Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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Morality does not come easily to Robena. Many other things do - music, riding, killing. There was not a knight as gifted in form and instinct - all but the morality. That is a thing that must be taught to her, though she has long been a poor student.

You can see it in her eyes, Constance! She does not feel guilt. Her conscience does not twist and writhe. She is not consumed with inner agony. She could stand up and shrug off the chalice like a bear shaking the snow of winter from its back. To confront her with the morality of the hunt is to beseech the lion to lie down with the lamb. Amidst the smooth and sharp lines of Spanish steel, Germanic wood, Turkic leather and English bear hide there is no softness and no kindness.

And yet the pilgrim's armband shows not a blade or banner or roman Chi Rho, but the chalice. And here is a moment where that amoral bear looks away from you to gaze upon the chalice as though listening to it. And now she looks upon you again.

"Constance," she said, that eternal and musical voice of the forest. "I have sinned a great many times in my life. What you saw upon that cursed night was not a momentary lapse, it was the conclusion of a long and dark road. Judgement has already been passed. I have been found guilty. I have accepted my sentence."

She stands, tall and dark and melancholy. "I have since existed in a strange twilight state, a ghost unbound between worlds. I do not pretend that I shall find forgiveness, and I will not torment you by asking for yours. If it comforts your mind, think of me as I think of myself - a restless spirit loose upon the world, doing what good she can because she finds herself enjoying it on its own terms. Because I do enjoy it, Constance. I have found a quiet joy that I never found at the bottom of the tankard. And I will enjoy it as best I can for the few weeks I have left."

Despite her peaceful words - or perhaps because of them - her voice has gone quiet and her eyes distant. A sadness hangs deep and heavy upon her. And perhaps there is something beyond the forest there after all.

"I have but one request," she said. "And that is that you be the one to bury me when this strange dream comes to its end. Not for my sake. Hate is a heavy burden to carry, and I pray that you would be able to bury yours along with me. You are too beautiful and pure and kind to have your life twisted by hatred for the dead."
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“It is not hate for the dead that I would bury at your grave, Sir Coilleghille,” Robena says, each word as deliberate as the steps of a stair. She stands, too, and faces Robena. Here, they can be peers. Her bloodless fingers rest on the gilded back of her chair.

“I will bury us there, Sir Coilleghille. Then we will see what the spring makes of our bed.”

She takes up the skull, conceals it once more in her sleeve, and makes to leave. There is a moment enough for a word more, before she passes through and the castle returns, resumes.
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"I love you," said Robena.

And that is all that remained to her. The words of a ghost, come from a heart twisted with far too living pain. She does not, cannot move and nor shall she till the dawn arises beyond that distant window to send her spirit on.
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Robena

Your words hang in the air, a barrier to the return of anything one could call normal. The world around you is a puppet show. Diners return. There is talking and ambiance, they serve potatoes and salted meats and you eat enough for sustenance though you remember no taste upon your tongue. A trick of the mind, a body functioning without thought, directed from afar. Of Constance there is no further sign through the night. Though you are offered guidance to your room, you rest in your seat at the high table as a statue until the light pulls itself, ever so tentatively, above the rim of the windows and dares to brush the top of your head in a defiant show of warmth.

It is Sir Liana, the younger knight, who greets you in the morning. She enters carrying a simple loaf of bread in a basket in one hand, and a water basin in the other, a towel draped over her arm. "I thought you might be hungry, and perhaps need to refresh yourself" she says with a kind smile, placing the bread on the table and the basin before you. Her face and her manner ask no reply nor word of thanks, but your chivalry may not permit your silence. What words are left to you in response to kindness?

Constance

You pass from that table through the double doors and are met by the returning motley, such as they are (or perhaps you think better of them than to use such a term despite their complicity in Tristan's antics?). Sir Harold offers a reassuring pat on the shoulder, Sir Liana a hopeful smile, and Sir Hector a word of sympathy. Lady Sauvage stops and looks upon you, her face stoic. "Will you deem her worthy, I wonder? Do not hold back against her. If you do not press her and give her the opportunity to show you and us her nobility, I cannot avert her doom. Tomorrow, you should test her purity, and after that her resolve." She too passes into the hall and returns to her meal.

