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The Blue Knight

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The cold of the night air helped to banish some of the anxiety she felt within that place. It felt so terrible, so sickening to her that she could not handle a simple dance without losing herself like that. So much was riding on her, that it almost felt as if she carried her entire family and their dreams on her shoulders. Her own wishes and desires have somehow gotten lost along the way, cast aside for the sake of the people she loved.

Now she sat here on this stone bench, with a man she knew nothing for, yet he held a heart pure enough to come and see if she was all right. Did she deserve such a kind man? Her sole reason here tonight was to be some kind of offering to him, a platter of meat presented to a waiting predator. There was likely never going to be a moment that she would feel free to be the woman she wanted to be, and that put her heart deeper into despair.

He wanted to know what was wrong, but what could she really tell him? Surely he was already aware of what this was, of what they were meant to do. Sir Dormaeus was playing his part beautifully, a true gentleman with the celebrity status of a rising star. Who was Amelia to such a man? There were no accolades to her name, nothing for her to say that she had done, only her family name to give her any value. All she truly had was her body, didn't she? A vessel to grow children and to obey his every desire, a truly wretched life for her indeed.

"I miss my home." She admitted after a moment of silence, wiping away the tears as best she could. "Every day I wish I could go back there, where all the people I used to know lived, where things...I don't know what to call them, perhaps just more familiar." It would be a lie to say growing up in Ursa Madeum was peaceful, especially as the madness of King Damien grew to horrifying new heights every day. Everyone was on edge of saying the wrong thing, acting the wrong way, vanishing without a trace because of a single slight, real or imagined. If it wasn't for all the gold her father was able to bring into the kingdom, Amelia believed they would all be dead as well, with no one to remember them.

"This life is a prison for me. More than anything I want my freedom, I want to be somewhere that will let me take a breath, that will allow me a chance just to be..." Looking up at him, at that cold steel visage which hid his true countenance, she felt she had to ask. "Do you feel free, underneath that helmet? You could be anyone, and no one would know, you truly are the Blue Knight." Placing her hand upon the side of his helmet, she wondered what it would feel like to touch his face, but would respect his wish for anonymity. "A Blue Knight and a Unicorn, together in their own captivity. Does that sound like a fairy tale you would read to your children, Sir Knight?"

Softly she would lay her head down onto his arm, her cheek feeling warm against the soft fibers of his sleeve. It was a beautiful night tonight, much more pleasing than inside the barn, with all those cruel eyes upon her. Even if it was only for a moment, she would take a breath, staring out into that moon which watched them from so high above the clouds. What was Amelia Einhorn, if not a woman searching for her place in this world?

Meanwhile, in the thick of the party, excited whispers were spreading like wildfire. Everyone was enjoying the piece of savory gossip that was making the rounds, everyone of course, except Frederick Einhorn the Eighth.

Making his way past the crowds, the noble lord was furious at what he had just witnessed. That no good rogue had insulted his daughters honor, humiliated her in front of everybody, and sent her running in tears. What's worse is that he had run after her, which only fanned the flames that kept the rumor mill running in this ridiculous pageant of low classed socialites.

"I heard he offered to take her womanhood in the pen with the rest of the pigs." One whisperer said with a giggle. "As if a man of such high renown would waste his seed on such a pretender. If anything I bet she threatened to end her life for being rejected, and now the Blue Knight has followed her to make sure she makes good on her promise!"

"William!" Frederick shouted, finding his lout of a knight drinking in the center of the dance floor. Already the bastard was getting tipsy while his poor child was being mistreated by that blue masked freak. "Put down that wine glass this instant, do you have any semblance of honor whatsoever?!"

"Yes my lord, my (hic) apologies." The black haired knight handed his drink back to a servant, though not without downing the rest of the contents first. "Now, what is it you require of me? (Hic)"

Einhorn's face was starting to turn red with anger. This worthless knight couldn't even keep his legs straight let alone retrieve his daughter, but he had no other choice. "I require you to do your duty as my knight and go fetch my daughter. Our name has just been sullied by House Dormaeus for goodness sake. What are you waiting for, get moving now!"

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While the Blue Knight's reaction was invisible to Amelia, Ser Dormaeus felt the full weight of confliction, and it made him uneasy.  He couldn't understand the burden placed upon her shoulders, though it was writ and expelled gracelessly through her face; what was once artistry of cosmetics had turned to staining streaks, haphazard watercolor that burned her cheeks with salt.  It pained him to see the girl this way, and was dumbstruck for the way his heart ached for her plight.  Damsels experienced the worst distress, it seemed, away from monsters and the worst of men, but by those closest to them.  In truth, he'd felt more than a fair amount of guilt, for perpetuating the courtship that she'd had no decision in.  He hadn't needed to kiss her hand so brazenly, demonstrate by dance with the machismo of a leading man, nor follow her until the rumors of the Blue Knight turned from suave to scandalous.  Each offense was adding another gilded bar to her cage.

He could not help but shift his chin when he reached for his face, determined not to be unmasked.  For all the men he had struck with a lance and unhorsed, he flinched from the reach of a small girl.  Luckily, however, she adhered to his unspoken request, and left his helm alone.  When she made movements to place her head upon him, he turned gently to offer his arm, rather than his chest.  Her soft crown of hair was pillowed by his bicep, hard and stony by corded muscle— not at all a comfortable place, but at least supportive.  It was hard not to be tense with the girl leaning on him, struggling for more than a few reasons, though coincidentally, least of which was attraction.  There were legitimate reasons Ser Dormaeus did not want to agree to this arrangement, reasons unbeknownst to the Einhorns and all else there.  He did not yet love this girl that was nearly ten years his junior, this small thing that walked the delicate, wobbly tightrope between child and woman, but that hadn't stopped him from brushing a thumb against her cheek to wipe away the tears, warm to the touch.

"You want to be free, little bird," he said, comforting and sympathetic, "But I wish you wouldn't cry so."  A bit of his Irish accent pulled through the narrow slit of the helm, a bit of rolling pronunciation to his words, the inflection rumored to be common to the Dormaeus household.  "This helm is what makes me free, this anonymity.  If I were to show my face, I could bring great shame to my family..." he explained, though added almost too quickly, "... if I lost."  It was only half the truth, but made a sufficient answer for the moment.

He took in a great breath as he considered his next words, though even the intake of air seemed to be hesitating, restricted.  "But..." Ser Dormaeus started, though he paused as he struggled to find the words he wanted, or needed, to say:

But, the lady had a duty to her family and her title.

But, Amelia would have to perpetuate her own way to survive, to not be a burden.

But, Nvengaria was less progressive than it boasted the recent changes to be.

