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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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frogbeastegg

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When the banners of the approaching cavalcade could be clearly identified Fulk knew a moment of panic. Could this be planned? Rubbing the place where his nose had healed crooked, he laughed at himself for a fool. He was leaving Hugh's court and heading south. She'd been in the south for weeks, and of course would need to head to court sooner or later. Devious as his wife was, she would not have a travel party drawn up and waiting so she could run into him.

Some fifty paces distant Eleanor's party halted and a single figure rode out ahead, reining in once the distance was halfway closed.

Fulk held up a hand to call his own entourage to a halt. What could he do? The time for avoiding her was past, by his own decision and by his king's orders. But to talk in the middle of the king's highway with some hundred or more people looking on? Absurd! Even before the consideration she'd be unhappy with the first half of what he had to say - by design. If their marriage as a whole was to survive certain things needed killing once and for all.

"Wait here," he ordered, setting his spurs to his horse and riding out in front. He'd keep this to a minimum. No audience laughing behind their hands as his wife flattened him in righteous fury. Or the audience making her keep that fury in check. That talk must wait for another day.

After an uncomfortable moment she was the first to speak, bowing her head in meek greeting, "Good day, my lord."

Fulk was content to merely sit there and drink in the sight of her.

"You are still angry." Then she looked up from under her eyelashes, and then looked him fully in the face all trace of meekness gone. "Christ's bones, what happened to you?!"

"Ah." Fulk gingerly touched his black eye. "That."

"Yes, that."

Your brother thinks I'm scum and unbent from his lofty throne long enough to punch me, Fulk thought. "Oh, nothing much. Minor mishap. Looks more dramatic than in truth it is."

"I hope you returned the mishap and with extra." Eleanor cocked her head to the side. "It does rather spoil your looks, you know. Perhaps you should wear your full-head helm for a while in order to maintain your stature as a dashing knight?"

And that was why he loved her. He tightened his grip on his horse's reins so he wouldn't reach out to her. "I have missed you, my gooseberry."

"And I you, my luflych little knight."

This was impossible. He could not stay without getting over-friendly and then it would be harder still when came the time to tell her what he'd done. "I assume you are on some business. Very well; meet me at Woburn when you are done." He began to pull his horse around.

Eleanor leaned across and caught his mount's bridle. "That is all?"

"I will not discuss the particulars of my marriage in the middle of a road, my lady, no matter how content you may be to do so."

"Of course not. Why not accompany me?"

"It will help nothing. You are about your work and I-" Fulk broke off at the sight of a lone female rider heading out to them as some haste. "Who is that?"

Eleanor turned to look. "Adele," she growled. "My sister. And I may guess why."

The lady who drew her horse to a stamping halt next to them could never be taken as anyone other than Eleanor's sister. Fulk found himself fascinated; should you ignore the facial differences it was like looking at Eleanor with curves and a hand more height. Softer, gentler, and with the physical maturity which came from motherhood.

"And you must be my sister's husband," Adele said, smiling radiantly and making a polite inclination of her head which was unnecessary from someone of her rank to his.

Behind Adele Eleanor scowled.

And like that the moon eclipsed the sun. "Yes, I do indeed have that great pleasure." Fulk kneed his horse so it sidestepped, clearing Adele from his view of his wife. "If you will forgive my rudeness, we were making our goodbyes. I know you're pressed for time." He reached out for Eleanor's hand, and once he held it he pressed it tenderly to his lips. "My lady."

Adele exclaimed, "Oh, but of course you must accompany us! I have heard so very much about you, and besides we are family and must become acquainted." She smiled most prettily; Fulk's stomach lurched and not in a way he appreciated.

He smiled tightly. "No, I regret not. I must be leaving."

Then she pouted, such a appealing little pout which made the mind consider how it would feel to kiss those lips. "You simply cannot leave us to make the remainder of our journey alone; a bold knight such as yourself would ensure our safety against all perils."

Fulk repressed a shiver. He bowed in his saddle. "I wish you a good journey." He turned his horse and rode away, breathing a sigh of relief. That had been damned uncanny. From this day on it would be harder to laugh at tales of succubi.

He reined in, angling his horse so he could see back down the road. All this time apart and there she was, riding away back to her own group. All he needed to do was continue back to his own and leave, and he'd be free of all temptation.

"God's blood," Fulk cursed under his breath. He knew what he was going to do. What had been the point of pretending otherwise? He sketched a small cross over his heart and prayed softly, "Look kindly on this poor soul heading into a fight he fears he is unequal to." He dug in his spurs and galloped back down the road. The thunder of hooves made Eleanor look over her shoulder, and pull to a halt

Making sure he looked into Eleanor's eyes as he spoke, he said, "I will accompany you." He placed very slight emphasis on that last word.

Ignored to one side, Adele clapped her hands and exclaimed, "Oh, I knew you could not possibly abandon us. And now we shall all ride together as one happy little family within this group, just the three of us. You must tell me all about yourself. I have heard so much!"

Fulk felt his neck go stiff. He managed to smile almost graciously at his sister-by-law. "Might I beg a very great favour of you? One I have no business asking, and one, which I must honestly admit with penitent heart, is beneath you?"

She fluttered her eyelashes and practically glowed at him. "Have no fears, my dear Sir Fulk. We are family, are we not? Anything you might ask, I will listen to."

Fulk snapped a bow. "My thanks, your Highness."

"Call me Adele, I beg you, and I shall be pleased to call you Fulk. No need for formally between us, I hope?"

Fulk dismounted and pressed the reins of his horse into Adele's stunned hand. "Please mind my stallion doesn't follow his lesser brain and stray after some mare." With his most charming smile as a parting shot, he turned and held up his arms in invitation for Eleanor to dismount into them. "Never fear, my wife. I'm sure your generous sister will mind your horse also." Said generous sister appeared to be lost for words.

