6 March 750 A.D.- 10:30 A.M.
My mother once told me to never pursue a man that lacks chivalry, no matter what my station in life was. I haven’t seen my mother in ten years, but her advice rings in the back of my head. These past years working as a serf in Lord Lanin’s personal demesne have been far from easy, but I find hope in my beloved’s eyes.
Sir Rowan Peigne is a highly esteemed knight of Lord Lanin’s manor who strictly follows the Code of Chivalry and obeys the Truce of God. He protects the lord, holds peace in the manor, and never engages in swordfights or spars with knights from Wednesday evening to Monday morn. I have admired him since the age of fourteen.
Crowds of serfs and freemen alike depart from their homes to gather around the arena. My week work is complete for the time being, and I contain my nervous intrigue for the following events. I have never attended a formal tournament before. Sir Peigne, my beloved, is the second to ride against Lord Geoffrey Lanin in the first event.
The men are dashing in their armor, and I wave my handkerchief in the air as I have seen the royal ladies do. I turn my head and see Lady Marsei Marchelagne, betrothed to Lord Lanin. I feel pity for her, for Geoffrey is not the kindest of souls.
Rowan is in the lane closest to me and Lord Lanin is on Lady Marsei’s side, appropriately. Sir Peigne remains politely reserved as he settles onto his horse and adjusts his lance for the joust. Lord Lanin flaunts his highly decorated armor and blows a kiss to Lady Marchelagne. I could see in her eyes the annoyance at his pride.
All is silent for a moment as Geoffrey gets into position. The air is thick with tense anxiety. The horn blows and they are off. The joust is the quickest event, and this round was no different. The sound of wooden lance against a metal reverberated around the arena. Sir Rowan has lost this round. I growl in frustration and Lady Marsei appears even more annoyed than before.
The men set up for the next round and the tension grows stronger in every second that passes. The horn sounds and the hooves against dirt is the only sound to be heard within the vicinity of the manor. I see Geoffrey’s lance make contact with Rowan, but there was no contact with metal this round- only flesh.
5 March 750 A.D.- 2:22 P.M.
“Lady Marchelagne? Have you thought long about my proposal?”
I rip my gaze away from the dark manor beyond the castle’s windows. The stone castle rarely provides any warmth against the gloomy atmosphere outside. I am wrapped in my finest and thinnest silks, despite the cool chill drifting in from the wall openings. Lord Lanin seems to patiently await my answer, but irritation is slowly forming in his eyes.
“Oh, my apologies Lord Lanin, but what proposal are you referring to?” I innocently ask despite already listening to his proposal once.
“Would you please pay attention, Marsei!” Lord Lanin snaps and adjusts his body into a more aggressive stance. “Your father his holding a ceremonial tournament tomorrow in honor of his five-and-fiftieth name day.”
I nod slowly, dread forming in my stomach. My father, Lord Marchelagne, is the master over every vassal that holds a fief within his land borders. Lord Marchelagne has settled many investitures through subinfeudation across the past eight years, but Lord Geoffrey Lanin is unique because he was the first man to ceremonially receive a fief from my father.
Lord Lanin is an unpleasantly blunt man with a pretentious aura surrounding him; however, he is a terrific businessman and holds a high status with the common people of Gaul. This attracts men like my father to trust Geoffrey with a large strips of fertile land in exchange for protection and special favors, or aids. This could include financial help or the provision of soldiers. Basic feudalism is practiced on every strip of land in Europe.
Lord Lanin clears his throat and says, “Well, to add on to the excitement of the day, I propose our immediate engagement and to perform the matrimonial ceremony after the team melee. I know the melee and the jousting is probably a bore to a civilized young lady like you, but I find this proposal to be quite fair for the both of us. ”
“Of course, Lord Lanin. That sounds like a wonderful idea,” I mumble, barely able to force those vile words to leave my mouth. “Will you be participating in the joust, dearest?”
Lord Lanin scoffs at first from my sarcasm, and then pridefully smirks. “Now that you ask, love, I happen to be riding against various knights and other gnats of the sort in the joust and melee.” Lord Lanin does not think highly of the knights, despite them being his only protection from the many assassins after his head.