The advice he would have given was contradictory that he gave himself, bred of his own privilege and unabashedly harsh.  He owed the truth to this girl, to not foster an unrealistic hope for a future that would not, and could not, ever be.  Just as he began to open his mouth to impart the unpleasant reality upon her, he was interrupted by footsteps, stumbling and noisily scuffing in the dark.  Unintentionally, and simply by twist of fate, he hadn't meant to leave the conversation sounding like he'd agreed with Amelia, though the pressing intrusion hadn't made room to correct it.

"Ser William," the Blue Knight said, standing up from beside Amelia to be alerted to his presence.  In the half-moment that Lord Einhorn's champion had neglected to answer him, the lad stumbled and caught himself, swaying from the liquor that addled his senses.  "You're drunk," he observed aloud, in effort not to sound accusatory, though the fact was certain.  "It would be best for you to rest, Ser; our match is in the lists, tomorrow."

@Grubbistch

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For a moment the evening had seemed as if it was turning from horrible to neutral. The Blue Knight, for all his mystique and charisma, was just as much a prisoner to his fate as Amelia was. In a way it comforted her, knowing she wasn't the only one, and it somehow made the drudgery of her life seem somewhat bearable. Was there more to Sir Dormaeus than she was willing to see?

"Stop right there, scoundrel!"

Her entire world came crashing down as the drunken knight known as Sir William stood before them at the doorway, his balance off from intoxication. There weren't many reasons the drunk would stop his inebriation to come and check on his master's daughter, not unless instructed to. Amelia had no idea what had been going on in the party after she left, as wild rumor and speculation were flying from one wall to the next. If she had, she might have fainted from the sheer embarrassment of it all. Even now she felt the fool for having to force her father to send someone to fetch her, as if she were some common dog with a leash that needed tugging.

Rising from her spot with her former dance partner, Amelia tried to put on a brave face. Sir William wasn't the greatest of knights, mostly because he became a lout when he started drinking. There were some instances where the young woman was afraid to be alone with the man, especially when he had been drinking. So far he had done nothing yet to dishonor her, but she could feel his eyes traveling all over her body, even now.

"Leave here at once, Sir William. Tell my father I will rejoin the party when I am good and ready." Grimacing at the rebuke, the knight chose instead to make a grab for her, taking her by her wrist as he started pulling her back into that wretched hive of gossip and pettiness. No amount of struggling could stop the obviously stronger opponent, but Amelia was desperate to get away from him.

"Let go of me, that hurts!" In her attempt to regain her freedom, Amelia smacked Sir William across the back of his head, and that's when things slowed down to a crawl.

Every part of his face turned into a hateful sneer, the Lady's eyes widening as she realized her mistake. He said something, spitting it truthfully, calling her a spoiled bitch before cocking back his free hand. If she weren't so frozen in utter terror, she would have trued something, anything to protect herself. Unfortunately all she could manage was a pathetic whimper as the back of his hand connected with her cheek, sending her to the ground in a heap of skirts and tears. With trembling hands she inspected her lower lip, feeling a strange taste of copper on her tongue. Horror had its grip on her heart when her fingers came back into view, coated with small droplets of crimson liquid. He struck her, the valiant knight of House Einhorn struck the daughter of his Lord as if she were common rabble.

"I will not say this again, milady, you are coming with me-"

Just as quickly she had been struck, so too did Sir William receive retribution for his crime. The Blue Knight stood there next to her, his knuckles formed into a tight fist as he stared down at the disgraceful knight before him. All it took was one hook to his jaw to send him on his rear, his eye already turning black from the force of the punch. "You bastard!" He screamed, getting up with some difficulty. "You'll regret ever donning that helmet. I'll send you to the lichyard I swear it." Even with the threat of death in the air, Amelia couldn't believe her honor was defended like that.

When he helped her back on her feet, she looked deeply into the narrow slit of his visor, her hear aflutter with emotions. If she never saw his face again. She was irrevocably, unequivocally, in love with this man now. Eyes twinkling with affection, she took his hand, then embraced him with all she could as she choked back another sob. "Th-thank you, good knight. You truly are a hero for these ages."

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The Blue Knight's only regret was not intervening sooner.  His disgust manifested into the tight ball of his fist, swinging with an enraged fury as his knuckles collided with the angled bone of Sir William's once-perfect jawline.  The balls of Ser Dormaeus' feet were dug into the mud, the adrenaline still coursing through his body, practically seeing red through the slats in his visor as he looked at the sorry excuse for a Knight.  "Sir William, I hope you continue to be the Knight representing House Einhorn for a very, very long time," Ser Dormaeus seethed, the grouched tone apparent even through his helm, his broad stance intimidating as he stood over the muddied jouster upon his back, "For when Lady Amelia becomes head of her house, I shall take great pleasure in watching you receive punishment taken out of your flesh in due course, until the day you die.  If I impale you upon my lance upon the morrow, it'll be a mercy."  Standing in front of Amelia with a protective arm, should Sir William rise to arms again, he pointed a finger towards the door.  "Now run back to your master with your tail 'twixt your legs, like the dog you are!"

With the vision of the Knight scurrying off as assurance, the Blue Knight turned and offered his hand to the young Amelia.  "Let me help you," he said, with his hand extended and splayed, with a firm pull to her feet to fetch her from the muddied ground.  It pained him to see the tears in her eyes, and while his hand rose to soothe the reddening swell upon her cheek, he hesitated to touch it, so as not to cause her further pain.  He caught a glance at his knuckles as well, which shared the rosy tint of bruising from it's rough connection with Sir William's jaw; he wouldn't be surprised if he had broken it, or at least a few teeth.

As fast as his heart had raced when he'd struck Sir William, he could swear that it stopped as Amelia caught him in embrace, choking and tensing at her closeness.  He tried a number of times to find the right words to say, though naught came but breathy pauses, her closeness putting him on edge.  He seemed so hesitant, reserved, but would neither encourage the dreamy look in her eye nor voice his rejection.  Finally, placing his hands on Amelia's shoulders, he separated the girl from him, and finally found the strength to speak.  "We should go back inside, milady," he suggested, a calm and concerned tone to his voice, "Find something cold to put on your cheek, before it begins to bruise."

@Grubbistch

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Going back into that place, with all those people, with her father, it almost seemed impossible. How could she face her father knowing she had defied him in such a war? There would be even more talk, more whispers about what was going on between them and yet...she didn't care. All she could truly think about was the one who had saved her, protected her, truly cared for her as a person.

"Yes, you're right. It wouldn't do for this to swell, just...just one last thing though." She needed this, more than anything she needed to do something she knew would make her terrible.

"Before we go, all I ask is for a kiss. If out of all the scandals spoken tonight, let them at least be truthful about this. Gift me this kiss, Sir Knight, so that my heart will have something to hold onto when I return to my life of captivity and loneliness." The thought of going back to her life, her wretched life of following orders and burying her own dreams, it was more than her heart could take. Without some ray of hope to fortify herself, she feared what she might do to cope with that pain. Mother had told her many nightmares of girls who delved into madness, dying in their sorrow or their mania, never to be known again except as a cautionary tale. Amelia refused to be a tale of caution and fright, she wanted her own life.