Once he had Eleanor in his arms it proved difficult to let go and place her hand on his arm ready for a stroll, but he managed it. He whisked her away from the mess on the highway. "We ride hard and arrive at court tomorrow before dark. Then we dump her on your brother and leave for Woburn the very next morning. This is possible?"

Eleanor slanted a questioning glance at him. "I would think so."

"Then that is what we do." They were far enough away that there was no need to continue walking; stopping he turned to face her. "We shall resolve your sister and then at Woburn resolve ourselves. Until then ..."

She raised an eyebrow. "Until then?"

Fixing his mind firmly on the speech he'd been working on since he decided he was no longer willing to live without her, Fulk managed to take a half pace back. "Until then we live amicably but with no great closeness. Not until I have said what I will say and you have heard it." When she parted her lips to speak Fulk placed a finger over them. "No. Not here, nor anywhere until it is only we two on our own land. There is too much between us to mend it if we're forced to behave like we're mummers in a miracle play."

She nodded and the motion made his fingertip caress her lips. Fulk's throat constricted; a fight he was unequal too indeed. He slid his hand around to cup her cheek where he'd slapped her all those weeks before. "That was not well done."

"It was my own fault. I should not have kept pressing you."

And if he hadn't been avoiding the matter she wouldn't have needed to press. Fulk let his hand drop, looked away. "Another time. All of this for another time."

Eleanor closed her eyes; he knew how she must feel. So long alone and then that brief contact ...

She said, "My sister. Do not touch her. Do not allow yourself to be alone with her."

A spike of raw anger burst through Fulk. Of course she thought that. She thought him so base he could be ordered off to sire a bastard in violation of his vows; why wouldn't he look with lust at whatever beautiful women he encountered? "You need have no worries on that count," he said harshly. "Not interested. Aside from it being incest, I've had more beautiful. Curvier. More alluring. All varieties - you forget the years of my life with you have been the exception, not the norm." Because of the unfairness of that, how hard it had been to keep that change and how easily she'd disregarded it he added, "Damn it, I've had women who make her seem bland as can be. She's no more than a spoiled girl toying with my privy parts to see if I can be made to jump."

Eleanor drew a long, steady breath, held it and let it out. In a level voice she said, "I intended to warn you that she is unstable."

And now didn't he feel like a complete idiot? "Oh."

"Her experiences have damaged her. Treat her with caution or you may find her shrieking the palace down around your ears."

Fulk ran his fingers through his hair, pressing hard enough to scratch his scalp with his nails. "My dear gooseberry, is there a single member of your family who might be described as normal?"

"There is one other thing you should know." She shifted her feet uneasily. "Trempwick is amongst my retinue."

"I beg your pardon?"

"He is disguised as my confessor. I am using him to deal with my sister-"

Fulk held up his hand to stop the words. "I don't want to know." All this time he'd been alone and she'd been trotting around the country with the man she came within a gnat's breath of marrying? The man who had tried to leverage her onto the throne? "Keep him out of my way, and get rid of him when we get rid of your sister. You can explain yourself once we have shed this - this spectacle."

"I can leave Adele with him and then we can ride alone together if you wish."

Aware of how much these measured responses must be costing her, Fulk took her hand and tucked it on his arm once again. "What a mess we are, my dear little wife. I'm sorry."

Eleanor leaned her head on his shoulder. "The sooner we start moving the sooner we 'dump my sister on Hugh', as you so quaintly worded it. Then we can think of ourselves."

"Quite right." He chuckled, looking at the sulking figure sat preventing the escape of two horses. "She's not entirely without use though."

He felt a tremor run through Eleanor's body as she fought not to laugh. "I cannot believe you used my sister - a former queen! - as a groom!"

"I did warn her the favour I wanted was beneath her."

"Will you ask her to wipe the mud from your boots next?"

"You're being very remiss in your duties, oh dear gooseberry of mine. Where's the appreciation for my play on words?" For effect he deepened his voice to a heroic rumble as he intoned, "Please mind my stallion doesn't follow his lesser brain and stray after some mare."

"Yes, yes, very good for someone who has been hit about the head with blunt weapons for much of his life."

"There should be more appreciation. It works on so many levels. Stallion being slang for, well, you know. And 'please mind', isn't that part excellent? It's the bit which makes the entire thing work. "

Eleanor poked him in the ribs. "Please mind labouring a joke becomes tiresome."

"Now you're so jealous of my wit that you're making inferior copies."

"Oh no - that was a warning. 'Please mind' as in 'take note'. So do take note, lest I suspect your already simple wit far simpler than I had given credit for."

"Deep down you're impressed. I can tell. Practically swooning with admiration."

"No, that is the strong stench of unwashed knight which is making me light-headed."

"Don't worry, beloved. Healthy manly sweat has that effect on most women. Quite the passion-starter."

"I would not know for you stink like your horse, and I believe you may have trodden in something on your way out of the stables."

They were almost back to the road. Fulk stopped and pulled her around. "Then you had best give me a bath when we find lodgings."

"I might condescend to empty some buckets of cold water over you in the yard."

"Make it very cold water."

Fulk noticed the cheering only after the kiss had been going on for a while. Startled he broke away and looked up to see most of his retainers and Eleanor's watching appreciatively.

After a beat Eleanor murmured, "Well I suppose we must have been difficult to live with, you dragging your people hither and thither to avoid me, and I moping."

"One of them just threw his hat in the air," observed Fulk. "This is distinctly weird."

"Quite."

"It's rather embarrassing."

"Let's head back and shout at them until they reorganise into a single travel party?"

"Good idea. Put the fear of superior rank into them."

"Shout in a manner politely appreciative of the sentiment, I meant."

"That was a joke, dearest gooseberry."

"I know. It was so feeble it was not worth treating as such."

"I get no support."

They started walking again, this time Fulk had his arm around her waist and was luxuriating in the sensation of her body touching his. Directing his eyes heaven-ward he thought ruefully, "Thanks for the help, oh Lord - battle well and truly lost!" Now it was going to be even harder to tell her.