What do you think of that advice? Perhaps reflect on it during your morning ablutions. Surely you're getting up early after Tristan has been pelting you with snowballs so often.

Tristan

Sir Hector grimaces like she just took a bite out of a lemon. "We are gathered to determine our future." She looks at you with a chagrined face that says yes I know that's unhelpful, this isn't easy okay? "It would perhaps be easiest to say that we are here to determine if Robena's fate may be averted. But...that is misleading, it's just one question. We are here too to see what role Robena may play, and what role Constance may play with that sword of hers. And as you are tied intimately with them, so too what role you will play. I am...I was once close to King Uther. I would see things change if I could, but the shape of that change depends on whether Robena lives or dies, on what charge Lady Constance offers to us. I could, perhaps play the role of teacher if Sir Coilleghille fails, but we will be worse for it, nor do I know if Lady Constance will offer this kingdom redemption if Robena dies."

Sir Hector looks at you then Tristan. "And I would be lying if told you I did not think the lady's affections misguided. That so much should hang on this one knight is unfair at best." And she doesn't say I'm jealous but she might as well have written it on a banner and displayed it upon her tabard for how obvious it is to you both.

But then the doors open and Constance walks out and the knights return to their dinner leaving you, Mort (scratching his head in confusion) and Constance. You have the evening and morning to share your plans. You are making plans, yes? Did you want to go out hunting with the group? Or perhaps you need to cheer Constance yet again, given the ghastly look on her face and the skull in her hand.
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"Sir Liana, as you live, never disappoint a maiden," said Robena. "Even the grave is no release for the chains your heart will be made to wear."

Robena pauses, tired and grumpy. Something about pouring one's heart out to a pretty stranger just didn't feel the same when sober. In no mood for flirting, commentary, or maintaining her mortal coil in general she released the tension in her elbow which sent her face plummeting unsupported directly down into the basin. She listlessly let her head bob under the water for a moment before she came to the conclusion that she was too hungry to drown in her handbasin. She raised her head, dripping wet, and miserably took a bearlike bite of the bread and chewed it with grim determination.

She was in luck, though. She'd have a day to rest and saturate in her misery. After yesterday's hunt only the devil herself would have the energy to go riding again.
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Purity.

The water is clear. She can see herself stretched out in it, a landscape. An island. White cliffs lapped by the sea. Untouched. The way we all were before Brutus arrived, before the Arimathean came with his cross.

Purity.

A chalice that can be torn away and trodden on is no chalice at all. A pilgrim who only keeps on the road as it suits her is no pilgrim, either. Devotion is an all-consuming thing, and the Chi Ro demands so much. The circle only requires that you yield, that you not break yourself by trying to push against it, that you accept each in turn: the spring, the summer, the autumn and the winter. Yet Robena is a follower of the Xristos, and if that is where her heart lies, let her hold to it. Let her hold fast.

Purity.

Constance rallies together a motley band of servants and squires to create the centerpiece of a mystery play in the courtyard. Dig but a little in the hard earth, and the water comes bubbling forth. Dig but a little, and set the saplings there to shroud the fountain. Dig but a little, as Constance does, her pale shoulders straining, and set the flagstones in place: each one with the chalice. Let her tread upon it, and let her be tested once more.

Prepare her wardrobe, Tristan. Tonight the Lady Constance wears green, and drapes dappled scales around her shoulders. Tonight, she offers Sir Coilleghille the knowledge of weal and woe.
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The time for revelry is at an end. The reserves have been filled as much as they may, and now the siege. Now it is his job to shoulder what load he can without complaint.

Revelations 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 20:2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.


If Constance is to be a serpent in a garden of purity, then it is important she be the right one. Tristan may not know the full significance of the symbol of a dragon to Sir Coilleghille, but if any were to inform him the full meaning of what he is doing, it would only be met with a grim and self-deprecating laugh. And then the work would continue.

Here is what Tristan understands: Constance is to be temptation. It is something you hate yourself for wanting. It is something that you would consider yourself weak for giving in to, and yet provokes the need to give in. To surrender is wonderful, to overcome is misery.

It is the choice between going to bed with a loneliness that aches, or a night with someone you truly love followed by a deceit that must be maintained for every day that follows. What consolation days without fear during the nights alone?

