall have to find another means."
"Other means?" She once again had him chuckling. "Lady Velvet, I doubt not that your name alone will get you within the walls of Lockehaven. Were it me, the mere mention of your name would have me calling out the welcome banns. I ask, should you require escort..." And he left it at that, his brows raised in question, but a smile touching his lips. Dare she ride to Lockehaven with him? In truth, Dana was the King's Man, One of the Four, but he also knew how to make the most of any given situation. Which would he adhere to on such a journey?
smile sprang infectiously wide. "What I am hoping and nothing
thought amiss than he has an elaborate estate and I am known to
appreciate such structures and lands that aid in my art
designs." Hoping to keep Lyons curious perhaps but not overly
that she would request a visit. There was a twinkle to surface again
and she knew Dana was the very one that had a lot to do with
acquiring the ring size. "It would seem very proper if I was to
arrive under such escort so that I did not get lost." The last
turning her smile impish. "I am pleased you would offer and I
shall honor your offer." Which was also loaded for the infamous
joke of honor and offer. "Then we shall plan the outing as soon
as possible for it is not proper to leave such dangling too
long." Such words chosen and said with a straight face but oh
the laughter was bubbling beneath.
forbid and hell rejoice." Now her laughter would be given
reign. "I will await word from you when all is set. My time is
yours." Dipping into a curtsey and a quick kiss to his cheek
this time upon straightening, she had enjoyed her time with him as
always, "until then my king's man." Wink added as she
would take her leave as she had a few others still here to see to
The Trip to Lochehaven
Word arrived from Lockehaven that the company of Lady Velvet MacShire would be greatly anticipated and enjoyed. So with the invitation from that stately manor, preparations began and within two days' time, Sir Jean Danatian de Vimeure and the Lady Venessa Ann MacShire were set for their journey North. On the norm, the trip would take the day and one half, but Dana was not one to rush a good thing. No indeed. Although Lyons would be awaiting their arrival by noon of the following day, they may not arrive until nightfall, or perhaps not even until the following morning if at all possible. No carriage was required since the Lady MacShire was an accomplished rider. The weather would work in their favor, odd how that could be managed. Chilly but clear, at least, for now. The two set off from Heathfield with what few supplies would be needed strapped to their mounts and the ring for Garath tucked away safely on Velvet's person.
She knew it might take a few days so clothing was packed accordingly to accommodate and of the more stately into the saddlebags attached to the back of her stallion. A black stallion that stood a good eighteen hands. She was elated over this trip and the bantering with Dana would flow easily. The sparkle in blue eyes very much alive. Crushed velvet vest of black was worn over a flouncy poet's shirt with just enough lace ruffle without being overdone. Pants were of black leather and fitted her form perfectly showing off the shapely curve of her legs even with the boots lacing up to over the calves. That ring was very secured as she'd not have any mishap there. It was incased in a pocket of her vest of one that folded over and secured with a black ribbon. Heaven woolen overcloak spread over the back of the stallion when in the saddle. It kept her warm in this perfect weather for riding. The cloud of mist puffed from the stallion's nostrils in the trot and a snort added here and there wanting to gallop. Side stepping at times which only brought about her laughter while a soothing hand would pass down the side of his neck as she leaned in with soothing words.
would be no man at all if he didn't enjoy the light laughter of the
lady he rode with. He would be no Frenchman if he didn't allow that
appreciate gaze to pick up on more than just the way the winter's
breeze played with the long strands of her hair. Well into their
ride and quite a ways from the castle walls, he spurred his horse on
to circle before the lady and then come up close beside her. The
high spirit of horse and rider caused the king's man to laugh with
his enjoyment. Almost leg to leg, the Horseman kept pace with
Velvet's stallion. "Carno approached me last night,
Velvet." He cut a look her way, his smile spreading with the
words to come. "And he cautioned me greatly on my well being
since we would be traveling alone." In truth, Lazare had almost
threatened him where Velvet's safe keeping was concerned. As if Dana
would not do all in his power to keep the Lady safe. Dana did know,
however, it was Lazare's way of telling Dana to mind his manners
with the jeweler. Manners, however, were only as important as
the one receiving them wished them to be. Dana would test the
woman's....need. For manners that is.
had her laughter easily flow, "well that is a horse of a
different color and he has well advised you. You never know when I
might strike but you can bet it will be a surprise." The
laughter was in her eyes as the visual of her taking advantage of
him was so amusing to visualize. "If I cornered you in a dark
hall would your pleas of .. No. Don't. Stop. become No,
don't stop?" As he spurred his horse away she nudged
Midnight forward. "I would be remiss to taint such an untainted
reputation of a king's man is concerned. I shall have to buy you a
chastity belt at the first stop to ensure you will not be taken
advantage of." Laughter filled the air around them as she
spurred the stallion into a gallop, speeding ahead of him with the
words thrown over her shoulder, "posthaste," hair whipping
in the wind gliding across her features and away as she turned to
watch where she was going while in a gallop.
She gave the stallion his head as they raced forward but reined him in as the road came to a fork. She was not sure which way Dana intended to go as the stallion reared up with that sharp pull back and soon down on all fours, hooves thudding with the sound as she was around. The blush across her cheeks for the spurt didn't compare to the light in vivid blue eyes. Smile couldn't be contained as the stallion pranced impatiently. "Come on, or else a woman show you up in horsemanship." Which she didn't believe for a moment as she had cheated so she could race ahead.
Dana's horse skidded to a halt beside her, the back hooves digging into the earth as the reins were drawn up sharply to halt the chase. The animal chomped at the bit when the pressure was released, skipping sideways in added response. "My Dear Velvet." He laughed, giving his horse the lead to dance as it would for now. "My manhood is in no way threatened by being bettered by a woman. Indeed no." A soft click of his tongue and pressure of his heel calmed the animal some so he could continue. "In truth, a woman who is good at what she claims she can do, is far from threatening. She is exciting. To the left, Madame." He nodded to the left side of the fork in the road. "And I mind not if you take the lead." With him, he would allow her to take anything she so desired!
hope then I can remain exciting. Such is not often easy but
certainly a challenge." Dark lashes had lowered over vibrant
blue eyes and just an impish touch to the corner of her lips
before spurring the stallion onwards to the left as guided.
"Luckily your manhood is not threatened!" Words came in
laughter again over her shoulder as she didn't send her
steed into a full gallop this time but at a pace that would be
easy to have him catch up and keep by her side. She liked the way
he look so that was an incentive along with the continual
bantering and looks passed between them both. Lord help her if
that focus didn't drop a second with her words too. Dare the devil
and he'll take you too. Lips formed into a
flashing smile before focus turned to the road ahead. It would not
do well to have her thrown. That she would not live down.
As Velvet veered from the well-traveled path, Dana shot a look deeper into the depths and scanned within as far as he could see. The workings of this particular forest did not suit for a wandering lass and the setting of the sun only intensified that fact. They had an hour, maybe thirty minutes beyond that, to reach the safety of the Inne. Dana's hand shifted to rest at his hip, just inches from slipping his bow from his back. He rode along behind the woman's mount which picked its way carefully amongst the leafless branches. He would allow her a moment more to venture, then he would have her return to their intended destination where protection could be found behind thick walls and bolted doors.
Her breath frosted with each release while the quiet of the forest surrounded her as it was entered. She had been right on what she picked up and the feel of another place and world. Another world within this one or so the feel was. The ground was thick with mulch and snow mixed as the hooves hit silently. A stirring of brush brought out a doe that was startled by their passing. Doe eyed look over them both before bolting, the white tail like a fading flag before it was gone. It gave a leap to her heart in that fraction of a moment before laughter followed low. She didn't wish to wake the night in this near holy place. The smile turned over her shoulder as she brought the stallion to a halt. "How far is it through these woods?" Earlier thinking that it was only a short distance but the trees and brush were growing denser as well the night falling giving it an impenetrable feel. Even if she was Druid trained and held part to a Fae nature, she could not be sure she was welcome too far into these woods being unknown to those that occupied it.
No Room at the Inn
Dana followed along behind her, allowing her a wandering pace through the woods until he decided they had dared far enough. A click of his tongue and a tap of his booted heel brought him up alongside the lady as best he could with the undergrowth. "Shall we return to the path and to the Inn, Velvet?" It wasn't as if he expected a response because he pulled the reins of his horse to set the animal in the right direction to guide them all back to the path. Although they had taken a meandering course, when they emerged back to the well-traveled road, the inn was just down the road at the edge of the trees. Dana turned as he cleared the forest for the trail, just to make sure Velvet was still following.
had furrowed into a delicate line as her earlier impression of these
woods was changing the darker it grew. It took her a moment to shake
off whatever drew her as she heard her name. That moment of
realization she had been slipping into some dark place as dark as
the forest before her was growing. She was around willingly,
unlike her usual stubborn nature in challenge. "Yes, we should,
I don't think there is a path through." Her words barely out
when upon the main road only to see the Inn not that far from them.
That was odd too. She gave an apprehensive look over her shoulder
but only the twilight darken shadows greeted her along with a gust
of wind, one almost pushing them away like the picture she once saw
of Old Man Winter blowing. The odd sensation, and not a positive
one, still lingered as her horse drew up alongside his having their
knees bump again; her smile returning. Curiosity too. "How well
do you know of this forest?" Her expression one of relief at
this point to be by his side.
She mumbled some words in Gaelic under her breath, an omen or cast to keep such negativity she was picking up on away. "Yes, the shadows grow heavy and I grow hungry," making an effort to dispel the heavier feel to lighthearted. "I'm sure you are hungry as well, a strapping man such as yourself." That spark was back in vivid blue eyes with a wink his way as she spurred her horse forward in the direction of the Inn. The Inn was on the outskirts, not quite touching the shadows, safely tucked just outside an invisible line or so the feeling she got. Even the road they were on was not safe where they were until they emerged from that edge as it wound out and down to the Inn. The horses seemed to pick up on whatever lurked within that forest and quick to get them both there. The lights that filtered out from the windows were welcoming as they illuminated a certain distance, reaching out as if to rescue anyone coming from the forest.
The shadows of night stretched toward the building even as the horses were led away to a well-built stable. Dana slanted a look to those fingers of darkness which reached across the earth from the trees, edging ever closer to the walls of the establishment and, without saying a word, he gently closed his grip on Velvet's upper arm to 'escort' her into the common room. The house seemed filled. Though there were many tables within the main room of the place, the majority of them were occupied. Any who traveled these roads knew that the Eastridge would provide shelter until the dawn allowed safe passage again through the forest. Weaving a way past those seated, Dana delivered them to the bar where the baldness of a shiny pate was the first to greet them. The King's Man cleared his throat, winning the attention of the proprietor even beyond the din of voices. The man straightened, smiling to see who had arrived. "Jean!" He bellowed, the circles of his cheeks as rosy and shiny as the top of his head had been. "What brings you North..." But it was then he noticed the Lady at Dana's side. His expression seemed to sober, although there was still a twinkle in the older man's eyes. "We are full up save one room, Sir de Vimeure. I fear the lady will be in need of that, unless she is willing to share what sparse comforts I may offer with you." As he finished talking, he placed two glasses upon the counter. All about the place gleamed with cleanliness; brass, glass, wood ... even the man himself...and as he ended his comment, that look in his eyes gleamed all the more.