Bending down to give her this one mercy, she knew he likely wasn't wary of any trickery up her sleeve. She was just a poor girl in over her head, she couldn't possibly have the cunning or even the courage to try and do something. A past version of herself would have been too afraid, too scared to even think of such a thing, but Amelia was emboldened by love and desire this night. For once in her life now, she was willing to be selfish and do something for her own benefit instead of someone else's.

Their lips came together, so sweet was this loving embrace that she could not help but hold onto him. It was her first kiss with such a noble man, a man whose heart was pure and his skin so soft. Slowly, ever so slowly, her delicate little hands would rise up, as if going to caress those beautiful cheeks of his. Had she not needed to deceive him, she would have gladly gathered those incredible locks of hair between her fingers, grabbing hold as if her life depended on it.

Oh sweet knight, please forgive me. She thought as her hands went not to his reddening cheeks, but to the rims of his helm. In one motion she would attempt to remove the mask from his identity, her eyes fully open as she watched intensely. If successful, she would take quick steps backward, holding the blue plumed piece of armor against her chest with both hands, taking witness of who he truly is. Whether or not she did succeed, her words would still be the same.

"I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...I just can't go back to that life, I can't go on living this way. If I must hold you hostage with your secret so you will love me, then so be it!" Her voice was breaking once more, her eyes brimming with tears as she came to know the horrible deed she was committing. He had showed kindness to her, defended her honor, and now she repaid him with treachery. "Sir Dormaeus, you will marry me, and we will live happily together, or I will expose you to the entire world, and make sure you never joust again. Save me, or lose everything." Was this the kind of woman she wanted to be? Yes, yes she would, as long as it meant escaping the nightmare of this life.

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"My sister carries the opinions of our mother; she could never bring herself to deny me the pleasures of restrained freedom."

A masculine tone trickled between the two spies. Unable to defeat his curiosity and to further avoid the hubbub of the Blue Knight and his Lady created, Monty followed after the two women. He had remained a safe distance, allowing the two privacy for a moment before he intervened. 

Shahdee turned to face her brother, who was quick to kneel next to Ada, leaning close enough to allow a whisper of propriety to squeeze between the two. He smiled warmly at his sister's newly acquired friend before he switched eager eyes to the couple some feet away from them. How unsightly, he thought to himself, smiling all the while as he kept the Blue Knight and Amelia in his sights. This will not help the young lady's standing in the eyes of the upper crust of society, as are the chances one takes when you're a woman bound by the standards of a strange culture. 

When Montgomery spoke of their mother, a delicate shade of sadness rippled through his sentences, punctuating them with a loss that will find no end soon. 

"Even if I spoke a single word of denial, they'd be lies."

The scene unfolding before them silenced her, as it did Montgomery, who was now becoming increasingly uncomfortable spying on a man that had earlier knocked him clean from his horse. There was so much wrong with what was happening, and the conversation deserved some semblance of privacy, yet he didn't withdraw or even attempt to suggest they leave to the other two, feeling that there is much behind all this. 

"Ada!"

A delicate hand draped itself over the shoulder of her companion. Seeing the Blue Knight defend the delicate honor of the young girl made Shahdee's heart jump - he didn't have to, but he did. The sight of the drunken man who dared to hold the title of Knight slapping Amelia angered Shahdee, to the point she had stepped forward with action prompting her to help the young girl and Ada's brother, but Monty grabbed her by the wrist and held her in place. No good would have come from her joining the fray, especially since it would have revealed the other two who've been spying on the couple. Truthfully, this situation is none of the Moray's business. 

Monty had wanted to run the man into the ground, put his heel to the man's face, but with the Blue Knight's parting words for the fallen knight, he knew his assistance was not needed. He had stood and held his sister in place, leaving Ada to do what she felt was necessary. 

"Perhaps it's time we return inside Shahdee?"

The suggestion was made as Amelia showed that the apple certainly does not fall far from the tree. He saw her repay Ser Dormaeus with treachery and poison-laced threats, things he wouldn't have expected from the trouble-stricken lass, yet here they are. He wasn't exactly sure how to react to such a scene, he turned to Ada, hoping that she could guide the Moray siblings in the right direction on how to assist. This may not have been their business in the beginning, but it indeed has turned out that way now. 
 

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The Blue Knight caught Amelia by the wrist, and hesitated to give his answer.  "I cannot," he replied, struggling to supply enough empathy to balm the young girl's heart whom he was assuredly breaking, "I cannot give you what you ask."  Her wrists and hands were so tiny, enveloped by his that he might've held both of them in one, though he did not handle her so roughly, just enough to preserve himself from her actions.  He would not see himself unmasked, even for the purpose of putting Amelia's fears and qualms to rest, even if it meant putting his own well-being above hers.  She looked so fragile, seen through the slats in his helm, and for those moments Ser Dormaeus wasn't quite so confident that she was as strong as he was asking her to be.

It was clear that she was unhappy with that reply.  She struggled against his hold and cast acerbic words at him, holding him at fault for rejection, and in that way he had deserved it.  Young girls fell so deeply in love, and with youth came the inexperience, it was hard to seem like there was any world at all when it had refused entry at the gates.  Ser Dormaeus knew that all too well, and yet he could not admit her.  She would have to learn, and despite the tears in her eyes that threatened to weaken his resolve, the Blue Knight would have to be the one to do it.

"Amelia, I--"

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Ada was looking on from beside the wall of the barn, turning only when voice interrupted them, and found the hand of Montgomery Moray on her shoulder.  The catch of her teeth tightened against her lower lip as she struggled to watch the sight of the Blue Knight and Amelia silently, and as the conversation had taken its sour route, her confidence in letting her brother handle it alone was dwindling.  Montgomery had suggested they leave, offering privacy, seeing that the contemptible, drunkard knight of House Einhorn had been banished away, but Ada wouldn't let it be.

"No, no!  He's ruining everything!" Ada hissed worriedly, her face drained of all its past color.  More than her brother's secret, more than invoking the wrath of House Einhorn, Ada was worried that the combination of the two might spur the unveiling of her own secret.  In order to preserve them, Ada had to find a way to break them up, to postpone the argument between them so that they might salvage the situation later.  Her breath was quick, grasping Shahdee's hand to secure her footing as the balls of her feet slipped a bit deeper into the mud, and as she looked down, she paused.

It was a terrible, terrible idea.  However, this was the only one she'd had.

