(514-01-19) On the Ramparts of Wilton
Summary: Acwel and Heulwen meet atop the Ramparts of Wilton, where he breaks important news to her.
Date: 06-10-514
Related: To Return A Favor
acwel heulwen 

In the aftermath of Marlboro, where the embassy led by Acwel met its goal with a grim outcome for Catryn, the spirit of the Woodford is apprehension. Apprehension, because his sister is likely in Sarum Castle, currently under attack by an army of Saxons bent on conquest of his homeland. Not only that, but the uncertainty of war often hangs upon the minds of many soldiers and his is no exception. Not when his seeming negligence as a leader let his follower be mortally wounded in single combat.

In the hours before he is set out to follow Lord Earc's lead and assault the western gates, the vassal knight's green eyes gaze over in the general direction of Sarum, perched from a vantage point by the ramparts. He could cut a forlorn figure, with his black cloak covering a body clad in chain and the sword sheathed on his side, but the influx of people, mostly soldiers, more than provides him with unwitting company.

The ramparts are probably not the best place for a lady to be, but Heulwen has enough force of will to bully her brothers into letting her up for "a bit of fresh air and a better view" - not that she really knows what she's looking for. Trees, maybe. "No, don't wander. Stay here with me," she chides her diminutive mousy-haired cousin, one young Briallyn who looks as if she'd rather be anywhere than here amidst the soldiers on patrol…the whole handful of them.

Clucking her tongue in chastisement, Heulwen pauses at a thin gap in the wall and leans out, hands braced against the stone, to peer off into the distance. The wind whips her hair about her face, periodically obscuring her vision and causing her to brush it back with a minor flick of irritation. Only after several moments of 'admiring the view' does she turn away, lean back against the wall, and exhale loudly. "I do hope Sir Cyndeyrn is alright. Perhaps we should go join Lysie in making up bandages?" She casts a casual glance down along the ramparts and catches sight of Acwel; a brief flush of shame cloaks her cheeks in red, and she turns her attention back to Briallyn who is busy listing off the more important things they could be doing.

The voice breaks whatever chain of thought had Acwel distracted for those moments of quiet contemplation, the Woodford turning instead of looking over his shoulder, espying Heulwen. There's a slight intake of air there, perhaps because she is not the only one embarrassed, or with rather awkward feelings of seeing the other again. Briallyn is thoroughly ignored: for one, she is mousy-looking, and second, it wasn't her voice that caught his attention. Stepping away from the edge of the wall carefully, he turns fully to the Lady of Dinton, offering her a nod before moving to approach. It simply will not do to not engage in conversation, regardless of how you feel about the person you are about to speak with at the moment. His lips curl into a faint, brief smile, though it doesn't quite reach his eyes. No, these have an edged quality to them at present. Someone for whom the tension in the air is palpable, and the threat of violence is not a vague promise but a very tangible reality. Some would call it an obligation, even.

"Lady Heulwen, little lady," yes, that might sound a little condescending for poor Briallyn, but still, it is the elder of the Dinton ladies here that he addresses, "I am glad to see you healthy and hale. I trust you haven't been to Wilton for very long?" He wonders, glancing over to the vague direction of Salisbury once again with a brief half-turn before returning his focus fully upon the lady. "This is a grim turn of events. For the first time, I do wish the Earl had not been right. But auspicious of him to send me to Marlboro and ask for a relief force."

Heulwen cannot help but glance again and again, and her breath catches as she inadvertently makes eye contact with Acwel. Her gaze drops immediately, although whether out of shyness or mere demure is left undetermined. Instead, she turns her full attention to Briallyn and pretends to be following the chatter of her cousin until the Woodford knight forces an acknowledgement of his presence. The greeting, although respectful enough, causes Bri to clamp her mouth shut immediately. The young lady flushes with her own form of embarrassment, looking disgruntled at being referred to as 'little lady', but finding no opportunity for a rejoinder. Instead, she swings her gaze back to Heulwen who is too busy staring down at her shoes to notice.

