This is not part of the RA fest, of course. Just one of my regular postings. Hope no one minds!
Poetry in motion.
Evelyn could not think of another way to describe her husband-to-be.
She sat in the family box, along with Thea and Isabella, watching the soldiers at practice. After breakfast, they had coaxed Isabella from her room, urging her to come out and enjoy the sunshine. She had, at first, refused. It would not do, she said, to be seen in their company in her physical state. Both sisters had declared such a statement to be nonsense. If she was concerned about her bruises, they could be easily be disguised by a head scarf. After much persuasion, she had reluctantly joined them on a stroll through the garden and across the grounds. Eventually they all found their way to the fields where the soldiers were training. Evelyn took to the viewing box, and the other ladies soon followed. Isabella sat quietly, lowering her eyes occasionally and having small interest in the men. But Evelyn and Thea watched their mates with great delight.
She marveled at how splendidly Simon moved, with power and confidence. It was thrilling to watch his muscular figure in motion, moving with animal-like power as he charged his opponent. It was incredible to think that this man before her, who wielded his broadsword with such strength and ferocity, was the same man who could overwhelm her with his gentleness and passion. She sighed, a pleasurable sound...heard by Thea, who gave her a knowing smile.
“You openly admire your fiancé,” she said. “Who would have thought you would be so taken with him?”
Evelyn shrugged, a careless gesture. “Time changes many things, you know.”
“And some things,” said Thea, “Remain the same, no matter the passage of time.” She has turned to attention back to the field, and Evelyn wondered what her sister’s eye was fixed on. She asked, curiously, “Do you speak of something particular?”
Thea’s amused tone took on a familiar sound of dislike. “Owen,” she replied. She gestured her chin towards their brother, who stood waiting to rush in Lucien require him. “Look at him, how he frowns so. I do believe he is incapable of being pleasant. And today he seems darker than usual, which is a difficult task to accomplish.”
Looking at Owen, she could see what Thea meant. Some of the men were taking a rest now. Owen stood to the side, drinking water from a gourd. Occasionally, he raised his eyes to where the ladies were sitting. What was there to cause so sour and expression?
And then it dawned on her. She recalled the scene of yesterday morning, between Owen and their mother...about Isabella. He had made his feelings clear about her. Now he was bitter because he was being forced to accept her in their household. And it seemed that, if he could not be rid of her, he would make her feel as unwelcome as possible by way of his hateful demeanor. His motives had their desired effect, Evelyn realized, when Isabella suddenly rose to her feet.
“Forgive me, Lady Evelyn...Lady Theodora. But I must return to the house.”
Evelyn attempted to sway her. “Isabella, please stay. Do not let our brother concern you.”
“Quite right,” said Thea. “Owen is a boar and a cur.”
Isabella tried to smile, but it was a sad expression. “I am tired,” she said. “I think I shall lie down for a time.”
She turned away, heading for the house...and Thea huffed in anger. She came to her feet, stepping down from the box. Evelyn watched her with a curious eye, seeing the familiar set of her sister’s shoulders.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
Thea replied, most firmly. “I will speak to Mama. Isabella is no innocent, ‘tis true. But she has endured enough cruelty.”
She went, hurrying to catch up with Isabella. Evelyn sighed, wondering if she should follow them. Simon was engaged in conversation with a fellow soldier. Judging from their expressions, and the movement of their hands, it appeared to be a topic of importance...perhaps something related to battle tactics. He had not looked in her direction once, which disappointed her. But she knew that this training was quite important. It required concentration...not distraction. Perhaps it was best if she did join Thea and Isabella. Reluctantly, she turned to go.
Delighted, she turned at the sound of his voice. As he came towards her, she wondered...
How can I look at him and not be overwhelmed? She tried to suppress her smile...to manage some sense of herself. But it was in vain, particularly when he looked at her in that warm way of his.
“Does my training displease you so that you depart most hastily?”
She shook her head. “Not at all,” she replied. “I was just going to join Thea and Lady Isabella.”
Simon nodded. “I observed her for a moment. Her displeasure is quite evident.”
“That is Owen’s doing. He speaks most harshly of her.”
His eyes searched her face. “Does that displease you?” he asked, to which she nodded.
“I must confess it does. I certainly do not approve of her behavior. But in my opinion, it does not warrant such ill treatment from my brother. No one is beyond redemption, not even she.”
“Between you and I, it is somewhat understandable. I found the Baron LaCroix to be most disagreeable. He is foul in body and spirit.”
“I have often thought so,” she agreed. “His appetite for food and drink is quite extraordinary. Repulsive, at times. Papa has sometimes bristled at the notion of the baron making a visit.”
“I can imagine.” Simon took a sip of his water. Lowering his cup, he sighed. “I can hardly blame his wife for seeking better company. Who would wish to lie with such a fat, disgusting tub of guts?”
Evelyn could hardly contain her sudden laughter, despite covering her mouth with both hands. Simon’s only response was a little grin, as though he was amused with himself but was containing it. Evelyn, feeling slightly bold, reached out to playfully swipe his shoulder. She knew it was improper to strike him so, even in jest, but she could not help herself.
