For a bit of fun and fantasy, I give you a short ‘historical’ I wrote ages ago…
A Knight of Amour
by Debora Dale
I could always depend on my husband to take me somewhere he wanted to go for my birthday. But this was my twenty-ninth. I wanted it to be different.
“Plan something special,” I pleaded. “Something romantic.”
A grin lit his face. I nodded in understanding. Philip’s idea of romance was signing, Love, Philip at the bottom of a birthday card. So what did he plan for our romantic evening? Dinner at a place called, Medieval Knights.
“It’s a great place,” he explained. “They have serving wenches who bring out trays of mutton, game and ale! And you eat with your hands, like they did back then! It’s supposed to be authentic. They even have knights who joust while you feast!”
“Oh! Goody!” I said. “Just what I’ve always wanted, to suck the bones of dead animals while watching grown men on horseback try to impale each other with sticks.”
“Lances, Jo,” he said. “They’re called lances.”
Wenches and warfare? So much for romantic fantasies.
Pleasure replaced apprehension as we approached the site of Medieval Knights. Majestic. Awesome. Those were the words that came to my mind as we left our car with the valet.
In the distance, upon a hill, stood a magnificent castle. A gentleman dressed in period attire, led us toward a horse-drawn carriage – a surrey, Philip clarified – and it took us up a winding path to the castle doors. There we were to begin our evening of feasting and festivities.
I fell into the world of which romance novels are made. I imagined myself as a medieval maiden being driven to Court for an audience with the king. My hair laid in ringlets down my back, and had blue and white ribbons woven through it. The pure white sleeves of my shift were puffed through slits in the shoulders of my blue velvet gown. Just below my waist rested a long gold chain that dipped in front. Around my neck was a blue velvet choker, and from it hung the most beautiful sapphire I could imagine.
The surrey stopped. A handsome, noble-looking man held out his hand to aide me in my descent from the carriage. He looked strangely familiar.
“Philip?” I heard myself ask.
His voice sounded clear yet distant. “Philippe, madam, at your service.”
Oh, I must be in heaven.
Philippe escorted me into the castle. I felt a chill as our feet scraped against the dirt floor. Dim light flickered from torches mounted along the walls, and I blinked at the darkness.
Between the torches were tapestries depicting scenes of love and chivalry. One tapestry showed a knight standing beside a maiden. One of his hands caressed her face and the other covered his heart. I could feel his devotion and imagine his voice, filled with warmth, as he told her of his undying love.
Philippe studied the tapestry as if he, too, were seeing it for the first time. He took my hand. My heart sang when he spoke.
“There is no love such as we see there,” he began, “except that which is in my heart.”
I sighed at the beauty of his words.
In an instant, his expression turned somber and he continued. “Milady, I fear I must leave you. I need prepare for the joust.”
“No, Philippe!” I couldn’t imagine him in battle. “Must you?”
“Aye, milady, I must. I am honour-bound to do so.”
I must be strong for him. “Godspeed, my love.”
“What do you think so far?” Philip asked while chomping on a ten-inch turkey leg.
“Well,” I said, speaking over the rowdy crowd. “It is different.”
Philip smiled. “Can you picture me as a knight in armor, riding horseback into battle?”
As a matter of fact…
I sipped my ale from a metal goblet. “You would make any Lord proud.”
His brows went up. “Jo, mine would be a free lance. I would fight only for myself.”
“Wouldn’t you fight for a lady’s honor?”
“It would be very romantic,” I said.
Philip grinned and leaned close. “Might that lady be you?” he asked.
My proud cavalier looked stunningly masculine sitting atop his steed.
He waited patiently as maiden after maiden presented tokens to his opponent, Beaumont. The maidens tore strips from their gowns, their shifts, their sleeves – from anywhere they could tear something without stripping themselves bare.
Beaumont looked quite the holiday tree with all those tokens decorating his limbs. And how positively arrogant he sat, with no humility at all.
To the others watching, I’m certain Philippe appeared unimpressed by this show of adoration for his opponent. At first glance, that’s how he appeared even to me.
