Chapter One

Submitted by Riibu on Wed, 11/01/2006 - 23:43

It was a sunny morning in Wrothvale and the weather was great for the tournament. There were hardly any clouds in the sky and no strong winds blew. The lords’ and knights’ many multicoloured flags flapped lightly in the breeze atop their poles. They showed all the people coming to enjoy the event who were the competitor’s in that year’s tournament. The commoners’ stands were already quite crowded and loud noises carried over the field. People dressed in expensive and colourful clothes were making their way to the nobility’s sheltered stand, producing their own loud chatter.

”Rosie!” someone called. A girl dressed in a modest forget-me-not blue dress turned her head from the flags she’d been looking to a man who was just coming next to her. Rosalie smiled at her father excitedly.

”Come now, we must hurry or we will lose the good seats.”

”Sorry, father. I was looking for our flag, where is it? It’s not on the commoner’s side, is it?” she asked while they walked towards the fine stand.

”No, it’s... It’s second last on our stand, see?” lord Theodore pointed for her.

”Ah!” Rosalie said and craned her neck to see the flag when they stepped the stairs to the stand. They made their way to the middle seats on the first row and got a good view to jousting ground. Rosalie bit her lip and grinned. This was the first time she’d ever been allowed to come see a tournament. Her father had insisted she was too young before, but she was fifteen years old now. She couldn’t wait for the competing to begin and knotted her hands together nervously.

Lord Theodore cried quietly as he noticed some friend of his and turned to talk to him. Rosalie took a quick look at the man his father was addressing but then turned to look around them. Rosalie frowned as she noticed the woman sitting on her right side. The woman was wearing a bright red dress, but as it had a very generous bodice the unsparing sight of her breasts made Rosalie snap her gaze back towards the field. She felt a small blush nearing her cheeks and she felt annoyed. To her horror the woman glanced at her and then leaned to whisper to her.

”Nothing wrong with them, my dear. You could always attract some more with yours as well. Never be ashamed of what you have I like to think”, she chuckled.

”I’m sorry, butI have no idea what you are talking about”, Rosalie said stiffly without turning her head. The woman laughed at this and leaned closer.

”Come now, girl. Like you would not want to gain the attention of a handsome nobleman. You use what you have. Trust me on this, it has always gotten me exactly what I want.”

”And some more, I’d say”, Rosalie hissed back. The woman leaned away a bit and raised her eyebrow at her remark.

”There are ways to deal with that, you know.” As Rosalie looked at her skeptically she straightened on her seat and smiled confidently at her.

”What’s your name, girl?”

”I am lady Rosalie Honora Arcelus. You are?”

”Oh, you’re a flower. How sweet! Your mother must have named you”, the woman chuckled again and looked at the field.

”My mother died giving birth to me, miss. My father’s decision to name me after my mother’s favourite flower was nice, I think.”

”Certainly. I’m sorry for your loss, lady Rosalie”, she said with a small sardonic smile.

”Thank you”, Rosalie replied coldly. She drew a breath and looked away hoping the woman would not continue speaking to her. The lady in red grinned and turned to talk to a woman on her other side. Rosalie slowly relaxed and soon began sighing to herself. Her father patted her hand and told her it would not be much longer until the tournament started.

Soon a pair of trumpets sounded and all the gathered people started to quiet down. Everyone looked at the small but high stand at the start of the jousting field, left from the fine stand and right from the commoners’ stand where a large man dressed in yellow livery was waiting. Once the level of noise had subsided enough he coughed to himself and began announcing.

”On this fine day in the year of 427 of our kindgom, our gracious host, the Viscount Morgan Samuel Ernest of Wrothvale, bids you all welcome to this event!” He paused as people cheered and then proceeded to pronounce all the lords whose knights would be competing in the tournament. Rosalie squealed quietly when the herald mentioned Count Theodore Mervyn Arcelus and the names of the four knights that had come with them. Behind the man sat lord and lady Ernest in fine seats and behind them was the table with the prizes guarded by three knights.