Put the two back together in a scene and the instantly writing regains some bounce. Shows very clearly why, way back in the beginning, my attempts to stop them having a romance failed abjectly. I never had a chance; they work too well together. :grumbles about how she just wanted to do politics and civil war:


Cunobelinus54, part of your wondering is now answered. The opening shots are fired and it's not looking like the three of them will be sitting around the fire eating cakes and telling happy stories about when they were children.

Qorten, thanks. Hopefully this time I won't have any more problems.

karolus, have you heard that Martin has finally finished Dance with Dragons? Publication is set for July. 11 years of waiting, if you discount the fact he split the book into two and published part 6 years ago. Now there's an author who makes me feel the gaps between my updates are reasonable ...

I have to wait for the DVD before I can watch the series. It looks fantastic, can't wait.

Chief Ragusa, Nell marrying the King of Spain would be a kind of full circle back to the very beginning of the original story. Thematic fun. Knowing what she does she'd off the king at the first chance. At the beginning she'd been sent by Trempy to 'marry' one of the major lords in Brittany; in reality she was there to get close and kill him before any wedding could take place. Total deniability since she arrived quietly and William didn't know; they claimed it was an impostor because any such real marriage would have been heavily advertised.
 

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Quite. Though Nell's sole reason for agreeing in the first place would be to put herself and the confessor Trempy in range of said King of Spain to do the offing. You knowyou'll only regain Avernite as a reaAAR, once you divorce Nell and Fulk. THey may well work well together, but they don't need to be married. Hugh definitely feels his sister could do better. Methinks Fulk doth protest too much that he finds Adele unappealing.

For Hugh, catching Fulk inflagrante would be just what the doctor ordered. He could banish Adele to a convent and order Fulk divorced and banished. Hugh would take great pleasure in telling all that Fulk has a bastard son. Fulk would retort that Hugh ordered he and Nell to remain childless. Hugh would deny that. Now Fulk worked for Trempy and may have been involved in proving Hugh wasn't the son of William VI. He'd throw that in Hugh's face. Huigh would strip him of Alnwick. George of York's face would light up. He wouldn't believe Nell capable of bearing children, anyway. Adele, might and he'd wangle English Alnwick out of Hugh's hands as his most loyal knight and servant. Nobles would believe Fulk got his lands and King's sister because he had some hold over him. His charge would stick.

Now, you didn't name Matilda and marry her to the German Emperor just to be a book end, did you?
 

frogbeastegg

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If divorce were easy Henry VIII wouldn't be famous :D It's basically impossible at the medieval time period. Annulment is the closest medieval match; rather than declaring a marriage finished it declares that the marriage never happened. That's allowed under strict conditions only, for example in the case of a previously unknown blood tie which places the couple within the restricted degree. There are a few other conditions ...

Fulk is immensely killable. If Nell or Hugh want rid, trumped up treason charges are the way to go. He's got no powerful family, no powerful friends willing to risk their standing for him, no riches to buy his way clear, no dangerous army, no supporters amongst the commons, nothing except his wife and a brother-in-law who finds him useful. If they withdraw their support he's done for, as was seen in some of those scenes posted long ago. People were closing in, scenting blood. The Scottish kings can't help him much if charged for offenses committed in England and under English law. Or just arrange an accident; such an active man can easily fall from his horse or have a training mishap.

Hugh needs him tied to Nell, hence his fury at them splitting and his insistence that they get back together. With Fulk attached Nell is no danger. Without him she can once again pose a threat; people will long remember that she very nearly had his throne. With a husband like the King of Spain, Hugh's going to have to guard his throne again. Any man with power would instantly think "She's got a good claim, and I through her" on marrying Nell. Hugh's not going to let her near anyone who can use her against him, whether Nell's willing to go out and kill the king of Spain or not. That's a job best done from a safe distance anyway; Nell's strong suit has never been murder and now she has a whole network of people better at it than her.

Having Fulk caught out would be a nightmare! It would be viewed as Nell being such a dreadful wife that she can't keep a peasant happy; people are already muttering that because he left. Massive humiliation for the family, everyone would be talking about it for months and it's the sort of thing which would still be dragged up generations later. And that's assuming an unrelated woman. With his wife's sister, oh the scandal! That's incest by medieval standards; marriage (or sex outside of marriage) creates a literal blood tie.

Matilda is an outside stimulus. She's the reason the HRE gave Hugh some help during the civil war, and that sets up part of the war followed by Hugh's long battle to remain free of HRE influence after. She writes Nell charming letters and gets charming replies as both sisters try to gouge out the other's eyes with polite disdain. She's a threat which looms; if Hugh's line falls she is the eldest sister and so is entitled to a large slice of the pie, and determined to defend that right against Nell's closer and more popular (and legal, since she was named as heir by William but that's hushed up) claim. If the question of Hugh's legitimacy arises too prominently, she's there to cough and remind people that her husband's large army thinks that her mother wouldn't possibly shame the family by committing adultery, thank you very much. She's the answer to Fulk's question in this latest part: is there any single member of your family which might be described as normal? That's Matilda; the perfect daughter, the one who has done best and is most conventional, and consequentially tries to lord it over the others. Her only failing is that she has several daughters and not a single son, something which provides her antagonised siblings with a keen degree of entertainment.

She's 'the pixies' of the story, as in "If you don't behave the pixies will come and get you!". :D



Always busy, always lots going on and a few ways to look at it. That's the aim of frog fiction. Might not always work, and this piece is suffering badly with so much lost to time, and yet there's something to talk about. Can't do much better than that. :)
 

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Nell has agreed with Trempy that the King of Spain must die. Her sister was wronged, so she'll do the deed, sort of.

Henry VIII is a special case . His father virtually twisted Rome's arm to allow Henry to marry his brother's widow. Henry wanted to put her aside for not producing an heir. Rome did allow divorce, but not usually for that.