Her hood had been drawn back up after dismounting as if a shield against the night's feel. She was very aware of those stretching shadowy tendrils with a slanted glance from the corner of her eyes. Her step a touch more lively as she kept close to Dana. There was something very wrong out there in that dense, now pitch, forest. Her breath in frosted puffs as she felt a touch foolish after moving into the welcoming warmth of the tavern as if what laid beyond had only been the makings of her imagination. The hood drawn down again while under his guide to the common room. Seeing so many, laughter and conversation, washed over her as a balm, having her relax quite a bit more and her smile coming easily. Dana received the first one and the proprietor soon gifted with the second in the other's wake. A quick curtsey was given as he seemed to be a good friend of Jean. Oh yes, she picked up on that. "Oh, I'm sure it has a windowsill?" She couldn't help the tease as it was there in the vivid blue of her eyes.
Windowsill? Dana laughed, shaking his head to the both of them. "No, my friend." He tried not to continue that chuckle, but the amusement in his tone could not be hidden. He held up two fingers with a slight nod. "I prefer the comfort of a clean mattress to that of a wooden windowsill. Two rooms, Mel." After that he took a moment to slide a gaze throughout the room, marking those there but that survey was ended abruptly by the man speaking again. "I regret it is the way of it, Sir, but one room is all I have." Dana snatched a look back to the innkeeper. "Really, it's okay, Mel, two..." Mel just shook his head, interrupting Dana with that motion and his words. "I kid you not, one." To that, Dana lifted a hand to scratch behind his ear, a smile spreading. All the times he had come and they had played this charade so that the room could be shared with the lady, the time he meant to act the gentleman, it was not to be! "Then provide me with extra blankets, I care not for stiff bones from resting upon unforgiving wood all night." Mel laughed, his cheeks reddening with the sound and he bobbed his head. "Extra blankets to cushion your slumber, Sir de Vimeure. It shall be so. Welcome to the Eastridge, M'lady. Your room is ready whenever you desire to seek it." He placed the well-polished key upon the counter in front of her, not Dana.
She was watching the exchange like some volley match and only had her smile touching off again. She almost interjected that sharing the room would be fine but there was that part about propriety as she felt it was better to bite her tongue than say anything. One of those she would surely put her foot in her mouth. Something she had managed from doing in some time so didn't wish to start now. She would let the two banter over the room as she discreetly watched others about, making it seem it was a conversation totally to them. By the time she was addressed, blue eyes and focus were upon the innkeeper. "Thank you, Mel," taking up the key with nary a look Dana's way but he'd see those tiny laugh lines at the corner of her eyes deepening. "Your Inn has a good welcoming feel to it." With only a shadow to pass fleetingly over blue eyes with a thought reeling back to the forest. "An oasis." For it was in a sense exactly that. Finally a turned up look was given Dana. She had to admit the man was not just charming but handsome. No wonder he had a standing one room only deal here. "Are you hungry, Jean?" That smile was in her eyes now.
slanted a double look in her direction when she called him by his
first name, then he laughed. "Dear Lady, were I not
hungry..." And because she had dared his first name, he slid
his gaze over her. Where most women would be road weary,
Velvet MacShire was all the more desirable after a day of travel.
"I would not be a man. But..." From the lady at his side
back out over the crowd. "Would you not prefer to dine in the
comfort of your room?" Devil he may very well be for that was
the smile that touched upon his lips and flashed in his eyes. Mel
listened, filling each of them a glass of wine whether that was
the lady's preference or not. Afterall, this was de Vimeure and
Mel knew his routine rather well. He thanked Velvet for her
comment by way of a nod but remained silent afterwards, just
working, and watching of course. But mostly working. Although
watching wasn't far behind.
Dana went no further than the doorframe. There he cocked his arm, leaning against that uplifted support while he watched her move about. "And one never knows at this time of year when a day may just transform into a few..or more." He looked to the window for emphasis, even though the interior was blocked from the exterior with a heavy, damask curtain. He dropped his arm and stepped aside as a tray of food was delivered into the room. The young maid bobbed off a makeshift curtsy, placed the tray on the table, then with another hasty bob retreated from the room. de Vimeure reclaimed his place, though not in, not out, and adopted a lean of his back now to the wood with his arms crossed over his chest . A frown of consideration passed over his brow and he shoved up, his hand gripping the frame as he leaned out into the hall. "Whoah, whoah there, Miss. The wine? Mel was to send up wine." A twitter of nervous apology followed. Dana pulled himself back to look at Velvet. "Will you be inviting me in, Velvet? Or am I to remain outside in the hall with my hunger unsated?" That twitch of a grin may give away his implied suggestion although, in truth, he was rather hungry from their trip.
Such a wicked gleam in vivid blue eyes that made them even more alive. He would find her there as he turned back from halting the maid with a hand sliding up his chest and such the sultry look. Full lips touched in a pout but the devil's own was in blue beneath the thickness of dark lash. "Come into my parlor.." she could play the part. Both hands in use as the sliding up his chest stalled as they moved around and down to rest over the curve of his backside. Nice rounded taut muscles. "It would be hard to tell the tale of the Inn outside the door while I feast and you famish. Besides, such a handsome man is better looking at than the aged old wood of this door." Was he buying it? Except there was something in the way her hands played that might lend credibility to the sultry semi-seduction. Tease or not, he should enjoy it.
yes, the King's Man was very much enjoying it. His breath hitched
and he stepped in with a twist of their bodies, closing the door
with one hand while the other captured the sway of her waist and
hip. He actually managed to press her up against the inside wall
just beside the door. His head was dipped to look down to the
seductress, his gaze never leaving hers. The sharply cut line of
his jaw tensed, released, tensed even while his fingers tightened
in that hold on her waist. "I do not do well with famine,
M'Lady Velvet. But I am able to slowly enjoy that which is
offered. You've an abundance to share, Velvet. How much will you
Dana spread his arms away from her with the knock on the door, releasing his hold, only for now, so that Velvet could accept that wine. His fingers curled into his palms when they were denied the feel of her and he stepped aside while she answered that knock. He kept an eye on her as she went to the door, but then he crossed to the window, pressing aside a corner of the curtain to glance beyond into the dark. He would dine, wine and wind a tale of the forest deep. All three he could manage with expertise, but he far more looked forward to the 'unfolding' part of that agreement. He held his response until after the maid left them, still looking out toward the forest from that small lift of curtain flap. "Pour us each a drink, Velvet and while we eat, we'll speak of the secrets of this place and then, perhaps..." The fabric was released and the King's Archer turned to look once more to the woman that would be his roommate for the evening. "...even create some of our own."
A Forest Tale
She poured the wine and then portioned out the food from the domed plate to each of theirs. Larger helpings onto Dana's as every so often she slanted a glance his way. "Anything out there?" As he was looking beyond the heavy damask curtain. There was the feel of an icy figure to run up her spine even with the warmth given off from the fire in the hearth. "They chose such heavy curtains for a purpose beyond the need to keep the heat in from any drafts," more mussed as a statement as she finished off the preparations. The crushed velvet vest was unbuttoned and taken off as she carefully laid it over the back of a chair. The blouse smoothed over as she made herself comfortable as such divesting allowed. There was a twitch of a smile as she pulled out his chair, angled for him to sit as she waited at its side, one arm resting over the back of it.
Dana came to her side, refraining from replying to her question and her assumption. His hand closed over the top of hers where it rested on the back of his chair and then he joined her by claiming that chair she indicated for him at the table. "Smells good." He smiled to Velvet and leaned toward the plate she had prepared, pretending to inhale the aroma of the food. The playful nature came to a quick end when the sound of a tree branch scraped against the glass of the window invaded the room. Dana didn't turn, just tensed, but his smile remained intact. Had Velvet noticed that not a single tree decorated the exterior of the Inne? With their hurried arrival, perhaps she had not. Dana let the presence of that sound go unmentioned as if it could be expected. He had not, however, removed the empowered sword from his hip in order to become more comfortable for their meal together. "Now...we were discussing plans for the evening." Instead of the food, he reached for his glass of wine. "...and the enjoyment thereof."
were tender roast chunks in a thick spicy gravy along with filet
haddock to a smokey perfection. Some mash potatoes and broccoli.
Fresh brown bread and plenty of churned butter. A homestyle meal.
She had noticed a lot on the way in. It was in her nature and the
only thing that didn't quite reach the Inn were these tree like
tendrils of shadows. There wasn't a whole lot that scared one
Velvet MacShire but the scraping had her move as close as she
could to him. "Dana," under her breath thinking that
maybe he had missed the sound. Her hand coming to rest against his
chest with a fearful glance towards the darkly damask
clad window then back. The question was there in her eyes as he
reached for the wine, should they ignore it? Was it something to
be ignored? "Will we be allowed to enjoy this meal and all
come what may?" Had all that just been changed by the joker
card showing up in that royal flush making it a bluff?
"..and the damask curtains a barrier between worlds that the glass might afford a glimpse of. Sights that should not be seen by some and remain sane?" She had a very active creative mind. His words held encouragement the place was constructed with the forest in mind and what laid hidden there. A mystery to her, perhaps to them to a degree. She would learn some of it if not all. "So it cannot touch us here and ignoring it part a plan not to miss out on things ahead." A gleam leaped to her eyes as her fingers curled in against the material covering his chest as if only now realizing it was resting there. "Ideas have their place under certain circumstances if both are liking those ideas but a dinner awaits while still warm and a story to unfold about dark enchanted forests. First things first," as a smile touched, something else there reflected in her eyes fleetingly while her hand slid away back to the chair and a step aside. Since he was seated, doing a reversal of roles she took up the seat adjacent to his. "It smells delicious," taking up her fork to begin.
He eased his arm away from her waist and followed her movements with his gaze while she sat. Even the most natural of motion for this woman whispered at sensuality. He brought his glass up to drink in the hopes that this simple act of familiarity would help to ease the growing need to respond in ways that were all too easily followed through with in this particular room. First things first. Odd. But what he had on his mind as first and foremost had nothing to do with the food or a tale! "I lack in storytelling, Velvet. Of the Four, that is more Lazare's forte. But I will tell you what I know and what I've experienced." Setting his glass aside, he gathered up the linen cloth and draped it over his knee, then took up his fork, allowing himself a taste of the food before beginning.
"Lazare would embellish," the smile reaching her eyes as the fork was lifted with a tender morsel. It lingered there as she spoke before passing the lush of lips and disappearing as they closed in over the utensil, then slipped free. All the while eyes were upon his, would his be upon hers or divert? "You lack not at all from what I see before me. I wish mostly to know what you know and experienced of that forest. The reason being it has pulled upon me and I don't think time away will ease that connection," she wasn't sure if she was being clear as a frown tipped the corners of her lips a fraction. "Something there latched on, aware, aware of my existence. I'm not sure how to explain it other than the distinct feeling I got and that there would be a future encounter. I wish to know what may be encountered, for such could make the difference." Her fork lowered to pierce another morsel to lift following the other in how it was devoured. Savored.