The herald finished and stepped off the stand as people cheered again. There was some general hussling as people settled down more comfortably to watch the tournament. At the back of the field several people in armor had assembled with their horses. Squires hurried to and fro preparing their masters. Then to a loud cheer two knights were helped on their horses and they rode out to the track.

Two knights rode the length of the track and stopped in front of lord Ernest’s stand. They raised their lances to greet lord Ernest who acknowledged them with a polite wave. A knight in a gray and white tabard rode to the end of the track and the other knight in an orange and white tabard stayed put. The crowds hushed as the knights faced each other. They lowered their lances and waited for the call to charge. A man with a flag approached the center of the track and raised it. He looked both ways and swished the flag down and scurried back. The knights charged. A second and their lances crashed, wood splintering in every direction. They dropped the broken lances and slowed their horses. The knights turned to applause and rode back to their respective sides.

”Neither one fell off, father”, Rosalie said confused. Her father leaned closer to her as he clapped and explained that such happened rarely.

”That’s not the goal, Rosie. They’re supposed to hit each other to break the lances. See, those people put up small flags to show how much they scored.”

”But there’s only one flag, for the gray knight. They both broke their lances!”

”Yes, but the knight in orange, see, his lance broke as it hit the gray knight’s saddle, whilst the gray knight’s lance broke on the orange knight’s armor. Hitting the saddle amounts for nothing. Hitting the other one’s torso is worth one point. Two points is for breaking the lance on the opponent’s helmet and three is for knocking your opponent down.”

”I see. Is three points the most one can get?” Her father nodded and she continued: ”Well, then isn’t that the goal? Getting the most points? And to do that I’ll bet they want to throw the opponent down. Is that the sign of a good knight, if they can unhorse the other one?”

”Well... Not necessarily, my dear. In jousting perhaps, but it’s usually just luck.”

”They’re not very lucky-” Rosalie said, but her words were drowned in a wave of cheering as the knights faced each other off again. As the applause died down Rosalie’s father pointed the point flags to her. The knights were tied.

”Best out of three”, he said, ”this one will decide which of the knights wins the round. The winner will advance to compete with other knights.”

”That part I know, father, thank you. I wish you’d told me these details beforehand. I feel like such a beginner here!”

”Well, this is your first time, my dear.” Rosalie grinned and shushed her father. They applauded as the knights charged one last time and ended up at a tie. Theodore explained to Rosalie that now neither of the knights could advance. The knights rode off the track and two others rode to greet lord Ernest in turn.

Rosalie watched interested at the jousting and she soon began to notice where the lances hit. She felt happy whenever she managed to predict a hit correct by herself. Knights passed,a few going by their stand and waving to ladies in the seats. The lady in red next to Rosalie blew a kiss to a knight in a brown and orange tabard. Rosalie snorted at this and glared at the knight.

She sat up straighter whenever one of their knights in their light blue and white tabards was on the field and even responded to a wave one of them gave as he passed by their stand. Their knights didn’t fare too badly, but the second to compete lost by two points to his opponent who was in a dark blue and purple tabard. As two knights replaced each other the lady in red suddenly cried quietly. A knight in a black and red tabard rode pass their stand. Rosalie flinched as the lady in red rose and waved excitedly at the knight who waved back at her. Rosalie noted that many other ladies in their stand waved at the knight too. Must be a popular one, she thought to herself.

The knights faced each other off. They lowered their lances. They charged. A collective ’ah!’ went through both crowds as the knight in the black and red tabard hit the other knight in his helmet and flung him off his horse also. The crowds erupted in cheer at the first unhorsing in the tournament.

”Oh, lucky one!” Theodore remarked and clapped cheerily.

The victorious knight raised the remains of his lance and rode back to his side to wait the other knight. When the other knight had been helped back on his horse and given another lance they waited their turns again. They charged and the knight in the black and red tabard hit the other in the helmet again. This time his opponent stayed on his horse though.