How to evoke the feeling of serpentine temptation in a dress? It is the shedding of layers of skin that gives Tristan his inspiration to use twelve layers of gossamer organza, the bottom layer being a form fitting dress which, regrettably, must be stitched firm. The only way to remove it now is to destroy it, by hand or by blade. Buttons and ties would ruin the effect. Besides, it suits the metaphor.

The subsequent layers have been prepared like bookbinding signatures, in sheets of three. A minimum amount of attachment at the shoulders, waist and knees to preserve the tightness of the form, with room to flex and twist along the body so that each layer might reveal its translucence best. The final shape suggests a wedding dress, though it is far too indecent for that purpose.

Light passes through the fringes of the dress freely, blending to opaque only at the last. With a source of light behind Constance, it evokes a radiant halo around her form. Each layer sings transparent and fragile. Each whispers how easy it must be to tear. It teases, too, at how wonderful it would be to be the one to tear it. It is so close to revealing, and yet, and yet, and yet. Each twist in that light assures you surely, surely this is the movement that reveals what lies beneath, but it will not.

To disperse the dress over so many layers also gives voice to that most dangerous of temptation's weapons: There is enough here that it would be possible to stop before things go too far. Just one, to sate the curiosity, and no further. A steady slope is more inviting than a sheer drop, though both lead to the same rock bottom.

There is a final touch to this. The neckline at the rear of the dress plunges deep down to the small of her back. The view of so much exposed skin is obstructed only by two short trains emerging from the shoulder blades. Some pinch pleating, and an upward inflection, is all that is necessary to give the effect of delicately curled wings. The promise of the skin beneath sings most sweetly behind the clearest reminder of serpentine nature.

It is not just for Sir Coilleghille's that Tristan sharpens this weapon of temptation. For Constance this will be armor, as impregnable as it is fragile. Let this be a citadel of self-confidence that will stand against any wave of doubt. Let her know that she is wanted, that she is desirable, and that she can be on the other end of heart break.

This is a monument of work. This is what Tristan does. So much tailoring frees him to talk to whoever would be interested, or interested in helping. But it leaves him little time for anything else.

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Robena

"I hope you shall soon be refreshed with the energy to go riding again!" Lady Liana offers to you, the chipperness in her tone worthy of being tied to a bed for the entire day as punishment. "I admit it is unusual," she says more cautiously, seeing your weary face. "One would expect a day of feasting and revelry, but the Lady Sauvage has declared that we shall do three great hunts in succession and so there will be no rest. I'm sorry, you know. I ought to have said something last night but, well, you know, we had certain obligations with regard to the dinner." She makes a face that suggests she did not think much of the pomp and circumstance. She is younger than the other knights, perhaps her duty chafes at her. Regardless, she offers you a hand. "You and I are to be hunting a hart today. The lady will observe, but we are to take the lead. I am told it appears only to those knights of purity and the Lady says that is why I ought to lead with you." She blushes, a light dust of rosy pink, and makes to lead you to the stables to begin the hunt.

Tristan

You are joined by Mort, who has chosen not to join the hunting party today and Sir Harold, who seems more than a little bemused at your needlework as he smokes by the window. It is Mort who speaks first as he holds some pins on your behalf. "Shouldn't we...do something" he says helplessly, clearly unaware that you are both, in fact, doing something. "Lady Robena is here, and all these knights obviously have something to hide..." he gives sir Harold a shrug and receives one in return, the man is obviously fine with Mort's discomfiture. "I just...feel so helpless and I know you're trying to help the Lady Constance's spirits but it feels like, like we're wasting time." He hands you another pin at your request and looks at you with all the frustration of a youth who barely half a year prior thought he knew the entirety of his place in the world.

Constance

There is first, a hunt. Joining this, alone is forbidden to you for it is a different aspect of Robena's penance and testing. Only Lady Liana and Lady Sauvage of the knights have gone out this day though. They are hunting a hart, you have heard, and apparently Hector and Harold would not contribute. At least that's what they think, you had always heard from your grandmother that the sort of purity harts look for is about purpose and drive, not youth and virginity.