The smile which had formed with her mention of Carno soon turned to a frown when she spoke of the connection to the forest. He dipped his head to acknowledge what she said and then placed his fork aside. "There is another way to go, Velvet..it would extend our journey a day and there is no ..." He had not deprived himself of matching her gaze for gaze until he paused, and that only long enough to look around the room as an example. "place to find such comfortable shelter. But if you would rather, we can travel along that way on the return."
"I will leave it to your digression being you know more than I. I am not one to put off that which is probably inevitable but found it best to face things I am to face head on. Better if I am prepared or at least have an idea of what I am facing. I could divert all routes but I feel a way would still be found and make it harder it had to be." If that made any sense at all but she was riding on instincts. "I was trained druid, Jean. I know sometimes there are challenges placed in our paths. I could avoid whatever it is, no repercussions on me but others may die in my stead or some other such fate for I chose to turn a blind eye." This was probably the most serious he'd seen her for she was letting all her guards down for something of that kind of serious. There was another kind of light in the brilliance of blue eyes as she studied him intently. Intensity was part of her nature in a few areas if she bothered to apply it. "It will not be a challenge met tonight or further on this trip in getting to Lyon's estate but a time after the stay there." It would wait but the telling of it was the moment for now but not to consume all the moments.
Oh, he was listening. What had started as a rather enjoyable trek North had now turned into life and death! "Allow me to tell you what I know then, Velvet." Druid or not, the unexpected could not, by it's very nature, be planned for. "The first we traveled, well, the Four of us, over this terrain, we were advised to not travel the forest at night. Of course, we paid it no heed. We were, afterall, the Four Horsemen. What had we to fear, eh?" He offered a deep chuckle of realized ego. A clearing of his throat began the story again. "Vincent, Lazare and myself were pressing on toward the shadows while Trevor pulled back. He could feel, you see, that which lurked in the woods. That which walked in the shadows and thrived on the night. Without him, we couldn't continue, so begrudgingly we took refuge in the inn, like so many before us. It was here, that night, we learned what it was that caused Trevor to balk. For tales flow here as fluidly as the ale." He slid a look toward the window, then back to Velvet. He told the tale matter-of-factly. With no lowering of his voice for emphasis. No draw of his tone or darkening of his words to enhance the intrigue. No, this was just the way it was, and is and Dana would speak what he knew from experience and then what he was told, only.
The Forest Tale
She listened intently with a lean forward his way, blue eyes vibrant that locked upon his. She was intrigued. "I imagine there are a few tales of what hides within that forest. Some changed over time and then the truth. I feel the truth is fearsome alone for the way the tree branches reached out as if to ensnare its next victim." She followed his glance to the window, already wary of seeing something more appear out of nowhere and probably would have her on his lap if something had! Except, with the pierce of her scream in his ear. She was not skirmish by nature but something dark lingered outside these walls. She tore the glance back to him as she managed to spear a morsel from her plate to enjoy. She was thoughtful on his words and soaking them in as the bit disappeared and was savored. "What were the tales that flowed like the ale here? Which ones did you believe?"
Sitting back and leaving his meal, but not his wine, for later, he smiled to her. He stretched out his legs, resting his goblet on his thigh within his grip. "I believed them all. Better to believe and be safe than tempt the truth of it, wouldn't you agree? " He didn't wait for her answer though. He took a taste of his wine then continued. "The earthen floor within this particular forest has soaked up unspoken evil. I believe the history relates back to some great battle, leaving many souls of base designs trapped upon this plane while their bones were pecked clean by the carrion crows." He offered a slight shrug. "Whatever the reason, the land is cursed, and Trevor was able to sense that immediately. The souls linger within the shadows, the locals call them mouleths. They even possess some of the few forest creatures that happen to wander into the depths and then, it is said, those creatures lure the travelers so that they become lost in the dense foliage until night falls. For the most part though, they dwell within the shadows, using that obscure blanket to spread out over the land at night, or feed within the deeper aspects of the dark forest during the early morning or later evening hours. They are but sheer veils of darkness, those mouleths, but they suck their victims dry of life's source. Leaving behind only a shell of a corpse." He paused, took another drink, and watched Velvet from over the rim of his glass.
was about to agree as lips parted then realized she need not orally
do so and nodded. She visibly winced at that visual but he held her
full focus, the meal abandoned much as his at this point. "Mouleths,"
repeating the name to store away along with the information
provided. "Something like a black hole. Life that was taken
they try to gain it back by taking life from others." It didn't
work that way but she knew of such entities. "The greater
the life force the greater the attraction." Which had her
shiver at this point. She had felt the draw. "The forest holds
a different feel during daylight hours, so much in contrast to the
other. I can wonder if there is another force at work during those
hours opposing the other in an unending battle?" It was just a
thought but one that came from someplace. "They have found such
bodies then?" Which certainly would lend credence to the whole
of the story. She was a little unnerved by all of this and realized,
gratefully, he would be staying in the same room. She had come into
contact with those entities with that pull. They were aware of
It was easy to tell with such blue eyes where they traveled. When his glass went down so did they dip but slow was the travel upwards again, distracted as she listened and yet appreciative of the visual he presented. Not only form but facial and something far deeper still in the man called Jean Danatien deVimeure. Intriguing if one looked past the flirtatious nature at the outer core. One that was enjoyable too. Now that gave her more chills. "A warlord to protect those seeking a safe haven from a force he could not save his troops from." Her heart went out to the man so consumed it kept him from moving from this life. Yet, in not doing so, how many lives did he save? Would he remain until it equaled the loss? Lips parted as she was about to relate her thoughts but his last had them scattered and all thoughts of danger escaping out that very window. She was up from her seat as bold as you please, moving right over to him before hands cupped his cheeks. "You are an intriguing man, Jean. You left nothing lacking in a tale that probably holds more truth to it than one would care to address." No more words as she leaned in and seared a kiss, heady kind, that lack nothing for the play of her lips over his.
He drank in that kiss, his one hand lifting to rest against the curve of her waist, the other tightening into a fist upon the arm of his chair. For a short moment of time, she remained standing over him, offering that kiss which he matched and made the most of, then with their kiss still seeking, tasting, exploring he guided her down into his lap, wrapping his arm around her as an anchor and pulling her close to him. He was a knight of the realm and she a lady - but still what she offered to him at this moment could easily shove all gallant thoughts into oblivion. His grip tightened into the fabric covering her lower back before he eased from the kiss, smiling down to her, although their lips were but a breath apart. "Velvet, your demands for our sleeping arrangements were wise indeed." For surely, if he shared a bed with this tempting woman, neither of them would find much rest at all.
She was a lady but she was human too. She hadn't been with a man in forever it seemed. Especially now as the kiss reminded her how it felt, bringing that part of her alive again. Something missed as the soft growling sounds affirmed. Hands left the caress of his cheeks and jaw to curl her fingers into the fabric of his shirt and anchor there. She needed an anchor or be swept away, something she would not afford herself the luxury of. Maybe the teasing was right, he needed to be protected from her. The intensity at which she drank of the kiss may well have him wonder and good that he pulled away when he did. She had eased down onto his lap, and smiled back before taking the one luxury of resting her head against his shoulder. One hand left as an anchor as the other caressed along his jaw, savoring the moment, they didn't come often. She didn't let them to be honest. So when she did she seized the moment fully. "Someone needs to protect you from what lies outside.." but certainly not from what laid within, right there in his arms.
"At this moment, Velvet, what transpires outside of these walls matter not at all to me." A man could lose himself in her eyes, in her touch, and Dana, being a man, was fast doing just that. The warmth of her body curled up close against him, the stroke of her hand along his jaw. Yes, she was a lethal combination which threatened his reserve. His gaze searched hers and he drew in a slow, deep, breath. He'd curse himself for nights on end for what he was about to suggest. "You should seek your rest, Velvet. The morning will come soon enough and then shortly after we will be in Garath's company." Don't listen to him. Don't! But even as his passions rebelled against his words, he started easing her up from his lap with that slight pressure to her hip.
transpires outside of these walls, are locked outside. What
transpires or not within these walls are between you and I with no
expectations." She wasn't after a husband, she wasn't after
anything in that area to be truthful but at the moment, here they
were and she would not ignore the draw. If he wanted to keep to his
reserve she would honor that and not pressure. The ball was in
his court. The caress of her hand slid from his jaw and down to work
its way under his shirt and smooth over skin beneath. The touch
gentle with fingertips turning in to knead as they explored. They
didn't stop as she acknowledge his request. "It is late and we
have far to ride still," dark lashes lifted as so very blue
eyes peered up beneath the contrasting canopy. She was well enjoying
all that was offered and this had been a balm of itself. She was not
dead inside when it came to such an intriguing male. Were
Lazare's words ringing guilty in his mind? That wonder was in her
eyes, slight bemusement too he might not miss that twinkle. "It
is quite a big bed," dare the words she couldn't help passing
the fullness of her lips that slightly pursed.
full days! What should have taken a day and a half had extended
three full days because of a freak snowstorm which covered the lands
south of Lockehaven. Odd, Garath found, that it centered mainly
around one particular inn. The very inn that might house the two
guests he expected. Be that as it may, the evening of the third day
had arrived and Lyons awaited yet another ... arrival. That of the
Lady Velvet MacShire and the King's Man, Dana de Vimeure. All had
been made ready from the lighting of the lanterns which lined the
grand front entrance walkway to the welcoming yellowish-white glow
from every window of the manse. Lockehaven was grand to see in the
daylight, but witnessed at night, the sight could be breathtaking. A
knock sounded on the door and the uniformed man stepped within.
"Two riders approach, Milord." Garath pushed away from the
window which had occupied his passing of time, leaving the scene
of the manor lights reflected in the lake in lieu of greeting his
guests. "Thank you, Ronald. I will welcome them myself."
It was Garath Lyon's way. Any who visited Lockehaven were met by the
Lord of the Manor himself.
Miss MacShire, to Lockehaven. I am so pleased you have..." His
attention switched to Dana for a moment even as Garath lifted his
hand to assist Velvet to lower from her saddle. "finally
Tucking her hand within the crook of his arm, he gave it a pat. "I am rather fond of it, Miss MacShire, to be sure. But I am more fond of the idea that I shall be sharing Lockehaven with you." He turned to look to Dana who was handing the reins of the horses to the stablelad. The younger of the two just answered that questioning look with a smile. "The hour grows late and I've been deprived your company far too long." Garath's attention reverted back to the lady by his side, leading her up the stairs and into the grand foyer of the manor. "Allow me to see to your comforts, M'Lady. A softer perch and a libation perhaps?"
Dana strolled along behind them. He had visited Garath here many, many times. But he would be the first to admit that Lockehaven always managed to inspire his romantic sensibilities. From the tiny details of the names of all who visited within these wall so delicately engraved within the mortar of the brick walkways to the vibrant display of Italian marble which made up the foyer floor. Here at Lockehaven everything was well thought out. Dana inhaled deeply. It was almost as if he were home. And it was always good to be home.