”Isn’t he talented?” the lady in red suddenly breathed excitedly to Rosalie. She was grinning and her cheeks were aflush. Rosalie did not respond, only raised her eyebrow at the woman. In her mind she did agree with the woman, though. The knight was either very lucky or talented, and the latter seemed more fitting as the knight hit his opponent in the helmet for the third time and flung him off his horse also. The crowds cheered wildly as the knight grabbed his helmet off, flew it on the ground and rode to and fro on his side of the field.

”I say, who is that knight?” Theodore laughed and turned to speak to a man near him. ”Who is he? He’s talented, he must be new, I don’t remember him from last year.” Rosalie listened only with half a mind. She was staring at the grinning knight. She blushed as the knight rode past them and waved at the audience. The lady in red squealed delightedly next to her and Rosalie couldn’t but smile herself. The knight was very handsome.

”Well, we’ll see if his luck holds. This was just the first round. I daresay that poor knight must not have been very good, to not have been able to block even one hit on his helmet. His head must be in agony now!” Theodore and the man laughed. Rosalie sighed and followed the knight eagerly.

”He’s such a talented man, that knight. Do you know him?” the lady in red asked Rosalie.

”No, I’ve never seen him before”, Rosalie said absent-mindedly.

”Ah, sir Jonathan Hearthwell. Very young, very good at what he does. I’ve met him a few times”, the lady grinned widely and nudged Rosalie.

”Oh? Jonathan...” Rosalie whispered to herself.

The tournament continued. Knights in variously coloured tabards fought and with every victory the amount of knights lessened. Only one of Rosalie’s father’s knights had managed this far, but his score total placed him fourth. Rosalie kept track of sir Jonathan’s score also and was surprised to realise she was pleased that he was third – ahead of their own knight.

Rosalie waited anxiously for Jonathan’s turn. It took her a moment to realise that the next match would be between their knight and Jonathan. She cheered eagerly when Jonathan won by one point.

”Well, that’s no prizes for us...” Theodore turned to Rosalie, who grinned back apologetically.

”That knight, sir Jonathan, father... He’s so good, it’s so wonderful to watch him ride.”

”Oh, I noticed. I agree with you, as do nearly everyone here apparently”, he said and clapped. ”Only one more fight left.”

”That’s between sir Ancar and sir Edwyn isn’t it? If they don’t score highly we might still have a chance. It’s going to be close, though!”

Three runs later the crowds cheered wildly again. Sir Ancar had beaten his opponent and the tournament was finally over. It was late in the afternoon and though it had been exciting to watch accidents, knights being carried off unconscious, sitting still for so many hours was terribly tiresome. Rosalie stretched as they rose from their seats. Their knight had just enough points to end up as fourth and they would be required to accompany the other winners’ lords in the fine stand with lord Ernest.

Rosalie stood behind his father and looked at the knights gathered in front of the stand. Their knight in his light blue and white tabard was last. Sir Edwyn was wearing a blue and black tabard and was holding his head frowning slightly. Sir Ancar brushed his green and yellow tabard and then gently touched a wound on his forehead, flinching. Rosalie blushed as her eyes stopped at sir Jonathan who had gathered enough points for first place.

Sir Jonathan was a tall young man. He had an easy smile and a grin was never far from his face. The competing had left his ash blond hair lank, but the excitement that shone out of his hazel eyes made him look attractive to Rosalie.

Lord Ernest congratulated each knight as he precented them their prizes. Rosalie kept glancing at Jonathan and when it was his turn to come up to the stand she stared at him freely. She reasoned since everyone else was looking at him, he wouldn’t notice her. Yet, as Jonathan turned to show off his prize to the audiences their eyes met and Rosalie quickly looked away. Jonathan paused for a moment and smiled at the blushing girl. Cute, he thought as he turned to grin self-confidently at the cheering crowds.