I'm sure Avernite would be delighted to learn that Fulk is eminently killable. Since Nell had turned down most if not all of England's eligible nobility thay'd have to wonder just how it was that some bastard peasant married her. With Nell split from him, they may believe Nell doesn't want this union either. I'm not suggesting for one minute that Scottish Kings could protect an English noble from English justice. The Scottish part of Alnwick, now that's a different kettle of fish.

So long as Hugh is accepted as legitimate, none of the sisters has as good a claim.

For all of Fulk's background, he is, now, a noble and should a noble die from allegedly normal circumstances, other nobles would get rather jittery. Treason is an action against the King or the Realm. Fulk's done neither.
 
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Cunobelinus54

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The sheer amount of fuel for speculation provided in this chapter is staggering. I can see that there's a lot of intrigue and plotting that will be going on with Adele, Fulk and Eleanor all together and though I know that Adele will probably end up worse off than most in the end (she's nowhere near as devious or cunning as the others in here) I still think she can pull off something that at the very least will cause friction between Fulk and Eleanor. The presence of Trempwick is also worth noting, what will his reaction be to Fulk after all these years?

In any case, a brilliant chapter, the one thing I've particularly loved about this AAR is that no matter how much the plot and the circumstances change, things are always riveting and fascinating. There is literally no low point to this story.
 

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Yes, I have indeed heard that's he's finished "Dance with Dragons" and certainly look forward to reading it. Quite the wait indeed, and your gaps can be discounting as mere seconds compared to that, my dear Froggy. :D

Anyway, this is another great update. Thanks very much for moving the story forward like this.
 

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Chief, where did you get that I hate Fulk?

I just like Trempy more is all, and I'm sure, Fulk being a bastard of unknown ancestry, there might be ways for wrangling to turn up grounds for annullment. Alas, i only know about modern practice for it, which is rather lenient, but medieval kings did get some effect... it'd be somewhat a scandal, sure, but that's a small price if something has to be hushed up (which is what the real scandal would be, people thinking there is such). Though Fulk might still not survive.


Even so, I think the last scene with Adele... it was Trempy, and yet it was human, and fairly nice. He actually was believable as trying to help, somehow. I already suspect the son in law before the incident, maybe some half-explained bits early on... anyhow, not a massive surprise that it was him.

Also, jay updates!
 

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Chief, where did you get that I hate Fulk?

I haven't said you that hate Fulk. You brought the hatred up. You have, on more than one occasion, expressed the wish for Trempy to marry Nell, win the civil war and kill Fulk.

Nell and Fulk were marrried in Scotland, enfeoffed in Scotland by the King of Scotland. Hugh's been playing catch up. The Scots created quite an illustrious heritage for Fulk. When Hugh hit Fulk, he not only hit an English Earl, but a Scottish one as well.

Scandal -courts live for it -you just can't have a mediaeval romance novel without it.
 

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I haven't said you that hate Fulk. You brought the hatred up. You have, on more than one occasion, expressed the wish for Trempy to marry Nell, win the civil war and kill Fulk.

Nell and Fulk were marrried in Scotland, enfeoffed in Scotland by the King of Scotland. Hugh's been playing catch up. The Scots created quite an illustrious heritage for Fulk. When Hugh hit Fulk, he not only hit an English Earl, but a Scottish one as well.

Scandal -courts live for it -you just can't have a mediaeval romance novel without it.

You never said it, but in one page you referred to me liking Fulk's death twice (now thrice, but I got you to do that, so I'll pass it off :p ) when I need not have that. Just that I want Trempy and Nell to rule, and that will probably require Fulk's death, but if Fulk dies without creating the Nell-Trempy government I will be sad about his death.
 

frogbeastegg

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Rain? Pour? Flood? Torrent? Deluge? Yes, deluge. The rightness of the word thrummed through Trempwick's mind. "Never does it rain save in a deluge," he muttered. No, no, not one to write down. Not one for public use. Not quite right, missing something which would lend the phrase the right ... savour. "When one has left one's cloak at home it never rains save to deluge." Better? Better.

Adele announced her return by snarling, "It is not fair!"

"When Heaven urinates on you it falls as a deluge," muttered Trempwick. "No, not quite there." Perhaps deluge was not the word after all? That must be a problem saved for later. With a weary sigh he abandoned his attempts at a witty turn of phrase and permitted that state of mind which best allowed him to compose his writing to slip. So much for completing William the Third's reign in his grand history of England.

"He is not even that handsome anyway. Not with that ugly crooked nose. And so much for the great warrior - someone got through his guard well enough to black his eye! He is nothing but a talked-up story."

Trempwick massaged his brow. Complication. For once - just once - could he not do without it? Could not his life follow a simple path?

"Why did people cheer anyway? It is pathetic."

"Needs must when Satan breaks wind in your face," Trempwick concluded. Yes - that was it!

Adele broke out of her sulk with a stunned blink. "I beg your pardon?"

And now to begin clearing up the mess caused by Fulk's appearance, insofar as he could. He drove his horse close to hers so that they could speak without all and sundry hearing. "People cheer because they are happy. Your sister and her husband are both well regarded by their retinues. But more to the point, a lot is invested in that couple. For these people it means an end to an unhappy division which has made their lives difficult. Consider that these households are used to functioning as one; your sister and her husband are not often apart. Now think of how many families and friendships were slit when each had to follow either their lord or their lady. Consider how many feel loyal to both and had to choose."

Adele made a moue of distaste. "What matter the feelings of servants?"

Considered saying it. Said it. "It is readily apparent that you have lacked attendants, companions, even friends for years, your Highness. Any noble worth their salt pays attention to their followers and takes all reasonable courses to maintain their happiness."

She flushed. "I was a queen-"

"Servants?" Trempwick interrupted. "Rather sworn knights of the household. Men at arms. Men of status who will give their lives for their lord or lady. Lady companions, of noble blood themselves. Then the servants in truth, the folk responsible for making their lord's life comfortable-"

Adele flapped a hand at him to silence him. "Yes, yes. As you observe it has been a long time, and your effort to remind me is wasted since I shall never again have servants."