"Sir Acwel," Wen greets quietly, dipping a curtsey and gesturing for Briallyn to do the same; the girl obliges, although with less deference than her elder. "No, not for very long, and I hope not for much longer either. I pray to God for a quick rout and a safe return of the men and women who fight to protect us." She finally glances up to the knight and smiles faintly; her expression, however, does reach her eyes with the faintest touch of sympathy. "I think the Earl would not be the Earl for long if he weren't able to anticipate such attacks. But you say he sent you to Marlboro to fetch more men? When was that? I hadn't heard. I am glad you are safely returned, although—I guess it isn't for very long. Is he sending you on to Sarum, then?"

"A few days after our last meeting in Sarum," he replies, regarding the expedition to Marlboro. "I told you that I would seek a task from him, and so I did. It was all very fortunate on my end, though I would not say so regarding the personal outcome for one of the knights that came with me. Part of why I am here, at present, is making sure I pay a debt of gratitude for their sacrifice." Where Heulwen's gaze drops, and she looks to her shoes, Acwel's remains upon her face, perhaps appreciating her fair features, but most likely gauging the gamut of expressions she presents him. When she glances up and smiles faintly, and he sees the sympathy in her eyes, he is compelled to smile back, but only briefly. He, too, understands her plight; a lady must await for news from their brothers, or fathers, or cousins. Sometimes for months, maybe years at a time. Bri is offered another smile, too, gentler, but just as brief.

"It was a… a dangerous expedition. We faced Saxons on the road, stopped a warped trial's proceedings from achieving its inevitable conclusion and fought treacherous knights with dubious interests." At least, that is the brief version, and not the full store in all its entireity. "Thank you," he replies, when she mentions that she is glad he returned, a hand running through his hair briefly, the knight embarrassed. "Yes, all of us here, I think, your cousin Sir Cyndeyrn included, are going to Sarum. I pray for a swift conclusion of this war to our favor, that we might enjoy the peacefulness we knew this Spring once again."

Briallyn blanches at the recounting of the expedition, but to her credit does not dare interrupt with the slew of questions that must be brimming beneath the surface. She communicates her eagerness to butt in, however, by hopping up onto her toes a few times and clasping her hands together in front of her. Heulwen spares a look for her cousin in an attempt to quell the behavior, and she finally leans forward to murmur something into Bri's ear. Looking crestfallen, the girl nods and begins to move away, sending a sullen look toward Wen before she traipses off to meet up with Kamron.

"My brother will not be joining the forces in Sarum, I'm afraid. He's to be part of the contingent of men tasked with retrieve Sior from his hideout. We've done our best to track him to his manor, and I returned just in time to travel with my cousin to Wilton ahead of the arrival of the Saxons. I must admit I rather miss my bed, my home. As much as I hope to return to it, I hope the others will as well." Turning about, Heulwen braces her herself against the stone, leaning into a gap to catch the summer breeze while gazing out over the land of Wilton. "I feel like I have been living in a soap bubble my entire lie, Sir Acwel, and everything was painted a cheerful blue and pink, until I woke up this morning to find it is, in fact, only red with our blood. Does that make any sense to you, a knight who was raised on the spilling?"

The younger girl is given another stare as she communicates her eagerness again, the knight of Woodford shaking his head with a faint, amused smile as Heulwen sends her away, his gaze trailing after the youngest Dinton before it returns to the maiden he was speaking with, in the first place. He listens to her when she tells him that Kamron will be sent to retrieve a criminal from his hideout, nodding slowly to her words, "I would say that all of us hope to return to our homes, my Lady, myself included. I should like to warm myself before the fireplace again, or perhaps finally make good on that invitation I keep making you and your brother, once this is all over. We'll have reason to celebrate, sure enough," he declares, a hand resting upon the wall, feeling the coolness against the warmth of his touch as his gaze returns to Wen.

