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Aidan charges at the quintain, his horse steadily picking up speed…
Aidan’s horse moves at a quick canter towards the quintain…
Aidan lowers his lance, aims at the pristine shield and ...
... strikes the shield a devastating blow that leaves it battered and makes the lance flex ominiously!
A squire rushes up to clear away the shards and splinters that Andry reduced the shield to. After a few moments, he hangs up a brand new one.
An early morning, clear and cool, sees the Red Keep’s nobility rousing (the servants have already been hard at it before the sun was even up). The yard resounds to the crack of lance against shield and the spin of the quintain, the thunder of hooves and the sparring of men-at-arms. Ser Aidan Dayne is among those up early, riding in fine style, and a few of his fellow Sons of the Spear watch and await their turn.
Holding up his lance after his latest pass, Ser Aidan seems to examine it with a critical eye, though it’s hard to tell with the bellows-visor down. He hands it off to his squire, however, as other knights take their turns tilting at the device. He lets the horse walk a little ways away, past sparring knights and suspicious guardsmen, raising the visor as he does so.
She really does think red is not her color (Desmona believes it makes her skin seem sallow, given how pale she is), but nothing will deter her from wearing the red and black of her House, with just a touch of gold thrown in to represent her maternal line. Her daily constitutional when there’s no other exercise to be had takes her past the quintain, and seeing the knights currently tilting, takes a moment to pause and observe with evident interest on her face.
A glimpse of black hair and pale skin, caught from a corner of the eye, seems to distract Ser Aidan; he turns sharply as the horse rides past, craning his neck to try and look ‘round a horseman passing by. His expression shifts, from a kind of grimness to .... to something. And then back again, when recognition dawns. Yet he was ever a courteous knight, Dornishman though he is, and he directs his horse to the lady as another of his brethren thunders past to slam lance against shield.
“Lady Desmona,” he says aloud, over the regular din. “A good morning to you, my lady.”
Desmona’s chin comes up just slightly, not just out of pride, but because the knight is on a horse. “Ser Aidan,” she replies smoothly, “Good morning to you. I see you’re doing quite well against the quintain; I hope I am not disrupting you?” Her fingers lace in front of her as she observes Aidan with such a mild expression that it might be suspect.
“No, my lady,” Ser Aidan replies. “We take turns, and it will be awhile yet for me. Danyll’s fetching a new lance for me, however.” As if to add emphasis to what he’s saying, another Dornishman in a coat of scales above robes of red and black—very like Desmona’s colors, in fact—shatters the shield with a terrific blow as he goes charging past.
Aidan’s horse nods its head once, twice, and then snuffles in the direction of the Blackwood maiden; a twitch of the reins reminds it towards its duty, however. “I have heard that an uncle of yours has arrived,” Aidan remarks. “Ser Jonald? I saw him at Ser Sarmion’s tourney, I believe, but have never met him.”
“May I?” she asks, extending a slim hand toward the beast. Slim and ladylike, but not frail or soft, that hand. “I do quite appreciate horses.” To his comment, “Oh yes, he is newly arrived.” she says with some seeming indifference. “I’ve not seen him yet, but I’m sure I will.” Interesting, her seeming lack of interest toward her family, but her visible interest in his horse.
A pensive expression flits across the knight’s face. Then Ser Aidan loosens the reins a little, and the horse—seeming to have understood the conversation—again snuffs in Desmona’s direction. A shift of weight in the saddle sends it side-stepping nearer to her, but not too close; the Knight of the Twilight a consummate horseman, as well. “Have a care,” Aidan warns mildly. “He worships his belly, and will soon enough expect an apple or some other sweet.”
A moment after, however, he says, “And Lady Aisling, your cousin? I have heard she was ill. I wondered if you’d heard something more of her? Or visited her?” His skill at dissimulation is woeful compared to his courtesy and horsemanship; his concern is plain, though he tries to mask it with an attempt at off-hand conversation.