"Wait here," Ada told the two of them, her grip slipping from Shahdee's hand as she hiked up her skirts to make a quick dash behind a large cow, having been moved out from its place in the barn, suffice big enough to hide behind.  Managing one quick look over it's spotted back, it didn't look like either her brother or Amelia had seen her, too focused on their quarrel to notice.  Bending down, she'd gathered a large lump of mud into her hands, wet, grimy, and dirty.  She cringed with a wrinkle of her nose at the smell, which was almost foul.  Choking, she muttered a prayer.  "Oh, forgive me," she pleaded in a whisper, before taking a step back, and launching it as hard as she could with a throw of her arm.

---------------------

"Amelia, I--" the Blue Knight started, but was interrupted by the clod of dirt and manure that hit him square in the helm.  He reeled as the projectile distraction splattered over the two of them, though Ser Dormaeus was the more assaulted out of the two.  He was blinded for a few moments as he tried to wipe the mud out of the slats in his helm, though he could hear Amelia spluttering a few more sobs and heard the distant footsteps that conveyed she was running away from him, embarrassed to have been struck.  The last thing he saw was the back of Amelia's dress as she hurried away from him, and the distant sight of his sister hiding nervously behind livestock.  He groaned, not sure whether to thank her or be angry.

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As it all happened, Amelia could only feel the sharp blade of embarrassment as her night came crumbling down on her. It seemed as if everything that could go wrong did, and now she would be ruined in the eyes of the social elite. She ran, as fast as her legs could carry her, tears running down her face as she re-entered the party, hoping her father will be able to make things right.

"Father!" She screamed, all eyes on her while her father looked as if his eyes were going to pop out if his head.

"What in the name of all that is-who did this to you?!" Her dress was ruined, her eyes streaked with tears, someone was responsible for this, someone had to pay.

"It was Sir Dormaeus, the Blue Knight!" Gasps of horror and intrigue filled the barn, the implications of the accusation of grave importance. Whispers started up once more, and Lord Einhorn felt a great rage rising up in his heart. Such aggressions crimes could not go unpunished, and he would certainly make sure that vengeance was properly doled out. Filling his lungs with breath, he bellowed out his next words, so that all may hear.

"House Dormaeus will pay for this humiliation! They are treacherous curs who are not to be trusted, and will rue the day they crossed House Einhorn." When the knight returned, Lord Einhorn bellowed out "what is the meaning of this?! What reason do you have to reject my fair daughter?" Amelia hid herself behind her father, tears stinging her eyes with sorrow. Fairy tales were supposed to give one their freedom and their happily ever after. Now she was more miserable than ever, with her heart in a confused mess that could not be so easily untangled. Was he not the knight that would rescue her from this nightmare that was her life?

Edited by Grubbistch

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Once the coast was clear outside, Ser Dormaeus let out another dejected sigh before cocking his helmed head toward the field, thick with mud as it had become sodden with the recent rain.  He was still scraping mud off his helm with the flat of his hand, conveying the grimace beneath with the rejecting flick of his hand to send it splattering back down to the ground.  Try as he might, it was impossible to remove it all, permanently staining his clothes, the royal blue surcoat and once-pristine white tunic.  "Ada!" he called, though he hadn't sounded nearly as angry as he had opposite Ser William in the recent moments prior, "Was that really necessary?"

Peeking over the back of the large bovine, Ada visibly swallowed with a very pronounced lump in her throat, hesitating from coming out from her hiding spot.  Her brother's directional gaze hadn't relented, and he'd assumed that posture with his hands on his hips, knowing well the look he was giving her from beneath his slatted helm.  It seemed she had gotten him into more trouble than she had gotten him out of.  Hiking up her skirts in her hands, she hop-scotched to navigate her way through the mud, and joined her brother, wiping off her dirtied hand on an obscured petticoat.  "There wasnae any other way," she protested, "And it was only supposed to hit you."  Her thick Irish accent strained the vowels, crowned by the way she gestured towards her handiwork; she'd turned him into a right mess.  "If she'd gotten your helm off, she would've seen... and the Morays..." Ada tried, and the turn of her head gave away the hiding spot of Shahdee and Montgomery Moray, behind the wall of the barn.

Ser Dormaeus slapped (what would have been) his forehead with an audible tinny clang to his helm.  "And ye've dragged the Morays into this," the Blue Knight reeled, exasperated.  He laughed, for only the overwhelming absurdity that was unraveling in front of him, and the pity he took upon himself as he dreaded his dwindling reputation.  "You're going to run us straight out of Nvengaria," he whispered harshly to his sister, "Even if I manage to claim the victory against Ser William tomorrow, they're going to peg me the villain."

"I can fix this, I can!" Ada insisted, albeit unconvincingly, "There's no way we can let that drunkard swine of a knight be named champion."  She hissed with the press of her teeth and the check of her chin-- a gesture short of spitting, for it's lack of being ladylike.  It was clear that she shared the animosity for William's behavior.  "Ye might not be able to marry the poor girl, but we can at least save her from that gob."  It was Ada's energy and endless positivity that made her rebound so well, as she was already gaining steam like a bull ready to charge forth at the matador's red cape.  Giving her brother a hard pat in the middle of his back, she primped him as best she could to make the disaster she'd created look... well, less like a wreck.  It was a shame Ada couldn't make miracles, because she'd sure felt like she needed one.  The realigning of his stained collar would have to do.

"Back inside, quickly now!" she ushered her brother, and waved over the Morays to join them.  "The longer we dally, the more they'll talk.  I'll think of something."  The Blue Knight had been hesitant to her forceful pushing, as was Ada, who felt like she was using her brother like a shield upon their re-entry to the Champion's Ball.

--------------------------------------------------

"What is the meaning of this?! What reason do you have to reject my fair daughter?"

The already fair tone of Ada's face paled nearly three shades as they were bombarded by the angry Lord Einhorn with shouts from across the room, and she knew with no greater certainty what it was like to feel one's heart in the pit of one's stomach.  As much as she had prided herself in a life devoted to elegance and grace, it was hard to look beautiful when she was so terrified.  By the stiff-boarded back of her brother to her left, he was faring no better.

Ser Dormaeus was frozen at his sister's side.  In the tiltyard he had shown no fear, charging on a horse at an opponent who was trying to knock him off his horse just as desperately as he was.  The Joust was easy; he knew that.  The politics outside, however, he was dumbstruck.  His voice was breaking softly from within the confines of his helm, as he'd tried to start his defense nearly a dozen times.  Petrified, no words came.

Snapped out of her trance from the choking attempts of her brother, Ada finally made a move to step in front of him.  "My Lord!" she called out in response, almost a little too loudly.  The crowd was already watching the spectacle, and she hesitated for a moment as the room of a thousand eyes turned on her.  She inhaled deeply, mustering her courage, and tried again.  "My Lord, there is a perfect explanation, I can assure you," she refuted, first making a calming gesture with her hands, before clasping them together.  Ada's posture straightened as she cleared her throat, solemn and ladylike with the black beauty mark poised by her left eye.

