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Femme and Noe wanted H/D in a monastery? So be it. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Femme and Noe wanted H/D in a monastery? So be it.
For Femme and Noe
Abbot Alban missed nothing, although he chose to seem vague; his old eyes were keen, for all their twinkling. He was a wise old abbot, as men must be who govern their communities, and he kept a personal rule of silence upon most matters, almost as if he had been of the Cistercian foundation of Stanley nearby, and far more than is enjoined in the Rule of St Benedict. Wherefore he governed well the Abbey of Malmesbury that was founded of Aldhelm.
The Priory of St George at Ogbourne St George was, in the high theory of the thing, a cell of Bec; but it was to Abbot Alban and his wisdom that its acute prior, tiny Prior Filius, ever brought his conundra. When, as now, he was accompanied by grim Brother Severus the Infirmarer, Abbot Alban left off his pretenced vagueness and was wholly attentive and alert.
The Treaty of Wallingford was but newly sealed, and any jar might even now set all to naught and bring about renewed fighting and the Anarchy again. Perhaps in time, when men of both sides were reconciled to the event, they might be reconciled to one another; for now, even whispers must be silenced lest all be to do again.
The priory guesthouse was open to all travellers, and the Order did not concern itself with the tumults and politics of the mortal world. Even so, a man’s rank was a measure of his worth in some sense, and it was the duty of the high and the noble and the rich to support the poor and humble – not least by paying the full scot for a lodging in the precincts of Holy Church. The youngish, fair-haired man, clearly a fighter and clearly a Norman, who gave his name as Dreux de Bonnefoi, knew and resented the fact. With what he thought to be a proper reluctance in the character of a rich merchant’s son, used to haggling, he gave in gratitude for his shelter what a knight had given, and none of the brothers was so unkind as to smile at the transparency of his device.
It was on the third day that he rose, and joined the community and a few of the neighbouring farmers and villagers ’round for Prime, after which he proposed to take a walk through the precinct and the country near. It was in the porch that he saw, with shock and no small anger, a black poll that could belong to only one man. Thrusting his way through the small crush, he all but swore at having missed his prey.
It was almost the hour of None before he ran the black-haired man, his contemporary, to his earth. He could not be mistaken in him: that shock of ebon hair and those emerald eyes were unmistakeable and unforgettable. His hand went for a moment to the sword he had put by and did not have.
The man looked at him mildly, and sketched a slight reverence.
‘Don’t pretend you don’t know me, Harry.’
Nothing shook the black-haired man. ‘I am told you are a merchant’s son upon his way to Bristol. Far above my knowing, good sir.’
This was absurd, thought the man passing as Dreux de Bonnefoi. ‘What, by God’s Teeth, do you here, eh? On my track, perhaps?’
‘I don’t understand you, sir. I am a potter of this place, injured in my trade, and thankful under God to the brothers of this house for corrody.’
‘Yes, and I’m a merchant’s brat.’
‘So I have heard,’ said the other, gravely. But was that a spark of humour in his eye?
The fair-haired man who’d given his name as Dreux considered, and nodded sharply. ‘You’re right. Not here. Attend me after Vespers.’ And without waiting for a reply, he stalked off.
The following hours were ones of torment for the man calling himself Dreux de Bonnefoi. Impossible that Harry should be here, in the guise of a potter. One had only to look at him – as, Dreux admitted wryly, one had only to look at himself – to see the marks of knightship and of war in his body: the sword-arm, the trained hand, the muscles shaped by knight’s service. Was he wounded? He had claimed an injury, but Dreux had seen none, and Dreux, though no infirmarer or doctor of physic, had seen wounds enough to know them. And there was no reason why Harry should be guised as another: he had been on the winning side, serving the Empress and her son Curtmantle against Stephen. If he were posing as a potter, it could only be for some inward purpose, and Dreux much feared that that purpose was to stop certain of Stephen’s adherents – for all that Stephen was allowed to sit his throne until he died, by the condescension of Harry FitzEmpress – from fleeing outwith the realm. Which flight was the very purpose of the man calling himself Dreux de Bonnefoi, making his way not to Bristol but rather by stealth to Christchurch Harbour….
‘I,’ said Abbot Alban, with a smile, ‘should let them settle it between them – and do you, Brother Severus, ignore this Harry’s unseen and vaguely talked-of injury. Which does not exist. I think I know who it is goes under the name of Dreux de Bonnefoi, and I make sure that I know of Harry the pretended potter of Ogbourne. I taught them both their letters – and a merry dance they led me – when I was younger, at Muchelney.’
Twilight breathed September coolth upon the land. It was almost a relief to match the cooling airs, that Harry should have come to him after all. They walked in the priory garth, secure in the knowledge that they two alone were concerned with the affairs of this world, and that even were they overheard, the brethren cared not for such matters.
Are you injured?’ Dreux was abrupt.
‘No,’ smiled Harry. ‘Nor shall you be, I swear before Christ and His saints.’
‘You’re here for me, however.’
‘Only in a sense – Drogo.’
Drogo de Malford – to give him his right name at last – exhaled.
‘My father, then?’
‘I mean no harm to him, either.’
Drogo relaxed fully. He could not remember when he had last been not braced against disaster. He said as much.
‘Perhaps when we led Father Alban a dance when we were getting our letters at Muchelney?’ Harry was laughing.
‘God’s Wounds, but I have missed you.’
‘And I you,’ said Harry. ‘I saw you at Wallingford.’
‘And saved me from one of your own archers, I think.’
‘It had been unknightly to have slain you at that time, and in your condition.’
‘It was a countersiege, you fool, you’d every right.’
‘I think not so, and no more does my lord of Anjou who shall be king hereafter. The Empress, I admit, should not so hold, but, there, it is such bearing of hers let the crown slip through her fingers time and again, after every victory.’
‘Curtmantle thinks not so?’
‘He means to rule all England when Stephen shall have died: all England, as Anjou and Normandy and Aquitaine. He wants all hearts and all souls, and means to bind up the land’s wounds after these nineteen years.’
‘There is no place in such an England for me and mine. My father –’
‘That is why I am here, to intercept. You must not go to Christchurch and leave your liegance. Eustace is dead.’
‘Aye – and there are those who say my father had a hand in it, as Eustace wished to keep fighting, and keep his father Stephen fighting, and my father and other barons had chosen to throw in at last with your Maud.’
‘They say it not now. Curtmantle is satisfied, and Stephen also, that it was the illness that stalks all sieges, and the visitation of God. They are renewing the Treaty even now, at Winchester.’
‘Yet both parties would see my father hanged by his heels, for he has offended both.’
Listen.’ Harry’s green eyes were compelling. ‘Your father is to lose only his land and title – hear me out, Drogo. Even Reinauld is content, and my cousin of Neville. Your father is to have a corrody here: I have chosen and tested it, and he shall not repine. Your Malford has been given to me, by Stephen and Henry both.’
Drogo swallowed, thickly. He would not be seen to weep the loss.
‘No, listen. My Godney is to be advanced an earldom, and I to hold it; and the barony of Malford to be held of me. By you, if you like. Between us, we can make one England, and end the Anarchy. Harry of Godney and Drogo of Malford, side by side, man, as we were not when we fought and urged each other to mischief at Muchelney Abbey: what better? It was wrong of Stephen to seize the throne that Harry Beauclerc left to Maud, and Maud was too great a fool to have taken and held it had Stephen never usurped it: but what is that to us? I followed my lady and her son, and you and your father your lord, as true knight ought, and your father sought peace for all at the last, and no man shall condemn. Yet there is now a new England to make and raise sound and secure. Will you take my hand, and be in peace with me and the king and the king hereafter?’
Drogo’s grey Norman eyes looked deeply in to the new Earl of Godney’s green ones; and in the priory garth, disdaining a mere clasping of hands, they embraced, and exchanged the kiss of God’s peace, and Drogo sank to his knees and took his lands from his lord’s hand. And away in Malmesbury, the Abbot was moved by a sudden sense of wonder whose source he knew not yet, in that very hour, and broke into the joyous song that was of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis. There is always hope where love and loyalty are, suspended in time, never and always, redeemed from fire by fire, infolded, and all manner of thing shall be well: here and in England.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: September 22nd, 2011 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

