Tuesday, January 16, 2007

534: Adventure of Love's Labors

Sir Clydno, Chevalier du Doight
Sir Clarian (Suzanne)
Sir Brevis of the Dike (Fergie)
Sir Blois (Aaron)

I have spent another two years in service to my dear brother, the Count. He relies on my leadership so much to help him run the domain that I scarce have time for adventuring. Indeed, I sometimes yearn for such, but duty calls. I spent the summer escorting the Lady Clina, my niece, to nearby counties for her personal business. At least I had opportunity to attend a small tournament in Wuerensis. But I had no time to attend the tournaments in Salisbury, celebrating the new castle and Sir Leodegrance’s promotion to Marshall there; nor in Silchester, celebrating the promotion of Sir Mortimer to earl of that land; nor was I part of the escort to the new wife of the King of France. I don’t begrudge the duties of being left behind, to help in the daily affairs. Earl Charles, of course, attended all those things while the lands were overseen by my niece, Lady Clina, when my brother is gone.

Winter was upon us before I had even missed the season for adventure. I was glad to be released for the season to travel to Camelot to prepare for my brother’s attendance at court there. It is one of the duties I perform regularly for him.

I was upon the road, travelling through neighboring Salisbury. I went with three others, Sirs Clarian and Brevis of Salisbury, and Blois, from Aquitaine.

Sir Clarian is one of many sons of Sir Mortimer, the new Earl. He’s got a large family, and Sir Clarian is one of them. He is not a big man, nor terribly healthy in appearance, and hampered by a deformity of his foot. In truth, his paternity is of open question since he was born while the count (then but a knight) was a knight prisoner for years—but since the Earl makes no truck of it, neither do I. Sir Brevis, another knight of Salisbury, is a cousin of the great Sir Leodegrance. Sir Blois a foreigner, from Ganis in Aquitaine, Lancelot’s land. All are new knights and so I regaled them with tales of my own adventures in distant Anglia.

Upon the road we met a strange woman upon a white horse with red ears. It did not exhale frosty breath like we and our steeds did. She announced herself as Dame Adventure and asked if we would follow her. Of course we did! She brought us to a fountain which was, we were told, in Estregales. Far, far from Salisbury where we'd been just scant hours before! Three dames awaited, one young, one middle aged, and one old. Each offered us adventure, and we chose to go with the eldest, for it seemed to offer the most adventure.

She too had a strange steed. After this I will always be wary of white steeds with red ears, or tail, or spots upon its hide. We were brought to a castle where reigned Sir Garhaus, an unmannerly fellow with a most comely daughter, named Cleayne. The old dame told us we needed to help the daughter to join with her lover, Sir Rowan. We sat among the soldiers to eat.

Two of us, Sir Blois and I, decided to bear the message to Sir Rowan, while the other two would help the lady sneak out of the castle to meet him. She gave us a note to deliver. We left first, and achieved a difficult ride through a snowy field of treacherous weeds, and when Sir Rowan received the note he was elated and invited us to sip wine with him. It was from Aquitaine, and Sir Blois told me many interesting things as we sat, awaiting the arrival of the lady and the completion of our task. Alas, she did not come in time, and so we hastily set off to the castle again. The field was, as I said, treacherous, and we both suffered badly from the wicked weeds that lashed us and poisoned us with their thorns and stems. When we arrived the drawbridge was lowering, and we saw in the court our companions lieing upon the ground, obviously defeated by the monstrous ogre whose wounds showed the results of out companions’ combat. We lowered our lances and charged in, slaying the creature handily, and turned to face the men at arms there. But no further fight followed. Instead, the residents of the castle all cheered us for freeing them from their ogre overlord.

We then escorted the lady Cleayne to her lover, and we saw them to a magnificent structure erected by giants of old that was called “The Chapel of Love in the Wilderness.” The elderly dame congratulated us, and told us we’d completed the Adventure of the Nursely Burden, for she had been nurse to the Lady Cleayne.

Next day we returned to the fount, and there we accepted the challenge of the middle dame. Following her upon yet another strange horse, we went to a castle where the lady’s heart had been frozen in sorrow. We were challenged to thaw it with deeds of romance and love, not to win her, just to remind her of the wonders she could know once again. No combat here! These were a series of challenges of courtly skills of the type most loved by lovers. I felt haunted by the stories and fantasies of my dear niece, who was raised in Guenever’s court and is fascinated with romance and its trappings. Indeed, though, it was difficult for none of use were lovers. Better we had been asked to fight! We spent days there, trying unsuccessfully to thaw the lady’s heart. Some days I might sing well, but not play the harp. Another I could fly the falcon, but not compose. But at last Sir Brevis proved his devotion and performed all the necessary deeds. The lady was pleased, and indeed, so was Sir Brevis, for afterwards he professed he’d acquired some attraction to her. He told us he plans to court her. That was the Adventure of Womanly Virtue.

We returned to the fountain again. There was only the youngest lady to offer us challenge. She took us to a thicket, within which a lady was being held prisoner by the Knight of the Hare. We were astonished to discover it was our friend Lady Cleayne! The knight was a surly fellow and told us he was keeping this lady and that that he would have his way with her when he wished. Unmannerly fellow! She was most unhappy. He challenged us to combat, or to be gone. After so much frustration in courtly things, I readily accepted, for this was something I knew and felt I could accomplish.

We lowered lances and charged, and though I am skilled at it, he was better. And though unhorsed and wounded, I challenged him to combat by sword, which he honorably accepted. I fought well and hurt him some, but he hurt me more and I passed out from my wounds. I’m sure that if I had not suffered already from wounds in the wicked field of weeds I would have prevailed. Sir Brevis, like most of his kin, is a great fixer of wounds and after a time I was conscious again. But defeated, I could only watch as my fellows fought in their turn.

This Knight of the Hare proved to be more than formidable. He slew Sir Blois! Alas, just shortly before we had been sipping wine by the campfire and discussed knightly things. No more. Then he nearly slew Sir Brevis as well! I despaired for the fate of Lady Cleayne, for it left only the sickly Sir Clarian to defend her. Well, God must love him, for the fight was fierce, but after ten or twelve passes with lance he at last struck a timely blow and laid that wicked knight low. I supplied aid to his wounds, for he’d been honorable to me. We asked what the Lady wished to do with the defeated, unconscious knight, and though she was undecided, Sir Clarian was not. No mercy from him! He struck the dastard’s head off. Shortly thereafter he declared his love for Lady Cleayne, even though we all knew he had a rival in Sir Rowan (whose absence was conspicuous). This had been, we were told, the Adventure of Youthful Folly.

We brought her back to the fountain with us, and there we saw Dame Adventure once more. She congratulated us, and within a few steps had us once again back on the road to Camelot, where we had first met her. We went on to Camelot, and though my good brother was angry that I had not prepared the way for him, he nonetheless when King Arthur told him to be calm, and gave praise to me and my companions for our adventures. We spent the winter telling and retelling these stories. In no time people dubbed us the “Knights of Love’s Labor,” and I myself spent many hours telling and retelling our story for the lasses of the court. The High King was pleased, the Queen herself made us tell it to her ladies, my niece was pleased and lavished words of praise upon me, and most importantly even my dear brother was kind and said I did well.

Became notable in Generous and Love (Family)

Adventure Glory 80

Annual Glory 142

Daughter born, sickly

Skill Increase: 1 point to Spear Expertise (now 19)

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