In all the delays and the beauty of his home, she had near forgotten the reason she had come. That and she looked forward even more getting him to tell of the four horsemen, renowned men of the lands and further out from its boarders, wherever their lives had touched others. She was soaking it all in as her hand curled around his forearm. Admiration in vibrant blue eyes for every detail and that of the man behind it all. "A wine if you would, of your choosing Lord Lyons for I hear you are an expert in that area and would know the perfect choice." She had not forgotten Dana but he had things to see to and she was doing the proper thing by paying full attention to their host.
Dana spoke briefly with the man stationed by the door, keeping a watchful eye on the two that made their way to the comforts of one of Lockehaven's many parlors. He made quick work of his instructions and then, with a slow but determined pace, joined Garath and Velvet within. He cut his eyes toward where Lyons poured the Lady a glass of wine but continued along his path toward the comforts of the chairs. "Velvet, won't you join me here? I'm sure Garath would wish for you to seek out your ease rather than standing at the ready." Lowering to a settee, he patted the cushion next to him. Would she be so bold as to take him up on his offer of a position so close with no separation between them with Lyons as a witness? His arm came to rest along the back of the chair and he smiled...waiting.
From where he stood at the sideboard, Garath's lips tilted ever so slightly in a smile. He continued to pour the glasses of wine and then brought them over to the pair, handing one first to Velvet and then the other down to Dana. "It is as he says, M'Lady. I realize you have been seated all evening upon the unforgiving saddle of a horse, but if you desire, please enjoy the comforts my home may provide." Garath Lyons was a man with many talents, known only selectively by a selective few. None of them knew all there was to this Lord of Lockehaven. He waited until Velvet was seated and then chose his own chair close to her so that they may speak cordially.
A slight squeeze of her hand was upon Garath's arm before released as he stepped away to see to the drinks offered. A vibrant smile turned on Dana as he caught up and then to offer a seat close to him. Of course she was bold. Born that way she was told. A hand in guide of the dark riding skirt, one chosen for the ride in so that she was more presentable to his Lordship than the choice of pants. Ruffled blouse with tucks made it all the more dressier. "How kind of you to offer, Dana. How could I refuse?" Of course she wouldn't and there was a glint in blue eyes that went with her comment. The wine glass offered was taken before proceeding to settle on the settee next to Dana. It also afforded them both to face Garath at a comfortable distance. She took a moment to smooth out her skirt and didn't her foot just accidentally half step on Dana's? Of course. Even with the shifting for the close proximity, a pinch would be felt against his outer thigh as her hand slid by in the smoothing of her skirt. Finally giving it that amount of decorum time to fuss, hands settled to wrap around the wineglass. "Thank you very much Lord Lyons, for the wine and for your hospitality," for which he was known.
Much could be said of a woman who knew how to please a man. In a look. A movement. A very subtle intake of breath. Dana de Vimeure dipped his head briefly, just enough that Garath would not be fully aware of his current state of appreciation and amusement. The minx had him now. He could not retaliate without the watchful eye of Lyons marking the effort. Except, as his arm lowered from the back of the chair, he rewarded himself with the light touch of his fingers against the swell of her hip and then, to rest against his thigh. He needn't say anything yet and he knew it. He just tilted his glass and inhaled the bouquet of the fine wine before tasting it.
Garath leaned forward, resting the palm of his hand on his knee. "I am a man who seeks out his pleasures in many forms, Lady MacShire. Your request to come to Lockehaven provided me with yet another opportunity. News from Heathfield is not difficult to come by, and I have heard intriguing tales of the jeweler there. It is my honor to have you in my home and ... to share your time. Did you travel for business or for pleasure, M'Lady?" Relaxing back against the high cushion of his chair it would appear that Lyons' questioning was nothing more than friendly chitchat.
It was hard to pay the touch no mind but none showed on the surface. The touch of color gracing her cheeks only added to the brightness of her eyes. The ring was tucked away in the pocket of her skirt too but she would wait for the perfect moment to gift it to Lord Lyons. Hopefully the intriguing tales didn't hold the one about the rings. "Thank you," she was honored more than the words could express. "I always try to derive pleasure out of business or then it becomes work. So, my coming here is duel fold. Pleasure and business. I have the honor of finally meeting you for your reputation precedes you." The business part of the trip was offered an opening as she set her glass aside to rise. "I have come here on a mission also that could be considered the business part, yet not." Motion was fluid that brought her swiftly across the distance separating, her hand to dip into the pocket in that moment to have it out as she came close enough to stet the black box on the table near where he sat. "It is my honor and my pleasure to bring this to you as a gift. There are five others that all match except the individualization, in that the stones are from the same vein and connected. The Druid Prince Andrew enhancing them as one." Inside he would find the perfect fitted ring, stone of black onyx shined to a gleam. The Black Griffon etched on its surface and for him it contained each of the four elements clasped in one hand. Beneath the feet was the keystone symbol. The crest of Luneberg on one side from the stone and that of Heathfield on the other. Once the box was set, she dipped into a graceful curtsey in all due respect then returned to join Dana on the settee.
the woman stood, so did Garath. Habits of a lifetime were not easily
set aside. He followed her movements, noted the box, then listened
with his gaze meeting her eyes as she spoke. It was only when she
moved away that he reached for and then opened the box, bringing
from the interior that very ring. He moved from them a moment,
closer to the light of the room, and studied the creation.
"This is magnificent, Lady MacShire." He breathed,
slipping it on his finger to find the fitting perfect. Now that
surprised him and with a cant of head, he looked in her direction.
"Your skill is quite interesting." He looked from her to
Dana and then back to her, the pad of his other thumb stroking
the cool onyx surface. "Five others you say? I am honored to be
among those who possess such a token." It was then his eyes met
Garath stood, waving away Dana's comment with a rather smug grin. "Leave it to de Vimeure to make matters of State seem so trivial that he would not leave a lady's side. Rest assured, Sir, that I will keep the lady well entertained while you attend to that which the King deems important."
Dana stood as Garath stood, shaking his head. He couldn't very well argue with the man! That would be a waste of breath. "I have every confidence in your abilities, Milord." Although Garath had started forward to offer his aid to Velvet, Dana's hand lowered to her. "Shall I see you above, Velvet? The night has been long and your morning will bring the unfolding of many interesting events."
Garath stopped where he stood, tucking his hands behind his back as he bowed to the Lady and the King's Man as formalities were tended to between them.
hand came over Dana's, actually lifting it from where it had rested
to shift subtly onto his thigh as if it had been there all along.
The movement by the time noticed would be in a reassuring pat.
"I am truly honored that my entertainment would come first over
the trivial," indeed teasing laced her words. "With his
lordship Lyons I will not lack for being entertained so hence I will
be not the interference for you seeing to your duties. I'm sure
you will return post haste once the matter is seen to and your
company once more enjoyed." Not that she had any idea of what
that matter would be. Her hand falling away as he stood then back
into his to rise by his side. "Indeed it has been a long trip.
I am in your debt Sir Lyons for all and especially look forward to
tomorrow morning." One hand now on Dana's forearm as the other
gathered the folds of her skirt and a curtsey given Lyons in all due
respect before waiting on Dana to show her to her room. Obviously he
knew the manor well and allowed to roam.
laughed to himself, bringing one hand out from behind him to rub
along the line of his jaw and then called after them. "Welcome
again, to the both of you. I look forward to the new day."
Sir Jean Danatian de Vimeure
Morning woke Lockehaven with the soft melody of songbirds and an early spring breeze whisking its path through the corridors. The Lord of the Manor had spent a sizable fortune to create a sitting area at the rear of the large manse which was protected within a meshed wall. Rare it was to find so fine a weaving of metal that allowed the air through and yet provided sanctuary from the outside. Then again, rare was common place within Lockehaven. It resembled chainmail, but it fit within a window's frame, and proved much lighter, much more delicate than that cloak of war. It could be seen through as if it did not exist at all and Lyons was told it was called a 'screen.' With the beginning of spring each year, the back corridor which led to the 'screened' room was rarely sealed off, allowing the outside freshness...inside...even in the midst of the rainiest of days and was used for many of the meals once the weather warmed. This allowed the Lord of Lockehaven to enjoy the view of his grand lake while dining and entertaining. A few of his treasured activities: Dining, entertaining and delighting in the glory of Lockehaven.
It was not in this screened porch that the morning meal awaited them, however, but in a suitably sized alcove with the table tucked to follow the angles of the bay windows facing the gardens beyond. Garath had made it clear he did not wish to greet this morning in the formality of the dining room. Not with Miss MacShire. He desired a more comfortable, more personal experience and this room provided exactly that. A bright, cheery place to begin the day with an enthusiastic, energetic guest.
He stood, waiting for her at the foot of the grand stairway which led to the floors above, with a steaming cup of coffee in his hand which he sipped on occasion. He knew that the maids assigned to ready her for the day would happily prolong their fussing over her for some time. It was not an everyday occurrence that so comely a woman was their responsibility. He also knew that Velvet would not be allowed to leave her room until they were quite pleased with their handiwork. And thus, he contented himself with the brewed bean while matters were attended to above. He offered only an occasional, pleased glance up while he awaited Velvet's descent.
Velvet wasn't use to ones fussing over her but in part she found she enjoyed it. Not something she would ever need but being it was, why not enjoy it? It was a beautiful morning, the kind that held secret promises even if nothing ever came of them. Perhaps it was the feel alone that was the gift. She felt great, the kind that had one drawing in a breath leaving a smile. She had slept well, although not as soon as she met her pillow. She had laid awake a short time thinking over the past few days. If her siblings ever saw the smile that linger they would have surely teased her. She woke with the same even if the dreams were not remembered as conscious took over. Two maids came to her chambers shortly after she awoke. They seemed to enjoy the fussing even more than she. There was no balking on her part, in fact there was laughter. Neither of them had a grumble for their jobs or status in life. They were content and that was something rare to find. It said a lot about their employer, a fair man blended with strict which was also needed. Once done they were off to their duties and if they were in a little amour of their employer, it didn't surprise her. They teased her about the handsome man that had escorted her here. A man both seemed to know, perhaps it was the passing glances between the two that said far more.
Here too, Velvet was not surprised. Sir de Vimeure was as charming as Frenchman were noted for. She had no delusions about the man nor his reputation that went with it. She too had fallen victim to it, willingly, with no regrets and had enjoyed it. A white satin gown was worn, and where it gathered at the curve of her shoulders it was clutched with silver roping and three white downy feathers. The styling dipped in a V down the front, panels crossing over each other into silver cording at the waist following the top in another V into the folds of the skirt. The satin was as soft as the feathers that accented it. The back was low cut for the whole of the styling was summer oriented. Her hair was coifed up, weaving in an artistic design that had enough lengths of hair to fall from the weave to rest down over a shoulder and some down her back. Bangs had been feathered with wisps to fan then sweep off to the side blending in with the rest.