With the lady absent, you are, despite being a guest, the authority in the castle. Tristan is busy making dresses with Mort and Harold if you care to join them. The servants are working on your mystery play (though they may need guidance if you'd see fit to give them your time). And Sir Hector, Robena's accuser of the prior knight, is working out in the front yard of the castle, her raven hair flying behind her and sweat gleaming on her brow as she practices her sword work with an intensity that mirrors your own. This last, of course, you merely happened to notice in passing from a castle window and have certainly not been gazing out that window for the last, say, twenty minutes.

Where then will you spend your time as Robena takes on the hunt?
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There is a special kind of resentment that the human heart reserves for those who make it feel old. Robena's dislike for Lady Liana is immediate and defensive. It's a reaction to a criticism unvoiced and undreamed, a criticism that only exists in the weary creak of Robena's back and the lull of her eyelids. She feels like she should explain that she was up all night pining - but that excuse weighs against the fact that she has spent many nights awake and pining and was always able to bounce back the following morning for another day on the road. Perhaps the heartbreak is worse this time, or perhaps Lady Liana's feather mattress is enchanted with the gift of blessed sleep, or perhaps she is some faerie facsimile conjured by Constance to torment her.

Robena restrains her sigh and her grumble. A hart. Xrisos, she hates hunting harts. Apricot loathes prolonged chase and she has to employ foul language from every corner of the Mediterranean to keep his pace up. And of course, if she encourages her horse in the manner he is accustomed to, she will seem very far from purity indeed. Especially in contrast to this pioneer willow girl who likely urges her horse to a full gallop with bats of her eyelashes and earnest speeches about the sacred bond between knight and horse.

"Very well, then," said Robena with a smile that was more like a grimace. When she was in Jerusalem a Bedouin trader crushed some dark seeds into a warm drink that was the equal to a week's rest. She hadn't carried any of those back to England either. Fool.

Perhaps by the afternoon she will concern herself with the state of her soul once more, but sleeplessness cares not for the devil. She seeks the stable.
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Tristan understands the feeling well. The need to be doing, always. He is a troll hunter so obsessed with readiness that he has the skills to sew an elaborate dress, just in case. And here it is, the case for it.

"We do everything we can. This is what I can do, and so it is what I am useful doing." Tristan stabs his thumb with the pin, winces. The material makes it so hard to judge depth. "If you can think of something better, I'm with you. But being useful is not always feeling it, and feeling useful is not always being it."

Tristan raises his head a bit. "How about you, Sir Harold? Any suggestions for better efforts?" The question is earnest and devoid of sarcasm. Clearly he knows more than he's telling. But maybe he can suggest around what he's clearly not supposed to say directly.

If he has any, it best he speak before Tristan has to work with the sheers again. Cutting the fabric neatly has been a nightmare.
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When Constance enters the room, for a moment the activity stops. Harold, Mort, even Tristan; everyone looks up to see her, as strong and fragile as ice. Then she takes a seat beside Mort and takes up needle and thread.

It is only once they are working on the hemming that she says, unprovoked, in the middle of an entirely separate conversation: “She professed her love.” She does not say the words loudly, but they cut through the room like a knife all the same. “As if I could,” she says, and then falters. “As if we were,” and again the words wither away in her mouth, dry and brittle like the dying crops, like the broken heads of corn, like the earth without rain.

Constance’s folk were always closest to the land. Perhaps it is not so strange that she has suffered long over this past year. Perhaps Britain’s weakness is hers, in turn. Perhaps Britain does not know what to do with the love given it, either.
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Tristan and Constance

"My advice..." Sir Harold says, taking a long puff of his pipe and stroking his chin, "is to think long-term. Assume you save this lady knight of yours, what then? Your lady has a sword to give away, and a kingly sword at that I've heard. Why, in my youth I'd have made a go at deserving it myself. You see, when I was younger, I served alongside King Uther, just King, as I may have mentioned and..."

Alas, or perhaps rejoice, that Sir Harold does not make it to more than the start of his story of youth and adventure when Constance walks in and crashes the room more thoroughly than ten harts pursued through it with leaps and bounds.