But I know him. I recognized the tightening of his jaw. I understood the steady gaze of his eyes. I felt the tension in his arm as he clutched his lance. Our eyes did not meet, our lips did not speak, yet I could hear him call for a maiden, one maiden, to offer a token for him to take into this battle.
The ache in my heart pulled me to him. I ran to his side tearing the ribbons from my hair, all of them, one at a time, two at a time, it didn’t matter. As long as my valiant Philippe received my tokens before his opponent’s mount crumbled under the weight of his.
He accepted them one by one, peering into my soul as I tied them around his arms, his legs, his lance, even his horse. When he spoke, my heart stopped beating, the crowd disappeared. There was only myself and my Philippe.
“Madam, you honour me as no other. What hex have you that has entranced me so?”
“It is no hex, my noble knight,” I answered breathlessly. “It is my love.”
He straightened as he absorbed my words.
“Take care, my love,” I whispered. “I shall wait for you.”
Tormented, I turned away. As I walked toward the crowd, I heard a bellowing voice.
I started to smile, but before my smile was true, I heard the charging hooves of anxious steeds. I turned as Philippe and Beaumont lowered their lances and aimed for each other. I covered my eyes. I could not watch. But I must, I thought, for Philippe.
They missed. They turned and charged again. Lances lowered. The crowd cheered. I prayed. The growl of Philippe, or was it Beaumont? I could not tell. A hit! There was a groan. Was it my Philippe? No, please, not Philippe!
A roar came from the crowd. They were on their feet. How could they cheer at this display of violence? My breath caught in my throat. I waited, watching. Philippe and Beaumont sat with their horses side by side, their gazes locked.
What has happened? I must know. Just then, Beaumont collapsed, and Philippe raised his lance in triumph!
The crowd, still on its feet, was howling! Beaumont faltered as he tried to stand. He left the field with the aid of two footmen. His horse was led away by another.
As suddenly as it began, it was over.
The crowd, now quiet, grabbed goblets of ale from the trays of passing wenches. They settled into their seats and stuffed fistfuls of meat into their mouths. How could they eat and drink after such savagery?
And what of Philippe?
My eyes searched the crowd. I felt a tingle down my spine. He was near, I could feel him. I turned and he was there, unharmed.
“Your sweet tokens gave me the pride with which to fight and win,” he said. “Thank you, milady. Now pray tell, how may I express my gratitude?”
“Oh, please,” I whispered, “say it in French.”
“Would that I could, Madam, but I assure you, as this is your fantasy, I know no more of French than you.”
He leaned closer and looked at me with a hunger such as I have never seen before. His eyes, black as a moonless night, were full of the need mine surely reflected.
“Jolie.” There was such passion in his voice. “Jolie.”
“Yes, Philippe,” I responded, my passion equal to his. “Yes.”
“Jolie… Jo… JO!”
With a jolt I was thrust back into real time and my noble knight was gone! In his stead, stood an ordinary man. A man who looked strangely familiar.
“You okay, Jo?”
Dejected and weary at the prospect of life in reality once more, I answered with little enthusiasm. “Yes, Philip, I’m fine.”
“This wasn’t your idea of romance, was it?” he asked.
“I thought you liked all this fancy medieval stuff.”
“I like the fantasy,” I said, taking in the sight. “Not the grunge.”
“Well,” he began, “we’re taking the surrey back to the car. That’ll be nice. Won’t it?”
I shrugged. “But it’s a nice night tonight…”
He lifted a brow in question.
“I remember seeing beautiful gardens on the ride up the hill,” I hinted.
“Okay…” He glanced around. Grinning then, he tipped his head toward mine. “Perhaps a promenade through the gardens?” he asked.
Philippe? Is that you?
“I would love it,” I said.
“Shall we, milady?” he said with an indistinguishable accent and a smile.
He extended his arm and I slipped my through. I tried but I couldn’t stop the giggle. His soft chuckle teased and pleased my soul.
There was hope after all.