"To some degree, yes, I understand. Perhaps you were raised as such until such a time as this, when you could perceive the truth without having your spirit broken. Those of us, who are raised on the spilling, as you put it, fight to preserve what is most beautiful in life," he looks at her for several moments before he looks away, "and we understand that we must not only take lives, but also risk ours in order to do so. It may be a glorious road, but it demands its sacrifices."

The answer seems to amuse Heulwen. She laughs quietly and shakes her head, folding her arms and bending at the waist to rest her chin atop them. "I think you give my parents far too much credit, Sir Acwel; they simply had their hands full with my brothers, and being relegated to the bower to stitch up their work tunics or out in the yard stretching wool on a tenter—these are not the habits of someone accustomed to view world through the eyes of violence. Only now I have been forced to witness it, and now I am having to run from it instead of experiencing it secondhand while helping Lysie close up wounds. I think my bubble was natural, as is the bursting of it."

Heulwen sighs and shakes her head a bit, straightening from the back-wrenching position that turned out not to be as comfortable as she was imagining. "What is it that we will be celebrating, Sir Acwel? I am sure my brother will be inspired to live if it's something remarkable. Oh, is the groundbreaking for the tower, maybe? It would be an honor to be there, surely."

"But now you know of it, and you know a part of the world you were kept, even if unintentionally, as you say, from. Your bubble could be natural, aye, and now there are no more surprises regarding violence, the threat of it, and fear for you." Acwel looks over the lands as well, hands pressing onto the edge of the wall as he casts a look in Sarum's direction, seeming apprehensive for a moment before he represses that with a slight shake of his head. "It would behoove you to ask your brother on directions regarding how to defend yourself in raids, and how to organize a manor's defenses," he suggests, politely. "A good lady of the house should always have such an asset to count on in times of trouble."

Her question, and the straightening from her position draws his look to her again. "Among other things, that is a good idea," he admits, smiling to her again. "But there are other things in consideration as well."

"I know of it, and there may be no more surprise, but there will always be a great deal of fear of death. Surely you cannot fault me for that, Sir Acwel; for while I try to be of a philosophical mind that all men must die, all men must meet their Maker, all men must be returned to God, still I cannot but begrudge Him this from time to time. If we were meant to embrace our death with open arms, perhaps He would have made our lives here less worth living." Heulwen leans back against the wall and crosses her legs at the ankles. Her fingers are kept busy by toying with a frayed section of the rope at the end of her belt.

After a moment or two of silence, Wennie glances up to Acwel. The marked furrow of her brow communicates concern while her widened eyes speak more to her curiosity. "You are right. I should ask my brother about managing a manor's defenses. Perhaps when he has schooled me in the basics, Sir Acwel, you might join and lend your expertise. I am sure you both would enjoy a nice little debate on the finer points. But what else would you be celebrat—oh." Suddenly her eyes light up with mixed amusement and cheer. "Of course, are you going to grant your blessing, then, for my dear cousin to wed your sister?"

"I think all of us, in our grieving, and crises of thought, begrudge Him something at some point in our lives. I would know, my Lady. I do not remember my father and he died too early for me to learn stories of who he was. A perfect stranger and yet, I inherited his arms, his coat-of-arms and his land. But I questioned God on why some people meet their father, walk with them, laugh with them and I didn't. Nevertheless, I agree with you, regarding our lives here. They are worth living." Acwel takes note of Heulwen's leaning back against the wall, his eyes meeting hers when she agrees with his suggestion, "I would be glad to teach you what I know as well, though it might not be much compared to some of our great leaders."

The second part regarding the celebration has him drawing in a deep breath, as he contemplates what to say next before he admits, perhaps unwisely, "That has been granted," he concedes, "and his father has granted me his blessing, too."

He waits a beat, exactly one beat, while green meets brown and he completes his sentence, "For your hand, my Lady."


Heulwen checked her prudent of 10, she rolled 16.


Heulwen checked her reckless of 10, she rolled 6.