Geoffrey gestures at the serf women in the room to report to his side. “Inform Sir Davis Rothomar and Sir Rowan Peigne that they will be participating in the joust and melee tournament tomorrow morn.” The serfs curtsy for confirmation and then scurry out of the manor to the knight’s quarters.
The mention of Sir Peigne has caused my face to warm and my hands to sweat. Lord Lenin notices my discomfort and grins. “Do not worry my dear, your beloved knight will be caused no harm in the tourney. It is only a friendly competition.” He rolls his eyes at the word beloved, for he is the only person that detects my true feelings.
Sir Peigne was my childhood playmate and constant companion. He has the same long light hair and cool green eyes now as he did then. We did absolutely everything together when we were young. He lived in the manor with my father and I after his parents met an untimely fate against a sounder of ferocious boars.
Rowan’s one lifetime goal was to become my “knight in shining armor” under the most noble of lords, my father. So, at the age of seven, Rowan was placed under the guidance of an old, wise knight called Sir Luca Rothomar to serve as a page. Sir Davis Rothomar is Sir Luca’s son and Rowan’s longtime friend, who was a squire to my father at the time that Rowan was a page.
My heart always belonged to Rowan, until Lord Lanin was introduced when I was eight. My father arranged our marriage only three weeks after Geoffrey’s homage. Rowan and I have secretly met many times since then, but as we grew older it became more and more difficult to sneak around Lord Lanin’s spies. Eventually our romanticism was put on hold, but the thirst for escape from suitors and swordfighting to see one another was never quenched.
About fifteen minutes pass and there is a knock at the chamber door. Geoffrey permits the visitor to enter. I turn at the sound of the creaking door and nearly jump off of the plush chair to greet the noble Sir Rowan Peigne that stood before me.
Noticing each other’s presence, we immediately straighten our backs and tame the expressions of giddy excitement on our faces. Well, at least on my own face.
Rowan bows to Geoffrey and I both in one fluid movement. “Lord Lanin. Lady Marchelagne. I am humbled to be specifically hand picked from the ranks to participate in the joust this next day.”
His voice is smooth and deep, but the words sound forced. I shake my head, knowing that jousting was the last thing he wanted to perform, especially when in opposition to his lord since he is unspokenly obligated to let Geoffrey win. I mouth a quick “good luck” to my knight and soon depart. I pray desperately that night for Rowan’s safety. Throwing jousting matches almost always ends in armor stained red.
6 March 750 A.D.- 10:37 A.M.
Red was everywhere. Staining armor, dirt, and skin. A collective gasp is released by the crowd. A pause, and then controlled chaos ensues. Sir Rowan has been impaled in the neck by Lord Lanin. Lady Marchelagne is the first to abandon her station in the stands. The freemen in the crowd quickly depart from the grounds, but the serfs are not free to leave. They swarm to aid Sir Peigne as he lies upon the ground, unmoving.
Lady Marchelagne pays no attention to the people or her precious silks as she flings herself beside her beloved- our beloved. I have a hard time focusing on the action as my vision is compromised by the watering of my eyes. I manage to train my eyes on Lady Marchelagne’s beautifully sad face, for I cannot bear to watch Rowan take his last breaths. My knight in shining armor.
I kneel beside Marsei and lay a hand on her forearm. She grasps my wrist despite not knowing me personally, and we sit in silence until the medics give up trying to save him.
Rowan moves no more.
Marsei and I emit outrageous sobs as we cling to each other when our love is carried away from us forever.
The following weeks progress slowly surrounded by an aura of depression.
Lord Marchelagne allowed Marsei to terminate her engagement to Lord Lanin because his presence caused too much pain.
Marsei and I were only two of the many that admired Rowan for his amazing bravery and unbreakable spirit.
The funeral was held the following Sunday- Lady Marchelagne’s nineteenth name day, as well as mine. We became well acquainted with each other after the service and have been close friends ever since.
I will always be sad about Rowan’s early demise, but will never regret forming this lifelong bond with Marsei. The sentiment we both shared for Rowan was only star-crossed, but together our fates are perfectly aligned.