She came to the top of the stairs only to pause there a few moments to take in the man who waited below. Garath Lyons was indeed a distinguished man. Gentleman. Handsome. A touch stoic although pleasant with the perfection of decorum. A fleeting thought of how the man was beneath the well bred teased her imagination. If gotten alone in a more romantic setting, would he continue with that pleasant yet distant demeanor or be a lion, ferocious with emotions held at bay? The curiosity came unbidden and she tossed it off with a smile that could rival the sun while descending the steps and moving to where he stood. She possessed a feline grace to her movements in spite of her height; taller than the average woman. "Sir Lyons, a good morning to you. I slept wonderfully last night in the comforts you afford your guests." Saying enough without chattering away, leaving him to respond as he may.
Garath actually did a double take when he glanced up, thinking he heard a light, feminine step and then, starting to look away only to realize the vision of white had swept into view. He straightened, gently placing his cup aside on a nearby table and followed her steps as she seemed to float to his side. A smile greeted her words. "Lockehaven affords the comforts, Dear Lady. I am but her caretaker. I'm pleased to hear that you rested well and even more pleased to see you are none-the-worse for the wear of your journey. I must say..." He offered the top of his hand to her, intending to begin their way to the breaking of their fast. "I enjoy the dawning of a new day. But it fails miserably in its attempt to possess the glory of your beauty, M'Lady. Anticipation of such a sight each morn would put me to bed all the more swiftly come nightfall." A dip of his head and that smile lingered. "Meant as a sincere compliment only, Miss MacShire." There could be more read into the mention of nightfall than perhaps meant. Then again, none knew Lyons well enough to know if that double meaning was intended or not.
"Your compliment is taken as such, your Lordship." Mirth was in vivid blue eyes with the hint of mischief naturally there. "As I might return such a compliment in that your home reflects the gentleman that you are. Distinguished. Handsome. Mysterious," pausing there with the brilliance of a smile. "I could go on but such flattery to continue would become as the wind. I have a feeling much of the man you are is reflected in your home, in little things that would go unnoticed by most. This is a very large manor which reflects the complexity of its role-model." Setting her hand on his in a light touch that was so very proper. She would move gracefully at his side doing him that honor for anyone about to see as he guided her to where they would break fast. She wondered how the layout would be.
Together they began to wander their way through the halls of Lockehaven. "The Wind is a friend of mine, Miss MacShire." He laughed softly, pulling her hand closer to his chest to give it a squeeze before once again extending it to a proper position. "Feel free to heap the flattery upon me." Past grand doorways which were opened to the view within; ballrooms, parlors, sitting rooms ... all lavishly decorated and obviously thoroughly enjoyed in due time. Nothing was closed off in Lockehaven, except at times, the lord himself. Entering the alcove, Garath saw Velvet to a chair where the setting of china and crystal arranged upon the table awaited their use. Each delicate piece so faint a cream color it almost seemed white except the actual etching of that very color upon the porcelain gave away the true hue. The centerpiece at first appeared to be thickly petaled flowers, only drawing closer, each bud, each glistening petal had been sculpted from fruit and was as tasty as it was pretty. "Now, are you adverse to talking while you eat, M'Lady MacShire?" Seeing her seated, Garath moved around the table to settle in his own chair.
"I will at the appropriate moments, heap such flattery," wink was a touch sassy in all good humor as she was well noticing each room they ventured through. She realized they were taking the long way to wherever they would break fast so she could see the place. It was in her eyes, various rooms, decor, and overall feel that would brighten them. A few ohs and ahs under her breath before finally speaking on the whole, "I am very impressed. A person could spend a week, a month, even a year and still discover new things within your home, Lord Lyons." Entering the alcove by that time, she eased into the seat drawn out for her. "Oh my," by that time she was getting a better look upon what appeared to be a bowl of flowers. "Do tell me everything in your home is edible?" Except, once again she was impressed. "I am not adverse to talking while we eat if you so wish." Of course that didn't mean talking with a mouthful. "There is much to speak on, I am sure so it is only logical." Add that to his list of flattery.
"Everything..." Garath Lyons cleared his throat, pulled his gaze away from the intriguing woman opposite him and searched out the ladies waiting to begin serving. He nodded them into action and didn't continue along the vein of everything in his house being edible although even Garath Lyons couldn't miss that a chance had been presented, albeit knowingly or unknowingly, to truly enjoy a lapse in gentlemanly thought. "I thought to flavor the food with the spice of a tale, that of Jean Danatian de Vimeure, since the fellow is unable to join us. He will be with us in spirit instead." He looked up to the female pouring his coffee and smiled. "Thank you, Nelda." Whether Lyons noticed the faint stain of color which touched upon the woman's cheeks with the ever offered gratitude by the Lord of the Manse would not be known. He had turned his attention back to Velvet.
It was interesting to watch Nelda without her knowing, discreet lowering of lash that hid such vibrant blue eyes upon the woman. The touch of color to stain her cheeks was a telltale sign. Such a little wicked smile, one that was fleeting or be caught. "Thank you Nelda," for having poured her tea this morning. The intensity of blue eyes turned back upon Garath. "A spicy tale Sir Jean Danatian de Vimeure will make too, with a side dish of Lazare?" She had caught onto the rivalry between the two in a good way, as she saw it. They constantly challenged each other. And yet, she'd bet her bottom coin if something happened to either one, the other would take it the hardest by far. "Please do." Settling in she was ready for all that Garath had to tell her. Avid listener and audience.
Garath had started plucking some of the flower shaped fruit from the arrangement but stopped to laugh with Velvet's comment. "My, but you are hungry this morning, M'Lady to desire a side dish of Carno without even the first taste of how filling de Vimeure can be." His smile was ready but guarded as he continued to fill his plate with fruit, even as breads, danishes, jellies, crepes and flavored syrups were placed upon the table. It appeared that Garath did not hesitate to speak in front of those in the room. And this once, appearances were correct, for he continued without hesitation. "Ah, well now, de Vimeure, a difficult man to miss even when surrounded by many..." He paused briefly to look in her direction, to see that she was helping herself to the morning's fare, and to make sure she was suitably comfortable in many ways for the beginning of this particular tale.
"Perhaps he is a light French souffle? Lazare more a hearty lasagna?" Amusement was dancing in blue eyes before a serious glint touched. "Would you be prime rib?" It was the rib taken from Adam to create Eve but more the idea that Adam was the source. As Garath was the underlying source or so she was picking up on. "Let me not keep you from his tale as I am sure each one of the four horsemen is as worthy as his brother." She set to sampling the fare and listening intently. All ears, and eyes that would rarely stray from him only for a morsel to choose or a drink of her tea.
Lips twitched with Velvet's comparison of meals to men but he didn't respond. Instead, he took up his coffee and sat back against the comfort of his chair, beginning..."You must first understand that, for some, everyday is a celebration. Such is the way for Jean Danatian de Vimeure. His life, up until the time I met the man, is his to tell. I relate only that which is mine to share. And so I weave the history of the third Horseman, the element of water, the Archer and his allegiance to the man known to you as Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt.
During my travels, I have witnessed many strange and mysterious things. It was while I took refuge from an oddly unexpected rain storm which had already lasted nigh upon a week that I first set eyes upon the man. Probably no more than a score, perhaps a score and three, he was seated at a table in the inn, four other men laughing and singing along with him, and a good half-dozen women reclined upon a lap or pressing her body to a shoulder of one or the other of those men. They were having a grand time. There is a difference between drunk and well into your cups. And while a few of the men, and women for that matter, may have been drunk, de Vimeure was cautiously only well into his cups. This is what I found most interesting and which had me watching the man carefully from my own table across the room.
What I also found interesting was that with all the ruckus and merry-making, de Vimeure looked past the other patrons and met my gaze. And this is where the tale actually begins:
Dana lifted his glass, drinking more of the wine within it and matching the look which rested upon him from across the way. A slight tilt of his head offered a few words to the woman upon his lap and then he started to rise, causing her to scramble for her balance and footing although he made sure she had both before he released her. de Vimeure moved through the crowd which had gathered to escape the down pour outside to the table where the lone man sat and appeared to enjoy his own respite.
"You wish to join us, Stranger? There is plenty of wine and an abundance of feminine flesh for the likes of you." He pressed his hand to the wood, leaning in toward the voyeur. "Wishful thinking will only get you so far."
The man had removed his cloak but rather than trust it to the pegs by the door, he had draped it over the chair closest to him at the table. He remained as he was, his hand resting around the base of his glass, his attention centered on the self-assured fellow at his table. "I can surmise that you live your life fully. I can only wonder if you enjoy it as well. Wine and women make for temporary fulfillment. That which I seek extends further than the here and now. What of you? Do you have an allegiance to more than incidental pleasures?"
Dana straightened slowly, his hand lifting from the table but his fingertips remaining to the well-worn wood. The narrowing of his gaze centered on the man's features, studying him in greater detail now. "The weather outside has dampened your mood, Sir."
The stranger shook his head, a smile for the first time beginning to show. "And you are daring to approach someone you know not with so flippant an attitude. I wonder...is it actually inappropriate levity? Or is it that you sincerely fear little?"
Dana's brow creased. For a man rarely found in a frown, it was a moment when that feature pulled into existence. He cast a look around his shoulder to the other men still managing to make the most of their present company before dragging his gaze back to the man. What had drawn Dana here? What had singled this stranger out from all the others in the room that were, no doubt, watching the antics of the merry-makers? "I have little reason to fear, Sir. I will overcome or I will fail. There are but two options." Dana nodded to the empty chair there at the table, a silent request, but one that the man would understand.
"Please, if you wish, join me." The man motioned to the very chair that Dana had indicated and then hailed a passing serving lass to bring Dana's libation here instead. Once both men were settled back in, the conversation continued. "Some fear the second option more than the possibility of the first and so, do not even make the attempt."
Dana shrugged, gracing the lass with a smile as she brought over his drink and then added to that gratitude by slipping her a coin upon her tray. "And some even fear the first." Silence in this tavern's common room was not to be had but the two men ceased their discussion while Dana drank from his glass. He motioned with it to the man once he lowered it again. "Mind if I have a name to go with the philosophical bend?"
"By no means do I mind. Garath Lyons, of Lockehaven. I am currently in service to Karl von Rundstedt, Luneberg. And during my stay here I've gained your name as well, Sir. De Vimeure. Dana, it would seem, is the given name. I've also observed you as a man of training in the ways of war. You...and your compatriots." Garath gave a motion of head to the ruckus of laughing men and squealing women.
Dana slowly looked in that direction, gradually adding a nod of agreement. "Aye, when we must." Pulling his attention back to Garath, a slight cant of head added to his previous study of the man. "Is that what you seek for this von Rundstedt? Trained warriors?"
Garath actually laughed low with Dana's question and shook his head to the negative. "Not quite."
Surprise registered on the expression of the younger man. "Color me intrigued, Lyons. Is it your intention to remain mysterious in your assignment?"
"I've no intention but to sit out this storm and then be on my way again to Le Panier. Perhaps that is your destination as well? There is to be a tournament there this week next with the promise of an assembly of many great men. One, I've heard, is an expert beyond most with the use of a bow. It is this man that I seek." A brow twitched upward in an arch. There was more that the man wasn't saying.
It was that minuscule lift of brow that caused Dana to laugh. "And yet, I've an odd feeling you know you need not seek further."