You check your flirting at 10, you rolled 3.


Heulwen checked her chaste of 13, she rolled 18.


Heulwen checked her lustful of 7, she rolled 10.

Heulwen is quiet, subdued, but she offers Acwel a faint smile of understanding when he reveals a bit of his childhood - and indeed, perhaps a little sliver of his heart. "I am sorry you did not have enough time to know him, Sir Acwel. I am sure considering your nature that he must have had a great deal of goodness in him as you do," she replies quietly, but allows the conversation to shift as he leads into another subject. They finally come to the crux of it, however: impending celebration.

Elated with the news that the negotiations were successful indeed, she lets out a little cheerful chirp and claps her hands together in front of her. "Oh, this is absolutely wonderful. Of course my cousin is far too modest to celebrate in front of everyone, but I know in his heart he is doing a little dance of joy even now. You are so gracious, my lord, for so many have caught glimpses of their developing feelings. It happens perhaps once in a lifetime to know two people who share love before they marry." Still riding the cheery high, she steps closer to Acwel with her hands outstretched, perhaps ready to grasp his in a sort of over-exuberant outpouring of gratitude. She is stopped, however, by the near-physical slap of the sudden and startling realization.

"My—my hand? He has consented for - for us to wed?" Wennie's face is frozen in a rictus half in genuine happiness and half in shocked dismay, and she stares blankly at him for some seconds while her brain slowly churns through the fog and pieces the words together into a coherent thought. "Of course he did. Of course. Nature will find balance in the end, will it not? My cousin marries for love, and I do not, and all is right with the world."

Indeed, perhaps in the act of sharing that, something he has only alluded in the past, he revealed a bit too much than intended, a little more vulnerability than desired. But it would all be explained soon after, one supposes. "Perhaps my father was a good man, perhaps he was not. My mother did not speak much of him, if at all, and as such, I will likely never know, unless she chooses to reveal it herself at some point," Acwel admits, blinking slowly as he is complimented for his goodness; the whole thing is uncomfortable for him, difficult to deal with. But Marlboro gave him plenty of time to think about it and perhaps forge himself to withstand a marriage built on something other than sentimental fantasies.

It doesn't help that he is taciturn as she talks of her cousin, and he nods along to her statements, caring not to interject before he drops the news that is actually relevant to their respective futures. A future he chose for himself, but one which he is forcing herself into. The distinction is very sharply defined in his mind, and perhaps it seizes his heart so, but he is a Woodford. He must remain strong.

"Yes," comes the final answer to her question, as he observes the transition between confusion, dismay, joy, and finally the realization she comes to, edged with that truthfulness about her he has come to appreciate. Even if her words twist in some irony. "This is the way of the world," he states, "and I know you do not love me, but perhaps one day you might come to. You may even hate me, and I will not hate you back. I will care for you. I," his voice doesn't strain, but his gaze narrows, perhaps acutely aware of what his emotions tell him in the spur of the moment will end up wounding him, as he too navigates through his own fog, but it's the battle of cold, sharp reason versus emotion. The latter won, so now he must deal. This time, he overcomes the hesitation, no uncertain words: "I love you."

Acwel rolls 3d6 and gets (3 4 4) for a total of: (11) - Base Amor

Acwel rolls 1d3 and gets (3) for a total of: (3) - Flirting bonus

Heulwen is silent as the grave as she contemplates the less-nebulous expanse of her predetermined future, and she draws her arms about herself as if in protection. Her fingers grasp the sleeves of her opposite arms, and her nails dig into the tough wool as if seeking to find purchase, to tear and damage. "You needn't speak to me as if I am but a child," she replies a bit sharply, narrowing her eyes as she stares rather steadily at Acwel - all things considered. "I have been well aware that I would face such a moment as this someday, though perhaps in my mind I hadn't quite expected for the news to be sprung on me in such a manner. On the other hand, I am not so sure my cousin's father could do any better considering the circumstances."