"Her...her love?" Sir Harold's mouth hangs on. "I well...that is...er...quite something, I'd say. I um...perhaps, well, what do you make of that offer my lady?" He puffs again and blows smoke up to the ceiling where it fades away among the criss-crossing rafters. "Does this weigh on the matter of her redemption?" His ask is tentative and you can see in his eyes a certain fear that he may have asked the wrong question entirely.

Robena
Lady Liana accompanies you meekly, following two handspans behind you to the stables. She recognizes your foul mood and assumes that she gave offense, but does not know the reason why nor give voice to such gauche things as to beg your forgiveness. Her walk and her stance suggest that perhaps she fears the bread was too mean and she ought to have brought sweets, but she does not voice that either.

Her voice is for her horse. A broad-shouldered white mare, she gives a whinny and a questing look that quickly finds a sugar cube in Liana's palm. Liana murmurs quietly to the horse, whose name is Apple, and tells her what a good girl she is as she takes her treat. Only when that ritual is complete does she fetch the blankets and make up her saddle, finally taking Apples reins to lead her from the stable once you are ready.

How do you prepare for the hunt in turn?
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Oh, Xristos. Now you've done it!

Apricot sets his heels in. He's seen enough. The sweet salt is on offer and he will not take a single step until he has received his due. Blasted beast! Idiot girl! That stuff must have come all the way from Arabia in the pockets of a pilgrim who knew better than to drag holy relics, and might have paid for a fine dagger! To give it to a horse!? In front of her horse!? Where in this blasted, foggy island was she supposed to find sugar!?

Suffice it to say, she and Apricot were not destined to get along today. He had his demands and she was too impoverished to meet them even if they had been reasonable. Knight and steed lock eyes. He knows he will have no profit from this, and yet he stamps his foot for the principle of the thing mattered.

[Undertake great labour: 9]

There were no negotiations. They both knew they were past that. He had his demands - assault Liana from behind like a brigand and rifle through her pockets for spare sugar. She had the state of her soul in the face of her impending death preventing her.

So it came to strength once more.

Apricot was an unusually large and strong horse - but he had to be, for Robena was an unusually large and strong woman. He had mass and bulk on his side but she had a lower center of gravity and boots that gripped better on the slippery stone, along with the low cunning to spill water from his trough to make the ground more slippery still. The reins were useless here - if they were the point of contact between the strength of knight and horse they'd snap in no time. Instead she gripped him in a headlock and hauled as he did his best to bite her. It was hard going, and at one time he got his teeth around her gauntlet and left dents in the steel. But after a morning of sweating and straining and doing her best to keep her vocabulary Xristian, at last she pulls Apricot into the daylight. Immediately his stomach got the better of him and he gave up the struggle to go and chew on the grass by the side of the path while Robena wheezed for breath.

Bastard horse.
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"How can it not?" Constance does not snap. It is too inward-facing to be a snap. "If I absolve her of her wrongdoing, how can it not be because I am compromised? If I condemn her, is it not the same? And what does it say of me, that the brute feels emboldened to say this to me the first time we have seen each other in a year's time? And what does it say of me, that I do not know whether I am frightened or yearning? By the Hunter and the Mother, I do not know if I want to split her in half or if--"

She strangles the words. Her needle flashes like a sword. She can control this; she has done the work before, even by candlelight, working as much by feel as by sight, and as much through experience as either. What she has not done is this. Every mediation between the world and the divine is a performance, more art than skill. You cannot learn how to stand in the place between; you can only learn the skills to do so.

"I am not here for myself," she murmurs. "I am the turning point of the Wheel. I am the door that she must pass through. And that is my punishment. All I can do-- all I should do-- is play my part. If I do that, then..."

Then she will be absolved. Then Pellinore's eyes will leave her be. Then she will not see these eyes widen, over and over again, as Robena drives the axe into Pellinore to the very haft; the confusion, the betrayal, the accusation. That Constance was in collusion; that she was a traitor, a liar, a villain; that she betrayed her very nature as a holy woman. And if part of her believed that Pellinore deserved that death, that the land must be refreshed with the blood of the guilty, then how could she believe anything less of Robena?

"I caused the blow," she says, for the first time. "I cannot give her forgiveness. It is only my place to reveal her heart, that others may judge us. It is only mine to do the task in front of me. That, and nothing more."