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His eyes are almost blue and almost green, but with some, like, orange in the middle... It shines like it’s gold when he smiles, I could tell... He’s got the strength of all the men and his bravery knows no bounds... He’s a true, valiant man and he’ll never notice a silly girl like me...! Rosalie finished her sweet thought about Jonathan in anguish. Rosalie was strolling leisurely behind his father towards their carriage, all caught up in thinking about Jonathan.

I bet he has a sweetheart somewhere... Although, maybe not, I don’t think he’s that type of man. He’s clearly above silly crushes. He’s a gentleman and his courtesy knows no bounds, and he’s... Right there. Oh dear lord. Is he looking at me? No, oh no, should I pretend like I haven’t noticed him? What if he is looking for me and he’ll be offended if I don’t look his way? Is he looking at me? He is definitely looking at me. Oh dear heavens, what should I do? What if he wants to talk to me? I can’t talk to him! Oh no, he’s coming my way, look natural! You are not nervous at all, you are perfectly at ease, he is coming your way and you will be absolutely nonchalant, and... he is so handsome...

”My lady”, Jonathan bowed and quickly took hold of Rosalie’s and placed a kiss on it. She was so surprised by his gesture she only managed to giggle at first. Then she mentally slapped herself and forced her face into a polite smile.

”Ah, sir... Hearthwell, was it?”

”Sir Jonathan Hearthwell, at your service milady. I am dreadfully sorry, but I do not believe I know your name.”

”Oh! I’m...- I’m Lady Rosalie Arcelus, Count Theodore Arcelus of Grathwood’s daughter.”

”Ah.” He stared at her in the eyes intensely for a moment and continued quietly, almost uncertainly: ”You have- such a beautiful name...” Rosalie blushed and smiled radiantly.

”Oh, I...! Thank you, sir Jonathan”, she said breathily and looked away. Jonathan, still holding her hand in his, raised it higher and pulled her ever so slightly closer to him, prompting Rosalie to look into his eyes again. Definitely green, the thought flashed through her mind.

”I don’t know what it is, but when I saw you... In the stand, I saw you and there was something about you... I had to come and say something to you. I hope you’re not troubled by this-” Jonathan leaned away from Rosalie who interrupted him and quickly reassured him she felt not troubled at all.

”Not a bit, sir... Jonathan...” What a regal name! she rejoiced in her mind. Jonathan laughed relieved and leaned back towards Rosalie happily. Rosalie jumped as her father suddenly called for her and she stepped backwards when she realised how close Jonathan was to her. When’d that happen? she wondered and looked away feeling embarrassed.

”Ah... I must go now”, she said. Jonathan opened his mouth to say something, but seemed to cange his mind and glanced behind him at Rosalie’s father.

”It was a pleasure to have met you, milady”, Jonathan smiled and kissed her hand once more. He held her hand and only let go reluctantly as she passed him by. He stayed there looking at her, as she noted when she glanced back at him a couple of times. Then she was at their carriage and she stepped in without a last look. She smiled innocently at her father.

”Who was that young man you were talking to?” he asked and motioned the driver to start. The carriage jolted a bit and they started home.

”Er, it was that knight who won the tournament. Sir Jonathan Hearthwell he said his name was.”

”Ah, yes, him. Yes, he was very talented, wasn’t he...?” Lord Theodore said and looked thoughtful. Rosalie shrugged and turned to watch the scenery going slowly by. She went over Jonathan’s words to her in her mind and absent-mindedly circled with her finger the place on her left hand where he had kissed her twice. Thinking about Jonathan seemingly liking her made Rosalie feel a little woozy in the bottom of her stomach, but it was such an interesting feeling and so she closed her eyes and thought about Jonathan’s eyes and his warm smile as he said her name out loud... She sighed a little melancholily as she realised that she most likely would never see him again. At least it’s been quite an incredible day, she thought dreamily.