"Playing sleight of hand to disguise your true reason for complaint achieves little."

Adele rode in malevolent silence, glaring ahead to where Fulk and Eleanor rode together. "She has everything," she said eventually. "She has had the easiest of lives, and she has everything. It is not fair."

Trempwick resisted the urge to rub his head again. A quiet day to compose his history. Had it been so much to ask for? "What matters, Highness, is your own goal. Focus, remember? You must not do anything which might cost you your sister's support."

"I do not need her. I need only Hugh."

"She knows your brother far better than you, as he knows her better than you. She will be a valuable ally if only you make her so!"

Softly Adele said, "I will use every tool ..." Sounded saner than she had for the rest of this conversation. Then a tear tracked its way down her cheek. "He was not interested! He stared and then - then it was as if I were barely there! He looked through me. She is so plain and he ..." She wiped a second tear away on the back of her hand. "It was as though I am the plain one."

"Love affects the eyes of man," Trempwick quoted.

"She has everything and I only wanted ..." She closed her mouth and refused to say anything more.

After several minutes of silence Trempwick gave up on her and turned his mind to the other difficulties presented by this reunion.






Dinner presented the next opportunity. Adele took the seat of honour, at Fulk's right hand. Although he shared his platter with Eleanor, and Adele hers with the priest, there was ample occasion for talk. So talk Adele did, seizing every chance to pull his attention towards her.

He listened politely. Barely. On occasion he came close to being rude.

She worked through various subjects. When asked about his past his answers were curt and gave little away. Requesting tales of his more famous deeds won a little more, though far from the boasting loquaciousness to which she was accustomed from other knights. Asking about how he met Eleanor returned them to the first two subjects. Trying to get to know his personality he mentioned that he enjoyed reading, and so she managed to carry a laboured line about the romances she used to read with her ladies. When that died out Adele tried talking about herself, about Spain, about the dashing knights and glamorous court; again barely polite interest was the best she managed.

The entire time his face remained guarded, closed. He kept his physical distance, was careful not to touch her even when she created moments where such an accident would have been natural.

He did find her attractive. She knew it. She knew it! Why else was he so guarded? What would it take to see that frank admiration in his eyes again? To get that open admission that she was more beautiful than Eleanor? The other men did not trouble to hide it, but this one, this one would have far more meaning. That he fought only added value to the eventual victory.

Disaster! A moment's distraction and he had turned back to Eleanor, and was now talking with all the engagement that he would not give her. Under the table Adele clenched her fists so hard her nails cut her palms. Was it so much to ask? To have proof that she was still desirable? Still young and beautiful after all her suffering? To know that she could still play men, still have them hang on her every breath and stuck at arm's length where they were safely frustrated, wanting her all the more because they could not touch? To have something her sister did not? To have some little fun before she was shut away from the world once again?

Ezio engaged her in conversation and so she was stuck talking to the priest until the meal broke up and everyone left the table.









There was supposed to be another scene. Unlike these two it isn't short and relatively unimportant; it adds some potatoes to the Fulk soup. It's important that they boil to al dente and no more. It's not quite there yet.

I feel rather sorry for Trempy-in-disguise in these two.

Since it's a subject which is now active in the thread, let's take an aside to discuss the difference between annulment and divorce in late medieval and early Tudor England.

A divorce says "This marriage was real but now it is ended." It can be granted for a wide range of reasons, although for a long time it was mainly men who could apply for it. Women are barred from requesting divorce for reasons like adultery whereas men can. It very rarely happened in medieval England; I can't recall a single case and I dug through a few tomes specifically on marriage in the medieval period trying to find an example without success.

An annulment says "This marriage never happened." This happened relatively frequently, although nowhere remotely near as often as marriage break-ups today. Any children become illegitimate and lose their inheritance rights and most of the status derived from their father. It was only granted in cases where the marriage could be demonstrated to be against the laws of God. A blood tie within the restricted degree, which was wider than our definition of the same as any marriage including unconsummated ones created a tie, any betrothal created a tie, and any form of sexual relationship created a tie. A prior contract of marriage or betrothal which had not been fully annulled, as that meant the person was essentially 3/4 married to someone else in the eyes of the law and thus not free to enter a new arrangement. Or (mainly in the earlier medieval period) one of the couple concealing information about their lack of fitness to breed, hence a lot of earlier weddings including a part where the couple declared themselves to be fit of body (or detailed any problems) and were displayed naked to the witnesses before being put to bed. Annulment is a privilege of the wealthy; it takes money and influence to appeal to Rome.




Chief, Nell's the spymaster now. She sits in the middle of the web and pulls strings, same as Trempy used to do.

Fulk's a jumped up nobody with a new title, and it's pretty much an accepted fact that the de la Bec ancestry Scotland claimed for him is false. It wasn't so widely believed at the time, and the ideas has only weakened since Fulk himself refuses to lie. The English nobility historically hated the made noble and when they fell the born nobility frequently took a certain vicious enjoyment from it. It wasn't seen as a threat to their own status, rather as the removal of an encroaching threat. If he happens to have an accident while hunting or take a bad fall during a tournament, well it's hardly unusual. Being an active warrior noble could be dangerous.

I should have specified famous amongst social historians instead of just famous. While he's well known in general for having 6 wives, Henry VIII is most famous amongst social historians for being the high profile return of divorce to England after around 500 years of near total absence. It's Anne of Cleves who is the important figure - she's the divorce. Katherine of Aragon is technically an annulment, although a lot of people, some historians included, carelessly mix the terms up and call both divorces.


Cunobelinus, Fulk and Trempy is the next scene. Mmm, potatoes for the soup. Looking forward to this one, just need to hit the right note as I begin and then the rest will flow smoothly. At the moment I'm cycling through multitudes of opening phrases and binning each as they refuse to carry on. I'll get there; I only need a bit of time where I'm not worrying about other things.