Garath only smiled at Dana without commitment.
Dana drank back the remainder of the contents within his glass and set it aside. "Tell me, Garath Lyons, if you are obliged to, why you seek out this particular man for this Karl von Rundstedt."
Where Garath's hand rested on his glass, he traced the design engraved within the crystal. "You will come to realize that I have little cause to keep secrets from you, de Vimeure." The next motion of head was more that of respect than to agree with his former comment. "There are two more I seek for von Rundstedt out of four. This one the third. For reasons only the man I seek will understand. He is a great archer, that should suffice for now."
Again Dana laughed then shook his head. "It does not suffice, Lyons."
"It will, Sir de Vimeure, suffice until we meet next in Marseilles. So, shall we see what you can do to make sure that is to take place?" Garath slid a handful of coins to the table and stood, rotating a shoulder in a subdued stretched. "I trust that the weather will clear and we will be able to continue on by morning?"
Dana also stood, smiling at the man's audacity and the knowledge that Garath Lyons knew more about him than he had originally let on. "I foresee no further delays in our travels, Garath Lyons. Until Panier, then. Good eve to you." He tapped two fingers to his temple and moved around his chair, tucking it back under the table before removing himself from Garath's company and returning to his previous game.
Garath watched as the man was welcomed back into the fold with masculine shouts and feminine calls of delight. Dana was immediately engulfed into the frivolity even if an occasional glance was cast in the direction of that corner table. De Vimeure would not have to watch for long. While the younger man may wish to live-it-up all night long, Garath had other plans. He left the louder confines of the common room for the rooms above. There to rest, and prepare to leave come morning. He found himself certain that the weather would clear for the continuation of his quest once the sun pressed back the veil of night.
"I've seen this in the man, the smooth charm but there is a good soul beneath too." Which she was sure Garath had seen in the man long ago. "Did he meet you in Marseilles? How did he do in the tournament?" The questions came naturally for she had gotten wrapped up in the tale. She'd been eating too as the fruit bowl had lost weight. Her tea would need replenishing so she took care of that for Nelda having left the small pot.
Garath paused with her questions. "All in good time, Dear Lady MacShire. If the tea is not steeped to perfection, most of the flavor is lost." Leaning forward, he poured cream into her cup, then settled back again. "And likewise goes my tale..."
"I rose early the next morning, my head having suffered more from the consumed spirits of the previous night than my body had from the prolonged stay in the tavern." Garath's chuckle was low, barely audible, and he offered Velvet a sheepish grin that actually held little remorse for his actions of the past and more amusement that he dared share with her the fact he could overindulge. "But the tournament was topmost on my throbbing mind, and having to get there spurred me on past the tightening of my skull against the gray matter within in. As with any tournament, a man can be consumed by the energy. The sights, the smells, the sounds. They bombard you and encourage a mere mortal to the extreme. The knights who would be competing flashed their finery, both of body and of skill, while they paraded throughout the city. Have you ever been to a tournament of arms, Velvet?"
She was intensely listening, so much she had not realized forearms came to rest on the breakfast table and leaning more towards him. Blue eyes held that quality of one soaking in every word with understanding. It meant she could not only pictured it but could hear the clamor of metal, the snort of the warhorses as well take in all scents, leather and sweat combined. "Yes, my brother was first knight at one time before becoming an ambassador as well as running Ravanna. I was to a few including the series to find champions for the queen." No way in hell was Velvet going to miss watching sweaty muscular men going up against one another in such sportsman showings.
"Ah, well then, you know of that which I speak and I'll continue on with my tale."
"It was easy enough to find de Vimeure. Of course, all I needed to do was ask for all knew of the man but, even without that assistance, just wandering along the thoroughfare I recognized his camp immediately. It was not in me to seek him out though. As I said before, they revealed themselves to me. It was not my quest to bait them into von Rundstedt's service. By no means. But for each to realize for themselves that which they longed for and had, until the moment of their revelations, been denied, could at last be achieved. So, as the camp of de Vimeure swarmed with activity, I meandered about the fairgrounds until the events began.
you known beforehand which man was which? Something that made them
stand out that the Black Griffon would point you their way or was it
you that found them to find you for him?" Probably sounded
confusing, well tripping over the words, and yet made sense for his
words. Velvet had an abundance of curiosity of which most had gotten
her in trouble of varying degrees. Being he had paused she spoke up,
which in a way confirmed she was not only listening but immersed in
the tale. That coupled with the lean forward to not miss a single
word or even nuance as he spoke.
understood his meaning, "the story of Karl and Honeee and
this acceptance of those abilities not of the norm I do know
would be a story for another time. One I would love hearing from
your perspective." Having an instinctive feeling this
particular man saw things more clear than most, unbiased,
dedicated and would never judge where he should not. "Back to
the French souffle," she couldn't help resorting to the
lighter teasing. Perhaps it was good Dana wasn't present, then
again Velvet would not be one to hold back if he was. It would
only initiate some interesting banter.
Lyons had not meant the elemental powers but more the water's ability with his chosen weapon. He nodded all the same. The woman knew quite a bit of these Four men which would make the telling that much more easy. He continued to tell Dana's story by just a single nod of head..
The two other archers had let loose two arrows as the third slowly raised his own, bracing shaft to the arrow shelf. Then, with amazing speed, the arrow shot through the air, that one, then another, and as Garath watched, de Vimeure let loose yet another, reaching back behind him with experienced ease to retrieve each of the arrows from the quiver braced over his shoulder. Leaning even further, Garath tore his gaze from the archer to the flying targets, each with red and black fletching dead center of the three moving targets. The crowd roared with approval. Eliminations were made, and the same followed each subsequent round until only three men remained on the field. Charles Manley Lockhart, James Alexander Pierson, and Jean Danatian de Vimeure. Each well known for their particular skill. What had started as a small crowd had grown as the events began to narrow down to the best of the participants. Word has spread quickly that these three men would go one against the other. Garath Lyons soon found himself bumping elbows on either side as people pressed in to see. Shouts of encouragement went out to favorites. The targets were rolled further back, mere specks upon the far field.
The levers and pulley were set up, allowing time for the population of onlookers to grow even more, and when the targets were tested for working order, the crowd shouted its excitement. The targets moved not only side to side, but up and down, and shimmied and shook to throw off the aim even more. The archers sited their targets as best they could. Each man would be required to use three arrows, one for each target. They would have to hit three bullseye, or the best shot for each participant would be added up to win. Since all three were capable of bullseyes from this distance, the unpredictable movement had been added to test the archer's skill, much to the crowd's pleasure.
Much to Garath's interest. He was forced to stand to see now, gripping the rope which kept the onlookers back from the three men on the field. He didn't call out to his favorite as the others all did, but he watched him just as closely as he had the entire day.
The horn blew. Lockhart and Pierson and de Vimeure each let go their shots with speed and expertise. As Lockhart and Pierson followed their next targets, Dana darted from his stance to come up behind Lockhart, his next arrow letting loose from just at that man's shoulder. Every single person in the crowd surged forward to see as that quickly released arrow whizzed through the air to split the black and red fletching of Dana's previous bullseye dead in two. A fluent as that shot was released, Dana spun and made a show of dashing behind Pierson, the same release of arrow which skimmed dangerously close to the man's neck and that one as well now penetrated the shaft of the second arrow, forming a single solid arrow within the two splintered ones...bullseye.
Garath smiled, shook his head, and turned to press his way from the crowd which had reached such a level of frenzied excitement that eardrums were in just as much danger of shattering as those arrows had been. He shouldered a path from the field, the opening he had created closing in tightly behind him as those in the back forced their way forward to see.
Dana had been aware of the stranger from the night before watching. He had felt the intense interest in his abilities. And as he laughed and patted first Pierson and then Lockhart on the shoulder with good sportsmanship, he turned his attention to the crowd, only to see the man disappear within the press of bodies. Dana hadn't won. He hadn't intended to win. He had hit only one target. The same one...three times. Pierson and Lockhart had both hit all three. It wasn't winning, afterall, it was how one played the game, was it not? It was the way of it for this man all his life. Still, to witness the stranger's departure caused Dana to cast a look back down the field to his accomplishment, then with a final congratulation to the other two, he trotted from the field in chase of the other man. "Hold up, Sir!" Dana called to the gentleman as he cut around the stands and away from the games.
Garath paused his steps, glancing back around his shoulder before turning fully to face Dana's approach. Breathing heavily, though Garath guessed it was feigned exertion, afterall, he had seen the man's abilities with physical activity.
Dana leaned forward to brace his hands on his knees, looking up to Lyons. "You leave before the winner is named? What good is attending if you don't wish to see who becomes champion?" Slowly Dana stood, wiping a hand along the back of his neck as he eyed the man before him.
"You leave before the winner is named? What good is participating if you don't wish to be named champion?"
Dana took a step back, as if the man's words alone seemed to press at him. "My intention was to win."
smiled, starting to turn away from the archer, but stopped, looking
back to him. "To win what, de Vimeure?"
Garath had not missed that fact, and he nodded once to the man. "You will overcome or you will fail, de Vimeure. There is but one way to find out, no?" He offered the archer a slight dip of head. "There are a few others you should meet before you make your decision. When you've finished up here, please, join me at Lockehaven." Lyons handed the man a small card, on it, the means to find the location mentioned. "Until then, de Vimeure, I'm looking forward to your arrival."
"And so it was, Velvet. I knew when he left the field, and the possible acclaim to follow his antics that day, that he was the one. He was the one that kept us confined in the tavern due to rain and he is, to this day, the one known to us as Water. Jean Danatian de Vimeure. The Archer." Garath had not shared what had transpired once Dana reached Lockehaven. What tests had faced de Vimeure when he met with de Beauvais and Carno. That was a story which probably would never be told. One each of them held firmly to themselves and which made them connected...the Four...as One.
"Ah..." The interruption came from the doorway and from there Dana pushed away from his lean against the doorframe and started in. "But you did not add that I, too, am the best looking and most experienced lover of the Four, Lyons."
shook his head, glancing quickly to Velvet then back to Dana as he
approached. Garath stood with the man's arrival at their table.
"The first, the lady can see for herself, Dana. The second, I
will not dare to comment on in
the lady's company."
She had been totally engrossed in Garath's tale. Dana laughed as he stepped to her, running his palm along the back of her upper arm. "M'lady fair, the hour is nigh upon noon. Lyons has entranced you to be sure. Please tell me he has not..." A look to Garath with a quick waggle of brows then back to Velvet. "hypnotized...you so that your heart no longer belongs to me but to him instead." He faked a sigh of regret. "It is always the way of it." As his hand passed once more down her arm, he gave her elbow a squeeze. "Allow me a moment to freshen up and I'll win you back, to be sure. Even as he continues with his stories of the other...lesser men...in the Black Griffon's service."