A tear blots the delicate fabric; Constance lowers it into her lap with shaking hands.

"Nothing more."
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Tristan shrugs, a slow and liquid gesture like slipping off a heavy mantle cloak. Learn the skills, and do the work that is in front of you; This he understands. The rest? Not so much. Tristan has never been afraid of revealing his ignorance by asking questions.

"I am making you into temptation itself, I hope." Tristan explains. "I can't tell you how you'll feel, or how you should feel. But temptation is frightening, so you will be frightening to her. How does that make you feel? Will you enjoy having that power over her? The temptation is a yearning, and she will yearn for you. How does that make you feel? If she withstands temptation, will you be proud, or disappointed? If she gives in, will you say 'no', to renounce responsibility for her actions? Or will you say 'yes', believing you both deserving of forgiveness? Or will you say 'yes', wishing you could say 'no'?"

“If you ask me for my judgement? I think Sir Coilleghille needs to learn the pain of being forgiven."
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"Forgiveness."

The Christians speak much on forgiveness: its power, its worth, its value. They neglect to explain, then, why their god will only offer it when his bloodlust is satiated on his own son. Is it because any forgiveness must include pain? Is it because, if there is not suffering, it will be forgotten, and forgiveness turn to wickedness turn to a new need for forgiveness?

There is no need for cruelty. No need to punish those that stumble beyond what they deserve. Why then does she want to see Robena suffer?

Because then her own need to suffer is obviated. Because she blames herself for showing Robena what England has become, for setting her on the path that led to the axe being buried in Pellinore's back. Because she blames herself for speaking, for thinking she could end battle with nothing more than the glory of her name and station. For thinking that she controlled Robena, that Robena was a piece in her game she was playing against the absent King and his servants. And if Robena does not suffer, then Constance must ask herself whether she deserves to suffer; and that is a terrifying thought.

"Forgiveness," she says, and takes the needle back up from where her slack fingers let it fall. "Do you think she understands the wrong she has done me, let alone the wrong she did to Pellinore? Do you think she knows her need for it? I do not know. And that is why we must find out. Whether she craves it more than she craves her life. I must be temptation, I must be desire, for only the Robena who could turn me away could stand before Pellinore and seek forgiveness. That is a funny joke, isn't it? The kind that you like, Tristan? Only if she rejects me may she have me. If she embraces me, I will see her dead by midwinter. Ha ha."

And then, Constance, you do not need to ask yourself if you love a woman who does not deserve to be forgiven, and you will not need to ask yourself whether you will forgive her for the pain she has caused you, and you do not need to know the answer. Things will be so painfully, sharply simple if Robena succumbs. That was how the old kings did it, and that is how the land still is: if you break the rules, whether or not you know them, you will die.

But if you cannot see or know the laws, how will you know when you are trapped inside them yourself?
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"Maybe that's what you're supposed to do." Tristan puts the stitch down. He lets the barb go unremarked upon. He's thinking too hard now. He's thinking again to what he could have lost, that night. "That's the pain of forgiveness. To understand how much you needed it only by getting it, and only by getting it being able to lose it again. To have to earn it only after being entrusted with it. I know she would work hard to win you back. But how much harder to not fail you again?"

"I live in the shadow of the failure I will make one day." Tristan can't meet Constance's eye. Or anyone else's. "And when that day comes, I suspect I will feel relief, because only when I drop my burdens will I no longer have to shoulder them. But I fear dropping them more than anything. I could never shoulder them again unless they were put upon me. But I will fear the next drop all the harder, because I will know the shame of the first, and the load will be heavier for carrying it. I will need someone else to trust me before I can believe I am deserving of trust. It might be the same with her." Or with you? He doesn't say, but wonders.

He shakes his head. Clears the thoughts like cobwebs. A queasy smile. "Give her forgiveness and she will need to deserve it, I think. Temptation can be a good thing, too. It can be the reason we endure suffering at all. And if you can't forgive her, how could Pellinore?"