I should print off the remark about no low points and pin it to my monitor. :D

karolus, I have my copy of Dance preordered. I intend to read the entire thing on release day, that way I don't get it ruined by spoilers or internet ranting. I need to read through the rest of the series before then; I haven't read most of the books since Crows came out.

Avernite's back! Trempy shall be pleased. :D

I think by this point Trempy is all Adele'd out. Poor man. At the start he's peacefully writing his history of Eleanor's family since William the Conqueror, then he gets dragged out of his prison by Nell and thrown into all this. Now he's trying to take advantage of some quiet travel to work on his book and what happens? Fulk appears and fails to go away meaning there will be a confrontation of some sort, Adele throws herself at Fulk then goes a bit crazy, Nell ends up glaring at her sister, and all sorts.

I love that his reaction to Fulk's appearance and Adele's bid is to try and create a variation on "It never rains but it pours."
 

unmerged(58610)

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So Nell going offto Spain would be an inconvenience for her spy network. Hugh or more likely Constance might still feel threatened by Nell. Nell's not going to drop a job to kill a King on some underling.

It's not about Fulk's supposed ancestry or that nobles don't enjoy Fulk get slapped around, it is whether Scotland wants to make an issue of it or the nobles want to use it as an excuse to reign in a King exercising all his royal powers.

Adele's rusty, she's been too long out of this game to pay it properly. This scene highlights this. She thinks she can win over Hugh without her sister's help. Not a chance. She's out of her league.

A hunting or riding accident, putting words into Avernite's mouth, you'll get Avernite all excited.

The Fulk-Trempwick scene has the potential to getting very messy with all sorts of things said that ought not to be. Might be unfortunate were reports of that conversation to reach unfriendly ears.
 

Avernite

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You description of annulment does not capture modern Catholic rules, at least.

At present, the Church recognizes no divorces, and so being married once bars all future marriages. Separation may occur, but it is never an end to the marriage.

Annulment does not make children illegitimate, assuming at least one of the partners got married with the idea that the marriage was legitimate.
Also, being forced to marry is a ground for annulment.
All this may, of course, have changed since medieval times.

As to the actual content: I almost started to like Adele, but trying to force someone to admire you is something I consider sad and disrespectful. Knowing why Fulk is doing so may affect my idea, but damnit, she's trying to snatch her sister's husband...
 

frogbeastegg

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Chief, Nell has a selection of highly skilled, highly trusted agents for the tough jobs, same as Trempy did. While she has agent skills, she doesn't have the long experience that comes from working in the field year after year. Trempy did want her to remain safe when on her limited number of carefully selected assignments. When there's an important job assigning it to someone else is exactly what she does; she uses the person most likely to succeed. The person in charge must remain in the centre to coordinate the entire network.


Avernite, if that's how annulment works today then it's definitely changed a lot. It's not surprising; I know of other areas where accepted doctrine has changed. Catholicism has changed more than it is often given credit for, it's just not been as drastic about it as some of the other branches of Christianity.

Technically you could annul a marriage if one or both members entered it under duress. In reality society made it very difficult indeed, even in cases of abduction. There was great stigma and shame attached to leaving a marriage like that, the attitude was very much 'done is done', particularly if it had been consummated. The church was one of the main forces brought to bear on the unhappy person to pressure them into acquiescing. On a related social tangent, rape victims were often pressed to marry their attacker, assuming he was single and could be apprehended. That was considered to be the man making fair recompense. Gah!

There was no difficulty marrying again after a medieval annulment, and it doesn't seem terribly uncommon for the instigating partner (usually the man) to marry again shortly after the annulment was granted. Second annulments are trickier; I've seen a few bits of evidence for them, and for someone marrying a third time. Overall second annulments must have been treated more sceptically

Separation did happen. There was considerable social and religious opposition to it and the couple would find themselves under a lot of pressure to reunite. The "one flesh" concept was taken quite seriously. This is possibly one reason we see so many households amongst the nobility where the husband travels in one direction around their lands and the wife the other, getting time away from each other with the socially acceptable excuse of administering their holdings. The other acceptable variation was for one member to take vows and enter a religious community.
 

unmerged(58610)

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There are two provisos to that rule, froggy.
One, where she has no agents in place and two that there is no one else she trusts to do the job.

Then again, if Hugh orders her to do something, she has to do it. In Hugh's eyes she's messed up once by not marrying into the Scottish extended royal family.

The dynamic at the beginning of Hugh's reign with Nell in the boss seat, probably no longer holds. She's been building her spy network and Hugh has been extending royal authority. Hugh may believe or been encouraged to believe that there is someone who can manage the spy network better and that Nell's services may be dispensed with.

Has Constance had more children?
 

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Excellent chapter, even if it was particularly brief. So now we get a clearer view of Adele's true motivations. She doesn't seem to spend too much time thinking things through, she's very impulsive and unlike Eleanor seems to let her insecurities and emotions get in the way of keeping her wits about her but that just makes her character more fascinating in the currently tense situation.

And I have to second the whole "soup" comparison, at this point in time the story is so rich with plot elements: How'll Eleanor react to Fulk's confession? What if Trempwick were to find out? Or possibly worst of all, what if Adele did?

Eagerly awaiting the next chapter, as always.
 

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Fulk heard footsteps behind him, too soft and too close for anyone meaning well. A fraction before he could throw himself into an evasive roll the person spoke, "If I had her waiting for me I doubt I should be in a church." Trempwick.

Fulk did not rise from his knees, did not move. "She is engaged in matters of her own. Eleanor has a life outside of me, as well you know."

"That would irk some men." Trempwick stood at Fulk's right, a good arm's length away.

"If her life centred on me and had nothing more to it, that would be irksome."

"I never did understand the men who want a shadow for a wife," Trempwick agreed without rancour. "But considering today was a reunion, even an indulgent husband might be irked by coming second in priority."

Fulk let his hands drop from his prayerful pose. He would not rise, he refused to give the former spymaster the satisfaction of prickling him sufficiently that he felt the need to assume a more equal posture. "That is not how things are, and you know it."