“You speak cruelly of a fellow nobleman, my lord. That is the height of impropriety!”
Simon snorted. “A nobleman he may be, but that hardly makes him worthy of his title. To raise a hand in violence against a woman, or a child, is an act of cowardice.”
If not for the presence of the other men, she would have dared to kiss him. He was more than a noble knight. He was a most noble man. And she had a fierce desire to tell him, and show him, how strongly her feelings for him were growing.
But such sentiment was better reserved for private moments. She smiled tenderly.
“I should allow you to return to your duties, my lord.”
She spoke of his going. And yet he seemed to hesitate. She liked that uncertain behavior...as though he wished to remain with her. But it would not do to distract him so. She attempted to move away...but his hand moved over hers.
“Shall I see you in the hall? At noon day?”
Her eyes sparkled. “Of course,” she replied.
He gave no reply...barely offered a smile. In front of the other men, he could offer little in the way of affection. But it was there, in his eyes. And it was enough to warm her heart as she left him to his duties.
Guy stood at the window of his bedchamber. With his arms folded, he stared out at the sunny day, his grey eyes shining with the sunlight...while his mind concentrated on the soft voice coming from nearby.
Cassia was reclining against the bed pillows, stitching a small blanket. Plagued by swelling feet, she had taken to her bed just after the mid-day meal...but not without requesting a private word with him, regarding their son.
“I leave this matter to you, husband. I have made my feelings known about his behavior. But I feel this must now go to a higher court.”
Leaning his head back, he expelled a heavy breath. “Must fatherhood always be such a taxing affair? Why must it be difficult to raise a decent man?”
There was a hint of amusement in Cassia’s reply. “A parent must be a parent, my love.”
She was right, of course. She was always right. It was his duty, as a father, to see that Owen was corrected. His own opinion of Isabella had little to do with the matter at hand. He thought of himself in years gone by...how, at one time, he would have condemned Isabella without a second thought. He would have encouraged scorn of her, for who was there to question his judgment?
But now, there was someone who was quietly watching him, wondering if he would choose to do the right thing...and knowing, in her heart, that he would not disappoint her. He resumed his gaze out of the window.
A knock came at the door.
“Come in,” said Cassia. A moment later, Owen stepped into the room.
“Papa, I am told you wish to speak with me?”
Guy said nothing. He set his jaw, firm with determination. Turning towards the door, he gave Cassia a glance as he came towards Owen. He walked by him, heading for the solar. Owen did not have to be told to follow. He did so without question, walking closely behind.
“Close the door, Owen.”
As the door clicked shut, Guy sat down in a familiar chair. He crossed his arms, watching as Owen pulled another chair close, sitting down slowly. He saw in Owen the very picture of himself as a younger man...impulsive, quick to anger. His features were a perfect match as well. The same black hair, lean build, and angular features. The same grey eyes. There was wariness in those eyes now, as if he sensed this meeting would not be pleasant. It seemed best to get right to the point, to avoid further concern.
“You will not go to court with us tomorrow.”
Owen’s eyes grew wide with shock. “I beg pardon, father?”
“Another squire will accompany Sir Lucien. You will remain behind. To care for your mother and your sisters...to be my eyes and ears while I am gone.”
Owen quickly came to his feet. He was disciplined enough not to voice his anger, but it was evident on his face as he made short strides back and forth, his hands clenched at his sides.
“I do not see the reason for this. Why I am being so punished?”
“You have caused your mother offense.”
Owen stopped in his tracks. His expression was drained of its anger, replaced in a moment by a most wounded look.
“Never would I offend Mama,” he said. “I would sooner take a dagger to my own heart than to ever wound her.”
“You offend her with your disrespect. She has asked for your hospitality towards Lady Isabella, and you refuse to give it.”
The anger returned to Owen’s face. He turned away, crossing his arms. “How am I to endure such a woman? To be generous to such a sinner is to go against all of my principles.”
“Then you do not know your true principles...your duties as a knight.” Owen started to protest, but Guy stood, stern and fatherly in his manner as he spoke. “One of your chivalric duties is to respect the honor of women. It matters not their status, nor their sins.”
Owen stood in mute anger. Guy could see how badly the young man wanted to express his outrage. It was impossible not to pity him. Reaching out, Guy put a hand on Owen’s shoulder.
“You have much to learn, my son. In time, you will see the wisdom of this decision.”
Owen gave no vocal response. He managed a slight nod of his head. Guy could see him clenching his jaw, trying to contain his fury.
Poor lad, he thought. The impulsiveness of youth was strong, but it too often led to trouble. In his heart, he knew this was the right decision. He released his hold on Owen’s shoulder. Walking away, he left the room and allowed Owen to be alone for a time, to contemplate his actions.
Returning to his bedchamber, Cassia looked up at him with curious eyes. He exhaled through his nose.
“It is done,” he said. “A most unpleasant business.”
She gave a calm, quiet reply. “Yes, but it is for the best.”
He nodded, knowing that she was right. As always.