Flashing her eyes back towards her brother, she displayed the Blue Knight with an upturned palm, bringing attention to the disarray that was his tunic and mud-smeared helm.  "My brother would not dare reject the young Lady Einhorn--" she assuaged him, playing to the prominence of his rank and struggled for an excuse that would salve his ego.  Wringing her hands, she paused, and as the crowd leaned in, she had to come up with something, fast.  "Nay!  For it is quite the opposite!" Ada claimed with an upwardly pointed finger, and the looker's on seemed to be hooked onto the debutante's every word, desperate for explanation, "The Blue Knight is smitten with her beyond words!"

The congregation of the Champion's Ball broke out almost instantly into chattering hubbub, erupting into a deafening white noise, all at once loud, but no more legible.  Nearly everyone had engaged in rumor and speculation, for the scandal was still unfolding before their eyes, too many questions unanswered: for if the Blue Knight was besmitten by the Lady Amelia, why had he not agreed to marry her?

The nerves radiating from the Blue Knight were palpable, sweating with anxiety that put crescent marks into his palms from how tightly he balled his fists, knuckles bone white.  "Adaaaa..." he murmured in a hush between gritted teeth, a subtle sidling slide that brought him inches closer to share private proximity with his sister.  "What are you doing?  You're making it worse!"  His sister was often so reckless, that he'd predicted that he could excuse the horse-drawn coach for the night-- the only way he was leaving this place was in a hearse.

"Trust me, brother," she hissed back, secreted by the chatter of the room, as her eyes focused on the sea-blue ribbon tied around the Blue Knight's forearm, "I've got an idea."

If Ada ever had a talent for anything, it was drama, for the way she'd hogged the spotlight.  Hushing the crowd, she'd made a nonverbal promise to answer their burning questions.  "But my brother is torn, my Lord!" she professed with a splayed hand plastered over her heart, conveying the ache with a caving round of her shoulders.  It was as if Ada, herself, was breaking at the very thought.  "Torn, for how he wishes to give voice to his fancy!  But it is his modesty, my Lord, that would not deign him to impugn your daughter's chaste heart!"

Ser Dormaeus didn't like where this was going.  Ada was overacting, overindulging the crowd in the false tale she spun.  He could only see the light grow dimmer and dimmer, his breath quick and echoing in his helm.  He only saw the path of his sister's logic just before she'd said it, and even as he'd lurched a hand forward, he could not stop her.

"For his heart yet harbors a secret love for the Lady Moray!" she declared with a flaunting gesture to the Lady Shahdee.  The thousand eyes gravitated with her.  While the eyes that had once found Ada were in many ways unkind, the smiles that spread across the faces at them were colored with intrigue.  A scandal, yes, and an exciting one!

As speech erupted yet again from the awestruck crowd, Ser Dormaeus sought the support of the nearest wall, placing a desperate hand against it to preserve his legs collapsing out from under him.  Nvengaria was eating up his alleged love life as a delicious scandal, the ludicrousness of a famed Joust Knight so starkly opposite of the bleak daily lives that they'd found it believable.  The Blue Knight thought he was going to vomit right there in his helm, the taste of bile sour in his mouth.

"My brother is no knave, My Lord, for it would do your angelic daughter disservice to claim love for her when he yet finds his heart given to another!  He wished so to preserve her chastity and good name!" Ada made to persuade Lord Einhorn, and while he might have still been angry, the crowd was certainly on the Dormaeus' side.  While the Lord indeed held the power, he only retained that with the constant favor of the constituent party who paid him homage, and played to the long-term attempt at gaining his favor in the story, when his daughter's tears did not sting so fresh and hotly upon her cheeks.  "Forgive a young man the follies of his heart!  We beg the mercy of your House's forgiveness."

Gathering her brother with the tug of his arm, Ada made to show that the Blue Knight had been smeared, moreso than his daughter, by the mud that had sent her running to her father in tears.  Ser Dormaeus complied with all the will of a ragdoll, bending like a shaft of bamboo as he could no longer retain any more rigidity.  "Even in the brief moments of obvious affection for your daughter, despite his feelings for the Lady Moray, a fiend assumed him reprobate and assaulted him with mud!  My brother is no such thing, and retained honorable intentions!  What say you, My Lord?"

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"She certainly was not wrong."

A bit of unneeded humor escaped the eldest Moray, his tone not at all matching the grim set of his lips. He could sympathize with his sister, who has been the unfair victim of much fingerpointing and accusations. The room felt suddenly small as the people snuck closer and closer to the heart of the problem; their words thick in the air it made it hard to breathe. He pulled at the collar of his shirt, too uncomfortable to adequately withstand the hoard of gossipmongers just waiting for a bone to chew on. Grace to all women, for they are creations far sturdier than any grand palace ever built in the history of Valucre. To withstand the stares of the laughing hyenas and put up with their jibs - how tiresome! 

Tucking his sister's small hand in the dip of his arm, he guided her through the sea of people to better fix themselves in the front row, giving them a better view of Ser Dormaeus and his lovely sister. 

He found himself entirely enraptured by the story of lies Ada is demonstrating, pleasing the crowd and hopefully pleasing Lord Einhorn. Tickled, his smile wrinkled the corner of his blue-green eyes, causing them to twinkle with the delight he was feeling. For a moment the Lord found entertainment in the situation, feeling part of the crowd now that the woman and her flourishes impossibly hooked him. So deep in the display, he hadn't the attention to give to Ada's brother, the unwilling man of the hour who was ready to faint like a woman overcome with emotion. 

Then, from delight to horror, his name was dragged into the entire event. Monty's attention was snapped in half as his sister squeezed his arm, the look on her face cultivation of horror and intrigue and confusion. This was surely unexpected, and just like his sibling, he isn't exactly sure how to feel about it. When he saw the rise to his sister's lips, he suddenly knew how to handle and how to react being so suddenly introduced in this tangled web of fractured names and titles. 

Montgomery clasped Shahdee's delicate form to his much larger body, forcing her head to his shoulder. Unable to fight against his strength, she allowed herself to dragged forward, her feet fumbling against Monty's gait and the swirls of her attire. 

"Please, my Lord Einhorn, allow us a moment to explain. The Lady Ada has done a splendid job describing our beloved Blue Knight's plight, give us a moment to explain our position."

The talk had baffled the young lady; Monty's actions brought a wry smile to her face. He stroked Shahdee's hair, entirely decorated for the night with the richness that showed the Moray's wealth and subsequent power. His actions, Ada's story, the edge of absurdity so thin that Shahdee began to laugh silently, her shoulder's shaking. He gave her a reproachful look. 

"I wish to apologize for the dishonor showed against your beloved daughter, but believe me, it wasn't done maliciously."