He felt Trempwick staring at him, and for a long time.

With a rustle of cloth the former spymaster knelt at Fulk's side, crossing himself and bowing in respect to the altar. "Three years I have not seen you. Now you are thrust back into my life I find it difficult to regard you with loathing. Do not flatter yourself - you have not proven yourself admirable, or any such thing. It is more such things seem far away, beneath my notice, trivial. Part of another world I care not to rejoin."

"It sounds almost as though you have discovered a religious vocation," Fulk said sarcastically. "Saint Raoul Trempwick."

"Nothing of the sort. More a matter of irrelevance, I suspect. You are irrelevant to me, to my interests, to my life. Save for where you concern Nell. And there ..."

Fulk turned his head; the evening light edged Trempwick's profile, highlighting every curve and line of his brow, nose and lips. "And there?"

Trempwick shook his head. "So I shall no longer call you knight, or bodyguard, or any other such dismissal," he said, avoiding Fulk's question. "I shall give you your name, for I no longer find it within me to care otherwise. Fulk."

Hearing his name on the man's lips made Fulk grimace in distaste. "Why are you here? I told her to keep you out of my sight."

Trempwick's lips curved in a slight smile. "I came to pray. You are in my way."

"Saint Raoul indeed. You were not formerly one for devotion, not more than the acceptable minimum."

"And you, Fulk?"

"I came to pray. You are in my way also."

"And you see, that is what puzzled me when I first arrived. For you were not one for devotion, either. I could see you waiting for Nell, passing the time in many ways. In prayer? No, that I do not see."

Fulk turned his attention back to the altar and raised his hands, locking them together before his face and resumed his prayers. Forgiveness. Strength to do what was right. Forgiveness. Guidance. Forgiveness. Blessings for his wife and those he cared for. Forgiveness.

When his knees began to ache and his run of prayers exhausted itself, Fulk asked, "Did you seduce her?"

A pair of rapid blinks gave away Trempwick's shock as he ceased his own prayers. "Now what manner of a question is that?"

Fulk waited and kept his expression impassive.

"You know Nell is no silly fool to be lured unless she chooses to be." Trempwick ticked a point off against a raised finger. "She is loyal and so unlikely to choose such." He ticked off another point. "Thus you know you can trust her and the question appears moot. However it cannot be, else it would not have been asked. You wish to discomfort me, perhaps?"

Fulk kept his gaze steady, meeting the other man's eyes.

"No. I do not think that is quite the crux. That ship long since sailed, all three of us know it."

Fulk waited.

"So perhaps you wish to discomfort another? There are but three candidates, two after I am removed." Trempwick's eyes narrowed fractionally. "Yourself?"

Still Fulk waited.

The former spymaster shifted so he was no longer kneeling upright, resting his weight on his heels. "Then I shall tell you. Were I younger I would try my hand. Alas that I am past the point where I care to concern myself over rivals. She is lonely, starved of affection, made to doubt her worth, craving simple human contact, longing for an equal to spend time with. Her status isolates her. With most people she must hide the power she possesses. Those trusted few who know the truth of her are servants and she the master, no matter how close the friendship that is true and always there in the background. Isolated by the stigma of marrying you, and also of you leaving her. I would try my hand, knowing that I would be refused and still compelled to attempt to rescue her from the mess you have made. Because, caring for her as I do, how could I not? That is what you wished to hear, is it not?"

Fulk inclined his head. Who better than Trempwick to give him an accurate description of Eleanor's state? A rod to beat himself with. A view of what he needed to mend.

"Quite a mess indeed, Fulk." After a heartbeat the man added, "But the doing is not all yours."

"That is remarkably generous of you." By now his knees were screaming in protest. Fulk rose, and moved to sit at the base of a nearby column, leaning his back against the carved stonework. He rested his arm on an upraised knee, looking at his wedding ring as the gold gleamed in the dull light.

"Oh, an impartial view is not so hard. To ignore half of the blame is to ignore half of the solution. If one truly wishes to help then one must know the depth of the problem." Trempwick resumed his prayers.

Fulk watched. When the other man left he would recommence his own prayers, it was too distracting having another nearby.

A while later Trempwick said, "The resemblance is uncanny, is it not?"

He could only be referring to Adele. "Yes. Eleanor, but more ..." Fulk shrugged, it didn't need saying.

"Yes. And so very needy, too." Trempwick glanced back over his shoulder, his expression wry. "You cannot imagine what I have suffered! The woman I thought to marry, all but crying out for some love - in a very tasteful and quiet manner which few will notice, I hasten to add. And her prettier sister, the same minus the subtlety."

Fulk snorted. "A thirsty man betwixt two ale flagons, indeed."

"I must be getting old. All I wanted to do was make them stop bleeding hurt at me."

After a bit Fulk declared, "Strange how things work."

Trempwick tilted his head in askance.

"Adele is more beautiful, there is no question or doubt about it. Knows how to use that too."

"In a faintly deranged fashion, yes."

"She's the one to gaze at, enjoy, and to consider what bedding her might be like. A sort of speculative interest, nothing unique or personal, the same you do with most attractive women."

"Quite."

"But it's strange how things work, the things you find attractive in a woman. One or two details about her which fire the blood. The graceful line of a neck, or a dainty ankle, or ..."

"The lobe of an ear," Trempwick suggested.

"Or a scowl which feels as though it will char."

Trempwick raised his eyebrows. "It is an odd one, I will admit."

"It's the way she does it. Something about the attitude, and the shape her eyebrows take, and the fact she's too short and ends up menacing my collar bone." Fulk basked in the memory of that very scowl, one he'd been enjoying for nearly four years. "Adele can't scowl, not like that."

"Whatever works, works, I suppose." Trempwick eased himself to his feet, his joints clearly stiff. "I made enquiries into your background when Nell brought you to Woburn."

"I know. You made no secret of it." Had, in fact, thrown certain dubious acts in Fulk's face.