Desmona acts in a possibly surprising manner. She shifts to the side slightly, so she’s not in the horse’s blind spot, the beast can actually see her. The movement of her hand is slow, he can see what’s coming without a panic, and gently rests her hand on the horse’s forehead/forelock. Stroking, she murmurs in a low, calm tone, “I’m sorry I’ve no apples or sugar in my pocket for you.” It’s not the simpering coo of a little girl, she’s just a very calm horsewoman currently on her feet rather than a horse of her own. Her eyes flick up to Aidan. “And how did you come to know my dear cousin?” she inquires in polite curiousity. Nothing more than that, of course!
“After three years at court as the king’s hostage,” says Aidan, “it would be strange if I had not made her acquaintance.” If the quirk of his lips is an attempt at a smile, it’s a poor one; the eyes above it seem anxious. He adds, “She has a sand steed,” as if that would explain much; the rare, beautiful horses of Dorne, much-prized and even now only a score might be counted among all the horses in King’s Landing.
To say that Desmona isn’t jealous of that would be a lie, but to her credit it’s not shown in her face. She’ll sulk later. “Did you give it to her?” she fences a question yet again. “It would be an extravagant gift.” For a woman she hasn’t heard he’s courting, if that were the case. She’s not been at Court for so long, she really doesn’t have her finger on the pulse of things yet. It’s quite frustrating.
The smash of lance against shield behind him matches the moment that Ser Aidan blinks, brows furrowing. “No,” he says, and now he’s a little curt. “She purchased it, from a knight who had brought it from Dorne. A very handsome stallion, black, trained for .... well, for some knight.” A Dornish knight, but he omits that. “But it was lame, and the knight who had him was happy to sell.” There’s more that he’s omitting, obviously; but he doesn’t say. Instead he glances towards the knight’s on the quintain, to measure how much longer before he goes, as he says, “In any case, I thought mayhaps you knew how she fared.”
His own horse—a solid, heavy hunter, whose lineage is nowise as fine as a pureblood sand steed of Dorne—sniffs at Desmona’s hand some more and then, rather imperiously, begins to stretch its neck to snuffle at her gown, mouthing at folds and lacings to see if some treat will turn up.
Desmona lets out a laugh at the horse’s efforts, and backs away before he becomes too adamant about his search. Next time, she thinks, she will indeed bring some sugars in her pocket, maybe an apple. “We have not communicated in some time. I’m sorry to disappoint you.” But now she’s definitely going to write a letter. “I find I can’t really enjoy riding in the city. Too crowded, I need space. So my exercise is restricted to where my feet can carry me. When I do exchange with Aisling, shall I offer her your regard?” Her eyes flick back up to him, direct and unwavering.
The horse’s begging makes itself plain as it tries to jerk its head nearer to Desmona, and with some pressure of his legs and a click of his tongue, Aidan masters it once more and pulls it back. “Rude beast!” he admonishes, but it’s said with a fond warmth. His mood for a moment lightens. But when his gaze—blue shading towards violet—matches Desmona’s, it turns awkward. “My regard? Ah… yes, please, my lady; thank you. I hope she is well, or will soon be well,” the Dornishman says.
Then, an abrupt pause, and he looks down more closely at the maiden; he thinks to add something more. And then it’s gone, with a faint shake of his head. “Just my regard, if you please, with my thanks.” Just then, another knight tries to set the quintain to spinning, and earns some chiding laughs and jests as he does not strike the shield square: it spins round, the wooden ball at the end of a flail ringing off his helmet as he doesn’t quite manage to race past its reach. At the same time, Aidan’s squire Danyll can be seen hurrying up with a lance more than twice as long as he is tall.
“Of course. I’ll so enjoy speaking to Aisling, I’m simply /dying/ to know how you two met?” Her tone is perfectly conversational, but she’s found the hook and set her barb. There’s absolutely nothing to indicate in her expression that she likes the idea of making him squirm. At least she likes his horse. She does wince at the knight’s plight behind him, noting idly, “It’s good fortune that most knights have such hard skulls in addition to your helms.”
Aidan starts to speak, when Danyll comes up and manages, “It’s your turn, ser,” sounding out of breath. He offers up the lance and adds, “I had to fetch a bundle of tourney lances from the other end of the castle, ser; the master-at-arms wouldn’t lend any more from the armory!”