This made Shahdee laugh harder, and a sound escaped her that was surprisingly like a sob. Monty pushed Shahdee's head back to his shoulder for the girl much wanted to see the havoc unfolding behind her. 

"The recent loss of our beloved parents, the weight of sudden responsibility - it's been too much for my sweet sister."

She would have smacked the taste out of his mouth if he weren't holding her so close to him. Sweet sister, my a-

"We've been unable to give Ser Dormaeus an adequate answer for his keen interest in Lady Shahdee. I wished to simply not offend his house while House Moray mourned it's loss, thus placing this situation aside."

The gentleman gave a knowing nod towards the ribbon still attached to the Blue Knight's arm - he gave a prayer of thanksgiving for the sight. By now the crowd also saw the ribbon, sparking speculation, adding more wood to this raging fire. Just one ribbon - Lady Moray's ribbon. For a second he found himself almost believing this story; later he will have to ask Ada how she gained such a silver tongue and if he can take a few pages from her book. Shahdee must have given him the ribbon after Monty and the Blue Knight finished their bout, leaving Monty as the loser. 

He released his sister, but not without giving her a parting look that told her to stay silent and keep playing her part. Shahdee was contrite and resigned herself to continue the charade. Shyly, she wiped away her tears of laughter and looked at the floor. 

Montgomery Moray stepped in front of Lord Einhorn and his deceptive daughter. Snatching a few seconds of time, he gave the girl a cold look, a look of that told her her tears and feelings matter very little to him. It was fleeting but certainly felt. Afterward, he dropped down to one knee before the two and lifted his hands, showing them to be dirty (by some miracle). The blond haired man looked vulnerable on one knee, the pain of his recent injuries showing on his handsome face and dulled eyes; the dirt on his hands and underneath trimmed nails show that he is the person that would dare spit on the Einhorn name.

Similarly dressed in the same amount of grandeur, he did not look the part of a pauper. On his left hand, he wore a band of gold on his thumb and his pointer finger harboring a broad band of silver and gold wrapped together; his right was more straightforward, with a large ring that held his House crest with a single sapphire gleaming temptingly from it. He looked a scene.

"Please forgive an overprotective brother. I only wished to save her from heartache once again and to give our Ser Knight an opportunity to rethink, to better gather himself before falling for a young girl smitten with the airs of tonight's festivities."

Edited by Aleksei

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5 hours ago, The Blue Knight said:

"For his heart yet harbors a secret love for the Lady Moray!" she declared with a flaunting gesture to the Lady Shahdee.  The thousand eyes gravitated with her.  While the eyes that had once found Ada were in many ways unkind, the smiles that spread across the faces at them were colored with intrigue.  A scandal, yes, and an exciting one!

Of the dozens of reprobates, the nobles and their sycophants and hanger-ons in the Champion's Ball who positively hummed in the aftermath of fresh gossip revelations, one blond-haired blue-blooded degenerate of no importance idly turned to his flushed companion and whispered...

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Edited by Fierach

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In the pit of his somewhat large stomach, Lord Einhorn knew he was being played like a fiddle. Through the years of navigating the violent, turbulent stage that was the court of a mad tyrant king, Frederick learned quickly how to spot a lie. Not knowing when someone was lying to you was the quickest way to end up with a noose around one's neck. However instead of his death, he was trying to evade looking the fool in front of all these people.

"Yes, it appears there has been a misunderstanding." Each word was said slowly, his eyes searching the faces of each conspirator, wondering just what it is they were holding back. No matter what it was, he had no choice but to play along and go with it.

"Of course I apologize deeply for having put you in such a difficult situation, Sir Dormaeus. It was not at all my intention to trouble your heart in such a manner. I am a man of honor, as any of my business associates would attest to. If your heart truly belongs to the Lady Moray, then I will not stand in the way of true love." There was something odd in all of this, something he could not put his finger on, but fate has determined this to be a battle he cannot win.

Damn these crazy lunatics, he thought to himself as he began to address Sir Moray and his own ridiculous addition to this farce. Going against one Noble Family was a challenge, but to openly challenge two? In his heyday he could do it without question, but now he could not dare afford to risk his secret being revealed. House Einhorn being broke would eclipse any scandal these fools had gotten themselves into. "Yes, yes, rise Sir Moray. No one here questions your motives for wanting to protect your sister. Family is very important. I am the first to admit maybe I had made a mistake including mine to these proceedings."

For the entire time Amelia had stayed by her father's side, quiet and still, though she looked down in shame when stared down by the Moray knight. All at once her dreams were breaking apart like glass, she doing her best to hold back more sobs from the crowd. She had become a laughingstock now, a poor second choice to a native born noblewoman who was far older and likely a better match for her anyway. To hear the Blue Knight proclaim his love for her made her heart sink deeper into despair, for she knew it was not nearly enough love to let her into his life. If she weren't so petrified of further angering her father, she would have run off all over again, but this time she would not stop until she was back home in Ursa Madeum, even if it killed her.

"Father I'm-"

"That is enough out of you." His dismissal stung hard, but she bore it as best as she knew how. "My valet will take you back to the tent and fetch Meredith. If you misbehave even once he will administer punishment. Understood?"

Amelia hated it when he had her whipping girl in the same room as her. She could always feel the resentment she had for her ever since she took the job so many years ago. Every time that red headed girl took the whipping for her, their eyes would lock and she could just feel the accusations coming off her.

Why couldn't you just behave?

Why do you have to hurt me like this?

This is why you'll never amount to anything more than a dimwitted wife of some stranger.

Complying with her father's wishes, she left with the valet, she doing her best not to look at the Blue Knight, but she just couldn't help it. Inside that armor was an incredible man who loved her, and though he did not choose her, she still loved him dearly. In a kinder world, they could actually be together, maybe even happy. Those kinds of fates were for different girls however, and she would just be a lonely unicorn caged into a life she didn't want.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Lord Einhorn spoke once more. "Well then. Since that is now taken care of, we can continue with the festivities. I wish you luck, Sir Dormaeus, in the coming match tomorrow." With that he returned to his mingling as the party started to resume it's normal pace. This time there were many juicy rumors to feast upon, with many eyes upon the Blue Knight of House Dormaeus.

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Ever since I was a boy, I’ve always been fond of tournaments. Though I’ve never been much of a competitor, there are few things I find more enjoyable in this life than watching the joust or melee.

I suspect my love for the event was inherited from my mother, as my father would prefer he be put to the sword than attend. He despises how they “trivialize” the severity of battle, but as a boy of but nine winters, what need did I have of the brutality of war? And as an older man now, I’ve found that after so many years of border skirmishes, killing, and blood feuds, you tend to better appreciate the sport of combat than the finality of it.