She made a tsk'in sound under her tongue coupled with an affected simpering expression, "all the fruit has spoilt then we would not have you sick. Hypnotized by the best then, a quality then you do not possess?" Oh, the dare was in her eyes with the playful banter. He might feel the slight rising of goosebumps she could not control as his fingers slid down along her arm. Only indication as the smile remained, blue eyes locked with his the moment in near a dare. Only he would know for the touch, would he say something or not? She had a good suspicion he wouldn't. "Of course Jean," she had used his given name before, perhaps in certain kind of defiance to be a little different. She wasn't always privy consciously in the why. "We shall see how lesser any of the four are that comprise the one," slow smile back before a wink was tipped off, leaving him to see to freshening up as she continued with Garath.
Garath watched as the other man slid his touch all the way down the woman's arm before lifting her hand to place a light touch of lips to the top of her wrist, then turning her hand over to place that same touch to the inside of her wrist.
Dana said nothing more, not biting the hooked tease the woman offered him verbally, just lowering her hand and backing away to turn and go do as he said he would: Freshen up and return for the remainder of the meetings to be told of.
Lyons drew in a deep breath, looking back to Velvet only after Dana had left the room. "Shall we continue on the back patio, M'Lady? The breeze from the lake should not be too brisk and the fresh air might do us both some good." He stepped around the table, offering his arm to the lady standing opposite him.
There was a light flush to touch upon her cheeks for Dana's smooth charm, she was not totally immune. Turning back to her host once Dana made his departure. "I would love to," she almost stated that Dana didn't lack one wit in charm as in his ability with the bow and arrow but she was sure Garath was well aware of the man's charm and the fact he was still unwed. That which spoke volumes as in that it was just to be charming. Nothing more, nothing less and she rather liked such charm. An old friend of hers use to be the same when she was in France. He even talked on marriage which she knew he was never serious, just all part of that charm. She was around and to his side so that he may lead her to the patio. The touch of her hand upon his arm in all proper escort.
It didn't take long for Dana to clean up from his morning and join the couple on the back screened patio. Long enough it would seem, however, for tea to be delivered and small finger sandwiches of some sort of cream cheese based concoction, not necessarily Dana's favorite except that he had worked up some kind of an appetite. Not that tiny finger sandwiches would satiate his hunger at the moment. Still, he made due, plucking up one from the plate and placing it on a napkin before joining Velvet on the cushioned porch swing she had chosen as her chair. "Have I missed storytime?" He wedged himself in beside her, giving her little choice but to accept his close company or find another chair. Even that last option would prove difficult for her considering how tightly pressed they now were.
sipped his tea from his own seated position just to her right,
watching as Dana staked his claim. He smiled behind the rim, though
remained quiet until the man settled himself. "Not as yet, Sir
de Vimeure." Had he used that title to remind the man of the
need to act appropriately? Or was it just Garath's way to honor the
man's status? Possibly...even both? "You are just in time. If
the lady wishes, we can continue with Cairns next?" He lowered
his cup onto the saucer balanced with ease on his knee. There, Lyons
held both with one hand, waiting for the Lady's response.
At first, all Dana did was pop that bite sized morsel in his mouth and hold out both hands, looking down at the mess in his lap. He had started to clean it himself with the napkin in his own hand except Velvet jumped in. A brow arched and he looked over to Garath, who, graciously had lowered his gaze to the teacup on his lap. Dana didn't miss the slightest shake of shoulders indicating that Lyons was holding back a laugh. "I don't usually clean up other people's messes, Velvet." His hands were still out to the side, studying Garath a moment more, before he looked to the lovely lady next to him. "In this case, however, I think it best that you not embarrass our host or...encourage your escort further." He took her napkin and used that, as well as his own, to scoop up the creamed cheese and then wipe away the remains the best he could. Brown pants and white cream cheese did not the best combination make and the spill left a smudge of residue behind, much to the man's discomfort. "Continue on with your stories, Lyons." Dana cut a look up toward Garath. "If you are able to speak past the amusement collecting in your throat."
Sir Trevor Philippe Jacques Cairns
A light tap of finger on the side of the tea cup seemed in its own way to tap down the laughter, and Garath lifted his gaze to the duo. "Cairns...Sir Trevor Philippe Jacques Cairns." Just by stating the name, Garath was able to center himself again and begin. "As with our friend here..." He nodded once to Dana, who had lowered his attention back to his stain and was still wiping gingerly. "What brought the man to our meeting one another is his story to tell, what transpired at our meeting, I will share with you. It was, as I recall, a Tournament of Tournaments. Young Cairns was entered as the top man from LeMans. A score or so, I believe he was at the time. A young, self-assured..."
"Smug, son-of-a..." Dana interrupted only to have his own words cut short by Garath's cough and continuation.
"Well trained fellow, truly full of himself if ever I had seen anyone sure of his own abilities."
It had been hard for her not to outright laugh at the irony of the accident, or to keep the retort sealed between pressed lips holding it back, on how she'd only manage to smear the cream cheese more if attempted. With Garath interjection of starting up the next story, she was able to switch concentration there, never once looking to the accident area or she might lose it to laughter. The spark in her eyes was the only clue to any thoughts except now with brows to slightly arch hearing Dana's interjection, pulling a vivid blue gaze from Garath to him a moment then back. "Young, talented and troubled?" Not saying much so Garath could continue and tell the story, he certainly had her interest now.
"Troubled." Garath met Velvet's humor-glinted gaze with a nod of approval. "I suppose just a tad of past history is needed with Trevor. You see, Velvet, unlike the other three who had come into the special service of von Rundstedt, Cairns had not always had those around who understood and nurtured his .. gift. By the time our paths crossed, he was still struggling, to some degree, with his strength and abilities. Granted, he was well renowned in several countries as the man to beat in tournaments, though rarely was that ever the case, and thus the status that may have made any man.." Another look to Dana before he spoke. "smug." Garath held up a finger to still the words that may slip free from Dana's parting lips to add the last of his previous statement. "As were you all..." Garath's words further nipped any possible slur at it's bud. "Young Trevor was not difficult to find within the crowds of this tournament though getting to him through the crowds would indeed be more of the challenge. Many flocked about him, younger men wanting to speak with the champion, women - young and older, maiden and married, wishing to glimpse this man known for his strength and, please forgive me but it was also spoke of at that time, his prowess." To that, Dana grunted but said nothing, which caused Lyons to chuckle. "It is truth, you know it, de Vimeure."
Dana rolled a shoulder and muttered beneath his breath something about rumors and tales that grow without substance to back it.
the story of Earth's addition to the fold begins..."
Money started changing hands in the crowd, gasps of astonishment, shouts of excitement, roars of disbelief, cheers of approval. Garath, not one to let a good wager pass him by, had bid extensively on the young Bull. He did, afterall, have a bit more knowledge of the man's abilities than most. Cheating? By no means. All was fair in love, war and wagering on a hot-headed, troubled youth. As money slid his way, he kept an eye on the one known as the Bull, not even counting the gold crossing his palm to purse. The winnings were not what intrigued Lyons at the moment, but how the young Cairns man accepted his win. Having felt the earth's vibration, Garath knew he had at last found the final link to the chain of Four. But, as before, he would have to wait for the man to be ready and to make himself available for service. This one, more so than the others, would take some work. Garath knew this already as he watched the man on the field. But the rewards would be great and that always offset any obstacle to be faced.
had not shown all he could do or possibly have fans and peers turn
from him as a freak. Just enough to leave questionable, to hint he
was above the norm but not abnormal. There was definitely the
attitude in an ego boosted troubled young man, one that was using
his ability to gain him fame. To be recognized, to be adored,
feared, and respected. Things he had not in his youth but
something still was missing, something that showed in his eyes for
one that could read them. There was still anger there, like the Bull
that could flare up in a rage. After the victory, fisted hands
shoved upwards as the crowd rushed in. He embraced the many women
briefly, handshakes of men before the officials were herding them
back. There was one male that stood out, instincts picked up more
on, confused them somewhat for he'd not encounter something he felt
on this other level. Something that piqued his interest, his
intelligence, to finally touch upon another worthy. Perhaps. It
intrigued him enough to find out for they were so rare. Could
there be another like him? He brushed aside the rest of his fans as
he was set on a path to intercept this man.
Trevor caught the heavy gold filled sack as he continued to eye the man. It was a hefty win but he placed it back into the man's hand. "I appreciate the sentiment but I've not need of it. I'd rather know who you are, what.." stalling there as there were too many around having caught up to add what you are in front of them. Many of those fans, especially the females were starting to crowd around both him and Garath, hands sliding over slicked muscular arms and chest, not caring who Trevor spoke with. They were actually annoying to Trevor, these tournament flies but one had to bear with them to keep their popularity. He wasn't in it for the money, he was in it for the egotistical high for an undernourished one that still thirst. The women were starting to eye Garath, being only so many of them could get next to Cairns, so sliding up against this older man Trevor seemed interested in.
"Since when does need matter, Cairns?" But Garath kept the coins, lowering his hand against the side of his thigh. The crowd began to gather round, and Garath watched as hands started their stroking against the champion's skin. "As I see it, Young Sir, you've a thirst that may need attention. May I buy you a drink, as congratulations for a job well done?" None would think a drink odd after Trevor's performance on the field. "If you have the time." He took a step away from the groping hands, but gave a motion of head toward those that still sought the touch of warrior's body.
"I have time." Empty promises retorted to whispers from a few trying to get as close as they could with their stroking. Crowding him when something else was far more intriguing. Another kind of challenge which wetted that thirst even greater. He easily disentangled himself like slippery moss on rock and was soon making his distance from them once again. Garath would need keep up which he was sure the man could even for his age. He would soon see how adept Trevor was in losing that which annoyed him, as in certain circumstances it was far better than another means. Exposing too much of his talents was not wise, so in that it showed intelligence over that obvious smug ego. The leak there was hope yet for the young gifted male. Turns were quick, fast, before the crowd was far behind and he ducked into an obscure alley that took them to a back door of a regular, nondescript, tavern. The man seemed to know Cairns as he headed within to a private section off from the regular tavern goers. There were about three such rooms in the back of this place as he indicated a chair across from where he took up a seat. Old wood indicated the place had been around a while for its furnishings. He didn't say anything but waited on the man instead. A bar wench soon came in bringing two tankards of a finer ale than they served in the main part. These were set with a longing look over Trevor before pulled away with a smile for both and taking her leave.
Garath followed, silent, allowing the man his thoughts and his actions to still the beast within him. Only after both men were seated and the woman had left did he speak. "My name is Garath Lyons, I am in the service of Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt." He reached for and brought over his tankard but didn't yet drink. "Besting the best, that gives you fulfillment?" His gaze remained on the younger man as he brought his tankard to his lips.
Trevor drank with a great thirst from the tankard, polishing off three quarters as Garath spoke. One could wonder if it was more than a physical drive for the few seconds it took, coming down with a thud against the thick wooden slab of the table while giving a swipe over his lips with the back of his other hand. Eyes were intense. "I have yet to meet a man that can best me in hand to hand or swords, Garath Lyons. If you can find me such a man, then I would go in service under him." Obviously not believing there was such a one for how many that boasted they could and proved not. Easily actually after he was done playing with them for a few rounds so they didn't lose face. That being one of his oddities, like he would not impose on another descent warrior what he had gone through. Few were the exceptions that deserved to be put down in half a round. He seemed to know which was which too. Here came the smug comment as he leaned back. "I've not met anyone that could be considered the best to best them." Maybe he was challenging the world as his fame spread to bring about that one man that could best him. He was at conflict within himself, those oddities foretold if one could read them.