"Everything that could be found. The full weight of my network brought to bear to determine the threat you posed. Amongst many other things, every relationship you had was investigated, however brief. All of them as far as I can tell."

Fulk's heart sped; Trempwick knew, he had to know. If he'd been as thorough as he claimed then he couldn't fail to see. Cold blooded bastard that he was, Trempwick was certain to use it to the full. He rose, needing to be on equal footing now. "I have made no secret of anything I did before I met Eleanor."

"No, you have not," Trempwick agreed mildly. He spread his hands. "Nor did my investigation reveal anything you are unaware of. You left no children behind."

That bald statement crushed a hope Fulk had not known he possessed. His muscles were so taut with strain that his neck and shoulders and lower back ached. "Get to your point."

"That is my point. Fulk." The former spymaster folded his arms and tucked his hands inside the loose sleeves of his monkish garb. "To ensure that you are aware. What it means and how it is used, that is yours to determine." Trempwick began to turn away. "There is too much missing for me to make any but the wildest of guesses ..." At the church door he looked back. "If that guess is accurate then it is past time you told her, for she will not heed it from any other."

Fulk remained as he was for a long time after Trempwick left, unable to believe that the other man had not voiced his guess, let alone used it as a weapon.

"I did tell her," he informed the empty building. More than once. Fulk combed his hair hack from his face with his fingers and sighed. She would not follow the path to the next step, and the Lord knew he hadn't managed to force the words out.

He knelt once again in prayer.









Memory aid: the "dubious acts thrown in Fulk's face" are from quite early on in the original story. He told Nell that he was betrothed to be married to someone he loved, slept with her, and then shortly after abandoned her because he made a terrible mistake in his first battle, leading to his father's death, his own near-death, and lots of general humiliation which he felt he could not face. Early Fulk was quite self centred, concerned with preserving his fragile ego and gaining some status better than 'base born bastard man at arms', simultaneously struggling with the awareness that he was not the honourable person he dearly wanted - and claimed - to be. Very important scene for his character: before telling the story he had begun to act with the honour he claimed to possess, because he realised that the act was close to becoming reality if only he stuck to it, and breaking his oath of loyalty to Nell would be another of those acts for which he would never forgive himself. Trempy found out via his network's investigations into the bothersome man at arms' past, and later threw it him during one of their quiet battles of will.




Chief, if she doesn't have resources in place she will get them moved into position. She's the brain, the nerve centre, and if the hand is not where it is needed she makes it move instead of attempting to replace it. (What an ... interesting mental image that is). If she has no one she trusts with a mission like that then she is in trouble, because then her network has a critical lack.

Consider how honourable Hugh is. It's one of the things which make him feel so stiff. He will not break the agreement he made with Nell, partly because his word is his bond and partly because he knows she was the designated heir. It would be akin to treason, entirely unthinkable for him. It's that honour which made the arrangement possible; Nell knows she does not need to guard against a dagger in the back. Hugh will not publicly order her to do anything which might bring the family into disrepute, and Nell being a spymaster is very disreputable and so a well kept secret. In private she has the right to refuse any instruction he gives which she feels goes against her own good or that of the crown. Hugh is smart enough to avoid giving such instructions, preserving his pride and their working relationship.

Hugh has in order of age:
Arthur, legitimate son and heir. Named as a hope for the future.

Hewelin, a bastard son, conceived during the civil war and about 5 months younger than Arthur. Named in honour of for his father.

Edward and Constance the younger, the twins born shortly before Third Sister began. He named for Edward the Confessor, England's premier saint in this alternate history, and she for her mother. The birth was a difficult one and Constance nearly died. Her physicians warn that internal damage was done and that she is unlikely to conceive again.


Cunobelinus, I would love to write Adele's reaction if she discovered the soup. Oh yes! The whole pan would be thrown across the kitchen! Talk about lively ...

She's kind of the family butterfly. Flitting from flower to flower, delicate and pretty, carefree - then squish, a lawnmower came while she decided which flower to sit on next. Unlike her siblings she didn't need to learn the powerplay aspects of her world. She was content with the 'pretty' aspects of queenship, not wanting to dabble with the power and influence she could have had. Hugh was forced to learn by dint of becoming heir, Nell by dint of her father and Trempy, failed-traitor-John by dint of wanting to be a major power, and Matilda by dint of being a working empress standing at her husband's side as a support.
 

Avernite

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awwww. They are so cute together :)

This story would have been so much nicer if Trempy were really Nell's father, and Fulk his son in law (apart from the squickyness of that Trempy marrying Nell business). But it works even though that isn't the case. Neat, if not particularly pushing the story along very far. ;)
 

unmerged(58610)

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I would have expected more sparks to fly between them. Fulk still has no idea how to approach Nell. If Nell learns the truth from somebody else, she'll never forgive Fulk - for not telling her himself.

I can just see Nell walk into the office and say "Hello, well-trained assassin minion, I need you to go and kill the King of Spain, you do speak the local dialect, don't you?" I think there are some things Nell has to do herself. Things she cannot delegate.

Hugh has the ability to rationalize any decision. While Hugh may want to be honourable, Constance may be persuading him otherwise. Thanks for the list of the House of Hugh. It's going to be a shame about Arthur.
 

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Well, we have the confrontation between Fulk and Trempy, it kind of surprises me that Trempwick seems to have grown that docile and unaggressive but I still suspect that he's aware of Fulk's indiscretion, he's simply watching and waiting for the moment to use it to his advantage.
 

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Well, we have the confrontation between Fulk and Trempy, it kind of surprises me that Trempwick seems to have grown that docile and unaggressive but I still suspect that he's aware of Fulk's indiscretion, he's simply watching and waiting for the moment to use it to his advantage.

Part of me thinks so, but another part accepts his words:

he's just retired. He tried, he failed hard. Done. Meddling more only will hurt him, while what he is doing now seems genuinely aimed at helping the only 'child' he ever had.