They’re a reminder that not everything in life need be a matter of life and death, even combat. A reminder that your skill with the lance or blade or spear needn’t be measured in the amount of blood you’ve drawn or the lives you’ve ended. In a way,  it represents the elusive alternative, the other choice, or the other way you often hear a soldier say doesn't exist before a mission that challenged your principles.

But, such opinions are not of knightly virtue nor are they particularly well-received by my peers. So, I instead say that my love of the tourney is but a harmless fascination that has stayed with me since childhood, and as few ever care to pry further, the simplicity of my answer suffices.

“Squire.”

The ward spilled into my tent a moment later. “Ser?”

My squire is the daughter of one of my father’s stable hands, a young girl of just fourteen summers. She’s a tall thing for her age, with long, sinewy arms and long, muscled legs from her time totting saddles and tending to horses. Her hair is brown as dirt and long enough to reach the center of her back even when braided, and her eyes are a dazzling grey-blue, like the skim of ice over flowing water.

She had a name once, something quite pretty I remember, but now it was Squire, the ward, or Girl.

“I’ve been thinking about your request,” I lied, voice firm. It hadn’t crossed my mind since she asked. But, if there’s one thing an aspiring knight should learn early, it’s patience. “We’ll set out early tomorrow and see if we can find your Blue Knight before the finals.”

The girl smiled so hard it must have hurt her cheeks. She bowed and thanked me no less than three times, and then scurried from my tent when I dismissed her. But, as you might expect, my decision was less about the ward's desire and more of an attempt to satisfy my curiosity.

Truth-telling, I had become something of a Blue Knight fan over the course of the current tournament. Not enough to fly his colors, and further still from calling him my champion, but well-beyond the simple appreciation of his natural talent.  It would be interesting to meet the man beneath the helm.

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Ada was practically jumping where she stood, unable to contain her gaiety for how swimmingly the ruse had played out.  The gentry were practically eating the story out of her palms page by page, her brother quickly having made an about-face in the eyes of the people.  If Ada had put her mind to it, she could likely charm the scales off a snake, and sell them back to him.  However, she found herself pleasantly surprised when Ser Montgomery Moray supported her claims-- Lord Einhorn hadn't looked happy, but satisfied, at least.

In the thrush of the party resuming, Ada skipped over to Monty and reached for his jaw with her hands, bringing him down to her to apply an enthusiastic smooch to his shaven cheek, an emblazoned red print of lipstick left behind in its wake.   "You were brilliant!" she congratulated him quietly, the beauty mark by her eye moving with the rise of her cheeks for the illuminated smile she paid him.  "With any luck, your sister will be the belle of the ball!  I wager she and my brother will be the talk of the town tomorrow; now all he has to do is unhorse that ruffian, William."  Ada was rubbing her hands together like a master hustler, as she made a mental note to increase her bets on her brother's match.  With any luck, this was going to open all sorts of new doors, even for the four of them.  "Your sister is like to become the most desirable lady in Nvengaria-- well-to-do men always want what others have.  I foresee this is going to be a beautiful partnership, my friend."

The Blue Knight, on the other hand, was in quite opposite spirits.  The bile in his mouth was sour and uncomfortable, his stomach turning over more times than it ever had on the most wild horses he'd rode.  The inside of his helm was becoming muggy and stagnant, for how heavily he was breathing; getting a grip had become no easy task.  "Ada," he called cheerlessly, though his sister pranced over with all the joy in the world.  In the static noise of the crowd, it was hard for anyone to hear what Ser Dormaeus had said to her.

Ada's smile quickly disappeared.

Only a few moments into their conversation, thick with convincing gestures from the arms of the Blue Knight, and desperately floored expressions from Ada, it was clear that the siblings were arguing.  Ser Dormaeus' arms were open, palms upturned as he spoke to his sister, eventually pointing an accusatory finger in her direction.  Ada looked positively bewildered, green eyes wide, showing more white than emerald, her lips parted with --in an uncommon token-- speechlessness.  A few more words were exchanged between them, Ada finally choosing to fight back, for the way she gritted her teeth and appeared to be imploring her brother to reconsider, but it was evident that she had lost the battle.  With an uncharacteristic slump in her shoulders, she paid her brother one last look before stomping back over to the Morays.

Ada's hands were clasped together, looking much more the stern, proper lady than she was before, obviously at her brother's behest.  It wasn't like Ada to follow directions, but by the purse in her lips, it appeared she hadn't much choice in the matter; her brother's mind was made up.  She projected a sigh, and her green gaze set directly on Shahdee.  "My dear brother requests you at the tent of House Dormaeus this eve at midnight, my Lady," she said begrudgingly.  Ada liked Shahdee Moray, found her quite the pleasant change from the usual tedium of the jousting elite, but even Ada hadn't thought that her brother's intentions were a good idea; she only hoped that her brother's instincts were right about the lady Moray.  "He'd like a chance to explain this... situation."

With a swivel of her head, she rolled her lips back hesitantly as she looked at Montgomery.  "My brother has requested that she come alone-- he doesn't wish what words he would like to impart upon your sister to affluence your relation in future tilts," Ada said, knowing that what she was asking was substantial; women in Nvengaria never traveled anywhere alone.  They both hoped that under the cover of darkness, and perhaps with a hood for modesty, Shahdee's reputation could be preserved-- so long as she wasn't feeling as sick as her brother was, right now.  "I hope you can understand."

Ada gave a deep curtsy to the Morays, and as she went to go rejoin her brother in a flurry of kicked skirts, the Blue Knight bowed to the far-off Lord Einhorn with his fist to his chest, wordlessly apologizing for all the trouble he'd caused.  Together, they left without another word.

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In the dead of night, long after the Champions' Ball had ended and the guests returned to their tents in the camp and the residents to their homes, long after the torches burned low, all were thought to have been asleep, even Amelia.  There came an occasional tap to the floor of her room, quiet and unassuming.  A few moments passed, and then again.  There was no intruder in her room, for no one had set foot within.  Once she stirred from her slumber, another tap came, from a pebble being skirted across the floor of her tent, from under the eaves, a small hand occasionally seen beneath the hem as three more pebbles followed.

It was good fortune that the Einhorns' grandiose accomodations were on the outer edge of the camp, closest to the forest, providing the perfect place for Amelia's visitor to go unseen.  Once he'd heard her stir from her bed, the hand, small and childlike, slipped a small knife beneath the eaves of the tent, for her to cut open an exit to pass by the Einhorn tent's guards.

Upon breaking into the darkness of night, Amelia would be face to face with a small boy of about eight, skinny and scrawny, with brown hair mussed up like a bird's nest and big blue eyes, dressed in a meager tunic, breeches, and leather coverings that could only just be called shoes.  He was obviously not of the nobility, but hadn't appeared the peasantry, either.  He hadn't said a word, for his lips remained pressed together, but after digging through his pocket, he withdrew a small pin that bore the crest of the Dormaeus family house upon it.  Almost immediately after, he'd grabbed Amelia's hand, and they stowed away into the night, skirting around the outside of camp until they'd come to the tent of House Dormaeus, Amelia even in her nightgown.  He pulled her along, not with the force to maneuver her, but with the determination to have her follow.