The Nunc Dimittus had Broadway timing!


wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 22nd, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

You lovely lad.

Thank you.
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 22nd, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you, that's very obliging of you.

And of course Godney and Malford are secular men, after all.

Interesting decade, the 1150s.
germankitty From: germankitty Date: September 22nd, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)


My inner history buff is transported with delight, especially as this period of English history has been a favorite of mine since I first saw Richard Burton in "Becket" these 40 or so years ago. Love it, well done!

I chose the icon only because of the linguistic theme; it's by no means meant as a reflection on the story!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 22nd, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Bar one necessary anachronism...

... I trust it suits.

germankitty From: germankitty Date: September 22nd, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bar one necessary anachronism...

Oh it does, and very well at that. :) (Don't worry, it's been ages since I last did some serious immersion into the period; any kind of not-too-blatant anachronism would have to bite me so I'd notice. Out of curiosity, what was it?)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 22nd, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Having Harry of Godney

coin the term 'the Anarchy' for the period.
kestrelsparhawk From: kestrelsparhawk Date: September 23rd, 2011 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)

How fun

I do love your writing, which carries the weight of Old England quite handily. And your characters fit their times quite nicely; the places appropriate, and the swearing what good Christian knights of the age might certainly have done.

BTW, Although a bit more period, this reminds me happily of the Ellis Peters series I gobbled when younger -- which of course is the only reason I've ever heard of Stephen and Maude (or Maud? sp. both ways in this).
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 23rd, 2011 01:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'm greatly obliged.

Not least for yr bringing that tiresome misprint, now corrected, to my attention.
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: January 23rd, 2012 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)
And this was posted on my birthday! How I missed it, I don't understand, but I do apologize. I've just finished rereading When Christ and His Saints Slept, so the timing couldn't be more appropriate.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 23rd, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

A belated 'Happy Birthday', then.

And perhaps it was meant to be thus, in light of the timing.
11 comments or Leave a comment