“Well done, Danyll,” Ser Aidan tells the youth, before turning his attention back to Desmona. “Pardon me a moment, my lady,” he tells her. His hand raises up, and carefully lowers the visor of his helm once more—now he is much like any other Dornish knight, though the white and lilac enamel on the scales of his armor declares him to be of House Dayne. A neat turn, and he directs his horse back towards the quintain. One of the Dornishman says loudly to a compatriot, “No wonder Tanyth pines; the day a Qartheen beauty appears, our Knight of the Twilight will be quite lost!” There’s a laugh, or two; but not from Aidan, whose helmeted head turns that way. Then, he spurs towards the quintain.
Aidan charges at the quintain, his horse rapidly picking up speed…
Aidan’s horse moves at a rapid gallop toward the quintain…
Aidan lowers his lance, aims at the pristine shield and ...
... strikes the shield a remarkable blow that raises splinters from its battered face and splinters his lance to kindling!
Desmona claps politely as she watches him barrage the quintain with great sound and fury. Her expression is thoughtful as she studies him, but also carefully reserved. If any of the knights are studying her, she doesn’t seem to notice; she lacks the coquettish self-awareness that many ladies of the court do. It comes from thinking that one’s advantage is cleverness rather than beauty.
A few whistles, and then uneasy laughs, and then just uneasy looks among the Dornishmen—mostly focused on the one who made his odd joke—after Aidan rides back slowly. He passes the man by, his horse at a slow walk. Ser Aidan drops the shattered remnant of his lance at his feet, giving the other knight a brief glance, and a brief nod, before spurring his horse to a trot back to where Desmona is.
After a few moments, the knights resume their tilting at the quintain, a few speaking in low voices to one another as they wait their turn, and glancing towards Aidan and Desmona. The Knight of the Twilight, stopping his horse before her, raises the visor once more. “My pardons, again,” Ser Aidan says, now quite grave.
“It’s no matter.” she says smoothly. She has a knack for raising her voice so that it’s heard without it actually shouting or seeming course; the sound just carries. “I detest men who claim themselves knights, but find their sole claim to the title of Ser the sharpness of their blade and not their wit as well. I admire that you understand the necessity of both, Ser Aidan.” Perhaps it’s less about him and more about those buffoons, but -gasp!- she does seem to mean it as she looks up at him.
Turning in the saddle, Aidan looks back to the other men a moment and then says, “Thank you, my lady. But they are good knights, and good men. Some have ... a rough view of humor, mayhaps. The stones and sands are unforgiving in Dorne, mayhaps that’s why.” A longer pause, as he regards her, then tries a vague smile. “I’m proud to call most of them comrades-in-arms, Sons of the Spear.” And indeed, most wear a badge like a sun, where each ray is a spear, upon a robe or surcoat, as Aidan does.
“So what makes you the exception in terms of grace to lady, and not the rule with regard to the men of your land, Ser Aidan?” Her eyes stay on him, unflinching, analyzing him from the top of his helm to the tip of his boots, and not bothering to hide the fact that he’s being weighed and measured. It’s not lascivious, but there’s still something very frank about it. It might make more sense if she were a man.
An unexpected question, one that Aidan does not have an immediate answer to; but he regards Desmona more thoughtfully as he considers it. Finally he offers, “Mayhaps it’s because of Starfall. The isle is pleasant, more fertile and less harsh than the mountains and the deserts that make up the rest of Dorne. The Torentine gives us the water we need, the Summer Sea is bountiful with fish, the meadows are well enough for our flocks and herds…” He shifts in the saddle, uncomfortably. “Perhaps its mildness makes the Daynes milder.” It’s a diffident statement, at the end.
hen Danyll, who has been looking curiously at Desmona, pipes up, “Oh, ser. Tanyth was at the Kitchen Keep, and wanted to see you. She had some news.” At that, Aidan’s attention immediately turns to his squire. “News?” he asks. “What kind?” There’s a hint of eager expectation ... soon dashed by frustration when Danyll shrugs.
“Thank you, Lady Desmona, for your pleasant company,” Aidan then says, half-bowing from the saddle, metal armor clinking at the motion. “And I thank you, for conveying my regards to Lady Aisling. A good day to you, my lady.” And with that, the Dornishman departs.
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