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"Ah, just in time," Ada had said apathetically, lounging on a chaise as the boy had pulled Amelia into the tent.  "Shahdee Moray arrived only just a moment ago," Ada explained to Amelia, who was no doubt bewildered by being suddenly stolen in the night for a summons.  It was highly unusual and very improper, though not without purpose.  Ada looked positively livid, shooting a glare towards a changing screen that led into the rear part of the tent.

Before she could explain the purpose for their gathering, Ada was interrupted by the bursting approach of the young boy, his hand reached out and grasping at the air, like he was to be given something.  Ada clicked her tongue and grimaced, before reaching back behind the chaise.  "Oh, fine.  Fine!" she conceded, and withdrew a plate that had a steak, some potatoes, and a modest two-pronged fork.  The boy ripped it out of her hands rapaciously, still not even uttering a single word, but stared at the plate for a moment before looking back up at Ada.  Again, he thrust his hand out to her, demanding.

Ada's face soured, before rolling her eyes with a displeased groan.  Peeling back the collar of her blue dress, she withdrew a cookie from within her modest bosom, and deposited it gruffly on the plate.  It appeared she'd been saving it for herself.  "Greedy little shit..." she grumbled with narrow green eyes, as the boy, satisfied, turned on heel with his feast to go eat outside the tent.  "And watch the door!  If I find you've wandered off, don't expect me to make you breakfast, come morning!"

Lolling her head aside, she was expecting the girls of the remaining party to have plenty of opinions, though respect and upbringing likely kept them silent.  Ada knew what they were thinking, but her tone was only nonchalant.  "Oh, don't give me those looks.  He already ate his share and half of mine; least he could do was leave me the biscuit."  She rose from her chaise, sweeping the remaining crumbs out of her collar with a few waves of her hand, still in the gown from the Champions' Ball.

At that moment, the back of the tent swept open, the Blue Knight coming around the dressing partition that kept the back obscured from any who wandered into the tent.  He was still tall and broad, almost moreso in the low clearance of the Dormaeus tent, wearing the helm that they'd both been privy to only a few meager hours ago.  "That would be my squire, Twig," he explained, his voice slightly tinny through the slats of his mask, "For such a skinny lad, he eats more than a horse."  As the Blue Knight assumed most of the space in the room, he noticed that Ada turned away, obviously still not agreeing with his decision for summoning both the Ladies of Einhorn and Moray to their tent.  Choosing to proceed, he continued.  "We found him rummaging through our food supply around the time we first started participating in tournaments about a year ago-- the townspeople said his parents had dropped him at the steeple, and he hadn't said a word since.  Ada -- affectionately-- gave him the name Twig, since he wouldn't tell us his name.  Even if he scampers off, we know he'll come 'round come dinner time.  He's made a fine squire... and can keep a secret well."

Pausing, a sigh could be heard from inside the Blue Knight's helm; even he had hesitated a moment.  "I find we are all more closely bound, now, through the choices my dear sister has made," he said, the tone becoming just a little biting as his helm turned to look towards her, the shift of his green eyes seen through the thin slat, "And it is my hope that you will keep the secret I am about to impart on you."  First he turned to Shahdee, and gestured with a heavy futility; she seemed to be coping with their siblings' machinations far better than he had.  "I hadn't meant to get you roped into this, last thing I want is for your reputation to be a shambles.  Regardless of my intentions, I shall do my best to protect your honor the best I can."

Turning much more slowly, the fear and regret were palpable as he regarded Amelia.  She was much younger than Shahdee, inherently fragile, and wounded from the actions earlier that night.  "Amelia... I have no greater words I can express than my apologies.  I hadn't meant to lead you on, but I hope you can understand why I must refuse... and I hope with this token of my trust, that you'll find it in your heart to forgive me..."

The Blue Knight's gloved hands reached for the neck of his helm, unlatching a leather strap that kept it fashioned in place.  Ada's back remained turned as the Blue Knight began wrenching it from the bottom up; Ser Dormaeus revealed himself to the two ladies, an identity no one other than his sister and silent squire had known...

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"I am Lady Johanna, sole daughter of House Dormaeus."

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Being brought into the tent was an exhilarating, if not scary, experience for her. It was just the thing one read about in fairy tales, with secret meetings where magical things happened. Somewhere in her mind though, she worried this might be some further trick to increase her embarrassment. She was already going to get in trouble once her father discovered she had left without an escort, so she hoped it was worth it.

Within the tent of House Dormaeus, Amelia looked on curiously as Ada gave payment to the silent boy. It seemed they had some kind of friendly relationship with each other if they were so comfortable sharing food. When his identity was further elaborated on, Amelia began to understand why they were so comfortable. While Twig didn't appear like a normal squire, she supposed it was better than how sir William went through them at a rapid rate. That drunken scoundrel couldn't keep a squire for more than a fortnite before they quit out of anger or disgust.

Seeing the Blue Knight again caused her heart to skip a beat, locking her in place as she waited for him to speak. Surely he would not be in on a plot to further her shame after such a short time of her previous embarrassment, would he?

First he spoke to Lady Moray, apologizing to her and offering condolences for what happened. What did he have to truly be sorry about to her? Nobody could stop talking about the illustrious woman of intrigue and scandal, winning the heart of the valiant Blue Knight just by virtue of a stupid token. Amelia just knew that Lady Moray had never spoken with Sir Dormaeus as she had, connected with him on such a deep level, and truly be in love as Amelia was for him. Intense efforts had to be made to try and hide the disdain she held for the older woman, that was at least, until he spoke to her himself.

Everything inside of her wanted to shout at him, to understand why he didn't choose her, why he didn't love her enough. Amelia was utterly ready to change herself if she needed to, to be the woman that the Blue Knight wanted her to be, so long as they were together. Her heart yearned for his gentle touch, to be in his arms and to know everything was going to be okay. What happened next would shake the very foundation of her view on life.

Seeing those glorious locks of hair, those eyes of such magnificent beauty, that voice, that face. Emotions were running rampant in her heart, a swirling vortex of confusion and questions that threatened to overtake her completely. The meaning behind the words meant nothing to her, all she knew was that the valiant man she loved was in fact a woman. Everything about him, no her, was still the same, it just...it just seemed so very complicated now. With her head swimming, she felt faint, needing a chair to steady herself before she fell.

What did all of this mean?

"I'm...I'm sorry...it's just...it's just so much...I threw myself upon you..." Yet why did she feel she still would if given the chance?

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