A swirl of liquid brought Garath's gaze down into the tankard as the younger warrior boasted his skill. He didn't even look up as he started to talk. "Just because he can best you does not make him a man worthy enough to serve." Garath knew Trevor's statement was more a claim of his abilities rather than an actual promise to serve. Still, the younger man would need to learn to watch his comments closely. "But if you wish to meet a warrior who may very well be your match, and your master." Slowly, very slowly, Garath raised his gaze to Trevor although his head did not lift. "I could make arrangements for you."
leaned forward again, conviction in his voice that was as unshakable
as the rock formation under the highest mountains. Something that
only an earthquake could dislodge. It would take that kind of power.
"Then he will not best me if he is not worthy." Which some
might find an odd statement for it was sounding more a prediction.
Predictions didn't need to be based on ordinary logic. He leaned
back, eyes held the hardness of black stone for a moment. "Make
the arrangements and when I prove you wrong, I will take that purse
you offered me earlier." He had at least grown from taking
things because he could to earning them and still taking them in
that way just as easily. It at least appeased a small part of a
But Garath didn't stay, he had completed what needed to be done, and was that very day off to Lockehaven to let Karl know that the Fourth was on his way. And would need just a bit more ... persuading.
"I remember when Cairns arrived." Dana broke the spell of the story. "The three of us felt his approach and then, there he was, with all his puffed-up arrogance. The Black Griffon, who wasn't yet known as the Black Griffon, seemed interested far more with the man's mental state than his physical abilities. Cairns was left to Karl though, and we weren't introduced until several days later. Why was that, Garath?"
Garath stood, walked over to one of the windows facing the lake, and answered from there, gazing out over the water. "Karl needed to..." His hands tucked behind the back exposed to them, the man's thoughts drifting away to that confrontation of wills. "...get to know him...first." Lyons looked around his shoulder to Velvet. "Have you had enough for the day? Or would you like to hear of this meeting as well? That between Karl and Trevor? It is still a part of the younger Trevor's story."
She had kept quiet as not to interrupt any of the story telling. Once more she could feel and see that very day through Garath's words. As interesting as Dana's in its differences. None of the four were ordinary men, legends in a way amongst men. "I am here willing to listen to all you wish to share, m'lord Garath. Willing and avid listener," there was that slight pause as she could not help the tease back on Dana, "even if these stories are of lesser men." Turning back Dana's words upon him with a look there and certainly none of the stories were lesser by far, certainly they would not be on the last two yet to be told. A wink given Dana before full focus was back on Garath. Leaving it up to him to call the shots. To tell or not certain parts, to take a break or continue.
smiled, nodded to the lady, then turned to face back out toward the
lake. "Well, as stated previously, there was more concern for
Trevor's state of mine than for his skill." He turned, bracing
his hands against the solid wood which ran along the screened porch
and allowed that to support his body for now. "Karl had ... met
... the other three and now, with the fourth's arrival the energy at
Lockehaven seemed to crackle and spark." The motion of his head
was slow approval. "It was as I hoped, however, Karl would need
to use his powers of ..." He cut a look to Dana and a grin
threatened. "persuasion to convince the younger man that Trevor
was, afterall, in the right place to best use his abilities. And so
it was, that Trevor Cairns arrived at Lockehaven to meet von
As many mountains as it took to get him to his destiny instead of just a destination. The thought came firm in his mind as he leaned back to take out that card again, not that he needed to but the process more the affirmation. He turned his steed and pack horse down another trail that would take him to this Lochehaven. He wore a smug look, like prove yourself to me as he reached the gates. Trevor, had not met another man to this date that had energies at his disposal like he had. A freak? More than likely and one that gained an attitude for those who would persecute him. He was stronger than them. The man at the gate must have been alerted to his arrival as he opened it and motioned down the lane that would lead up to the manor. Closing it behind him as Trevor continued on through. The wide rim hat he wore this trip to keep the heat of the sun from his face was drawn off as he swiped his forehead on a cloth covered forearm. The hat left off as he drew closer to this, impressive, manor he realized. Dark eyes taking in quite a bit, "so this is what you use your betting money on," muttered to himself under his breath as he dismounted.
Karl and Garath watched the man's approach from one of the windows, but Karl didn't watch for long, walking away with a curse under his breath.
Garath had to pull his gaze away from the arrival to look to Karl. "He does have some work to do, Karl, but didn't they all? He has what is needed, but you'll have to show him."
Karl paused, not turning back to his closest advisor as he spoke. "I care not for this whole thing, Garath, you are aware of that."
Garath laughed, coming up behind Karl and thumping the man's broad shoulder with a fist. "Yes, but you'll indulge me, von Rundstedt, because you know well I'm always right."
Karl slanted a look Garath's way, a smile in his eyes if not on his lips. "You will never hear me admit to that."
started past him toward the door. "Prepare yourself, Karl, I'll
see to the young man and get him ready." As his hand clamped
down on the doorframe and he cut around to
the hall beyond, he called out. "You need never admit it, Karl.
For then you would be the one right."
"Ah, Sir Cairns." Garath descended to where Trevor was on his way up, extending a hand in greeting. "I have made all ready, anticipating your arrival."
"Trevor, as I've never been knighted." Although it was used in due respect he assumed, he was one that would rather earn it so it was real. Gentleman he could be with the finest of court but that didn't mean he was always. Trevor marched to the beat of a different drum. Hand was met in a good strong clasp, just enough of a hint of what was behind it before released. He was not into crushing a man's hand without cause.
After the greeting, Garath motioned for the man to continue up the stairs. "As yet, Cairns, not knighted as yet." Garath Lyons had every confidence that would be remedied within a fortnight. "Come in, freshen up. There is someone I'm eager for you to meet."
had him turn a dark eyed look on Garath for that suspended moment,
no cocky smile. Instead there was a minute dip of his head, not
necessarily believing the words but not disbelieving them either.
Next moment he was up the steps to where indicated so that he could
freshen up. Once the dusty overcloak and pant overlay were taken off
there was quite the transformation. A tailored vest of dark gray
with pinstripes over a pristine dress shirt with ruffles, pants of
the same charcoal gray worn. Boots only needed a swipe of a damp
cloth to bring out their shine as well he washed his face and combed
back the length of dark curling hair to tie at the nape of his neck.
The man that came out from that closed over door didn't look
anything like the one that entered as he made his way back down the
was a quirk of a brow, just minutely to find another man waiting for
him at the bottom of the steps. "It was said by Lyons I would
be meeting another, are you this man?" Reaching the bottom as
dark eyes give little away but the man could be sure he
was being equally assessed.
"The von Rundstedt. Your name has been spoken in the highest esteem." Pausing a heartbeat, "not only by your man Lyons." At least it came off that way, the man was strongly linked to von Rundstedt. Exactly the link he could not be sure but the way stated would tell him more if rebutted. "As you wish," giving a respectful dip of his head before he bounded back up the steps. He took the vest off, opened up the dress shirt some before hooking the belt that sheathed his weapon over his hips. It mattered not to him he was still dressed in the finer clothes. He had more or could buy more. The man piqued his curiosity with the statement of three more yet only one. He was back down to let von Rundstedt lead the way.
A maid would escort Trevor out to the back lawn where Garath and Karl awaited the man. Karl had rolled up his sleeves to just below his elbows, that and the sword which he now gripped were the only changes to his appearance. Lyons, on the other hand, was seated at a table off to the side, a glass of wine in one hand, and a pad, ink and quill within reach of the other. When Trevor stepped out of the back corridor on the grassy lawn, Karl pointed with his sword tip to indicated a general area for Trevor to stand.
Yet another to meet him as he found a woman in von Rundstedt's stead. He couldn't help the chuckle under his breath as he followed her out. Nicer view too as she walked ahead of him. Focus rivet on von Rundstedt as he emerged, the maid gone in his mind just as quickly when to face an opponent. He did something odd as he stepped out on the lawn to crouch a moment and rub some of the soil on his hands, grass with it or not didn't matter as he was up to move to the area indicated. The sword drawn as feet stopped and he facing his opponent. Although he had heard high regard of this nobleman, he had not heard anything on his abilities other than implied by Garath so he would face the man as a worthy opponent.
That one single act had Karl glancing to Garath, and Garath taking up his quill to mark down his observation. Karl edged a look toward the upper floors of the manse, then back to Trevor. "Please...at your leisure."
was one use to the defense, as most liked to rush him in
trying to take down one of growing fame. He was a big man but not
as big as others, just very solidly built. All muscle like rock.
It seemed he was rooted to the ground for a long moment before he
was up fast with his sword coming down to meet blade to blade in
breaking the ice. This was not a to the death kind of
match so it would more the strength behind the blows as well quick
The blow caused Karl's arms to vibrate, pain to shoot into his shoulder and down his spine. His grip only tightened on the hilt of his sword and he swept it upward, knocking Trevor back and away from him. "Think you I do not know what you are capable of, Cairns? I will not be taken down by it." The blows continued, ringing out over the lake, singing the tale of warriors locked in combat.
They had gone quite a few blowing rounds, Trevor, the younger of the two and not as experienced although was getting there. He was meeting the blows, more fending them off at this point as Karl's words brought more of an interest. "Just what do you think I'm capable of?" Sure it was renowned he was strong but he had kept the lid on the real ability where the other came from. He had to admire the man's determination. As far as Trevor knew there were none others like him. He was surprised his blows hadn't the affect they had on most. Only a few got this far in rounds with him.
"Capable of more than this." Karl growled out, his final blow coming down to press Trevor to the very earth he took his strength from. Karl held Trevor there a moment, then released that pressure, stepping away. "Lyons, work on the man's attitude before you introduce him to de Beauvais." That would be a confrontation Karl would prefer to avoid. "If he so desires, introduce him to all of them." He looked to Trevor, offering his hand down as an offer of respect. "Decide, Cairns, where you wish to pledge your allegiance." He offered the man a nod. "Then let me know."
He was impressed as that power came from another source, be it pure undulated determination or he possessed abilities beyond the norm himself. No one had ever pressed him down to a knee bent to meet the ground below, pressed in as he held, unable however to press it back. The release near had his sword swinging upwards, jerking it as it was counterbalanced. Trevor remained on the bend of his knee as he then put the sword, blade tip into the ground before him. The motion speaking his decision. He had said to Lyons if such a man could best him, the best of the best, he would pledge his loyalty. There were good points in the man, honesty and determined loyalty. "Under you if you'll have me." Taking his hand finally as he was up, dark eyes shifting between Karl and Garath. He now owed him a purse.
Oh, and Garath had not forgotten. He tore off a piece of that parchment and wrote a sum at the top, folding it when he was done. This would be handed to Trevor once Karl had taken his leave. "Well then, it seems we have the Fourth." A smile touched his features and it was his turn to look to the upper level of the manse. "Ah, life is a conscious continuity within the movement of change."
Page 1 2 3 4 5 Main