Or yourself, he thinks, but again doesn't say. That would be to overstep his place. That he understands.
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Robena

You manage the horse. Would you dare even think of him by name at this moment, lest you give him additional power? The balance is so tentative. Nevertheless, you are mounted, outside the barn, and Lady Liana (who had the presence of mind not to get anywhere near you during the contest) offers you a sympathetic look that is either the deepest empathy you have ever received in your long travels or scalds you to your very soul. Perhaps both all at once.

Nevertheless, and despite the ache in your muscles, the retribution your mount is sure to wreck upon you, and the lack of proper sleep pounding behind your eyes, there is a hunt to be had! Though you and Liana shall be the only knights leading the chase, there is still to be train. The Lady Sauvage meets the two of you, mounted today on a black stallion that she reigns with a strong and steady hand. Beside her are two scouts in the light gray browns used for moving in a deep winter forest, who have already picked up the trail of the hart for you, and a group of grooms and squires, three each for you and Liana to carry such equipment and victuals as you and your horse may need for the day.

The houndmaster too makes a return and she and her dogs have grins for you. That battle was hard fought the previous day and they know someone they can respect. There is, at least, this solace.

Liana looks to you as the senior knight despite your mendicant status, as does the Lady, who will be riding some distance back and is deferring to your leadership. How then the hunt?

Tristan, Constance

Sir Harold is crying. A few muffled tears strike his lit pipe and put it out. He looks aghast at himself, clearly aware that he should not be interrupting this moment, but he cannot seem to help it.

“I’m sorry” he says. “I have never sought forgiveness and none has been offered. I foreswore my oaths as a king and vassal near on twenty years ago. I...I’m sorry, really, I should not have...I, please ignore an old man. I am just here to see things are attended to.”
Hidden 18 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Thanqol

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Robena was in no mood for heroics today.

The traditional form of the hunt in the English way was an eight part quest involving the glorious pursuit of the hart until it could run no longer, at which point it would halt and bay and a knight would move in with a sword to slay it in heroic battle. She knew, though, that was not the only option. The Germans had a style based on stealth and patience, advancing slowly and cautiously over ground, using their horses as cover until they were close enough to fire with arrows. And would that not be such a wonderfully relaxing method of hunt on a day when she ached so? Wouldn't it be suited to her horse's temperament, and her own? Wouldn't it guarantee a bounty of meat, to win with stealth and cunning, and would not the meat be all the sweeter when its life was taken unsuspecting?

Robena stares at her horse who chuffs his vote. If this was to be her last time hunting a hart on this earth, why could it not at least be an easy one? Perhaps even Constance would agree it would be kinder to kill gently -

She stops, her face like iron, and she stares the Devil Sloth straight in his equine eye. No! "Set the hound relays," she said, "and ready the horses for chase. We hunt par force."

This was not an easy decision. Even after she had made it she felt tired. Even after she made it she felt like listing into second and third place in the ride, 'accidentally' giving up her position. She resisted, step by step. Xristos bled three days and nights before the chalice was full, and the hart likewise had no easy chance to avoid suffering. Even if she had dishonoured herself she would not dishonour them, as she had dishonoured Constance.
Hidden 18 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Tatterdemalion Trickster-in-Veils

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Constance looks to Sir Harold. Then she looks to him again; she opens her eyes in a way she had not before and looks at him. And she sees; she witnesses; she accepts. That is one of the roles of the priestess, after all; she is a mediator not just between the supernatural and the ordinary, but between the varied selves that surround each and every one, waiting for their moment to be born.

She reaches out and takes his hand, her skin like alabaster, his rough and weathered by sun and sleet. The pressure is gentle, but her arm forms the arc of a bridge that could stand a thousand years and never fall.

"I cannot forgive you," she says. "But I can sit with you until the pain is gone. You will forever be an oathbreaker, but... thank you, Sir Harold. For reminding me that that is not all you will ever be. I cannot wash it white as snow, but I can tell you know that you are in the process of becoming something new. The oak's scars do not fully heal, and yet the leaves grow green. It is only that-- she must want. She must want to shed her skin and be new."

Like the snake. Like the year. Like a god. Like a king, in the days before Man ruled Britain.

Like the snake, which ate the herb called immortality. And that is why there is Death, and Pellinore will one day submit and rest and sigh no more. And that, too, is why Constance will wear scales and molts in the garden. For the serpent is sacred in its theft.
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