Still, Heulwen is able to master her temper, and rather than lash out in obvious retaliation for feeling wounded, she inhales deeply and shakes her head slowly. "I do not hate you, Sir Acwel. I cannot hate you, and I will not hate you. I have respected you enough to always be truthful, and I will not stop now." Her lips quirk into a wry half-smile, and she opens her mouth to continue—but the words die on her lips long before they are given voice. She must look like a landed fish to be staring at him open-mouthed, gaping like a lunatic, but what else can a poor girl do?

In a moment or two, Heulwen realizes her foolishness and snaps her mouth shut with an audible click of teeth. She swallows visibly, slowly unclenches her arms, and drops them to her side in a gesture of resignation. There is little she can say in response to this, other than to reach out and place a hand on his arm in a semi-placating gesture. "I will strive to ever be deserving of your love, Sir Acwel. I can at least promise you that."

True, she might contemplate her predetermined future, and he might deal with the guilt inherent in determining for her who she was going to marry in the first place. At first, he let their first fight, in the countryside of Carlion, try to cool himself to her; forgiveness or not, he already knew the answer to his question. Then the confirmation, in the outskirts of Sarum Castle. It arrested his heart, put him in a place where the only thing he has imposed upon himself could solve: if you are in a dark place, work harder. And so he did. Acwel reaches out with his hands, however, seizing Heulwen's in his own, letting her nails dig into the skin of his palms, the slight twitch of his eyebrow to withstand the pain while he lets her do the damage she wants, not on her fabric, but on himself. After that, he lets her go, as though he never seized her hands in the first place. Even if there may be nail marks on his skin, now; he'll carry it like a twisted form of her favor. "I won't," he replies, with certainty to her sharpness. While her words still have an edge, he has come to adapt to them, he can take it and still manage a smile. "I would rather tell you myself than let heralds do so for me. I would be a coward were I to do so, instead. And if it hurts, then let it." He invites the heartbreak.

But she doesn't retaliate, and her reply causes the corners of his lips to turn up— a smile. Subdued, still, as he is a man, usually, of subdued emotions. But this isn't the case, about her. He smiles when she does, even if hers is wry. There is more coming, and he waits, but it never does. He steps forward, then, uncertain for a moment as he gets closer. Then she places her hand on his arm, his hand covering hers as he meets her gaze. He leans forward, then, and hesitates for a moment, kissing her briefly on the lips, and again on the corner of them, before pulling away. "I will always make sure that you know how much I cherish you in my every act, Lady Heulwen," he murmurs, "starting with the battle I am about to fight. Know I do so with you in my heart, and in my thoughts."

Heulwen isn't quite looking at Acwel, at least not at his face; she cannot even dare to meet his eyes in this moment. Instead, she glances down to his hands, and in taking them up again turns them so that she can study the palms. Were it any other moment in her life, she might feel abashed at her forwardness, but right now she is merely pale and perhaps a bit grim. The pads of her thumbs glide over the red crescents left behind by her fingernails, testing to be sure she hasn't broken any skin. Wen nods silently, as if making mental note of something, and slowly curls his fingers closed around her own. "So be it," she murmurs quietly, lifting her chin to look up at him once more.

Perhaps Wennie already suspected Acwel's intentions, because she does not flinch when he leans in. Her eyes close gently, and she accepts the kisses without nary a protest nor untoward remark, but cannot find it in herself yet to return them. Instead, she clears her throat quietly and steps back, reluctantly breaking the last physical link of clasped hands as she reaches into her pouch and pulls out that same blue kerchief; it does not look as if she has even washed it. "Will you take this with you again, Sir Acwel, and keep it close?"

Acwel lets her study his hands; he understands, in some visceral level, why her gaze doesn't meet his. His palms are calloused and weathered, what you would expect from a professional soldier, some little wrinkles here and there, at the edges of the rough texture of his hand. And perhaps in another moment he would acknowledge the forwardness of his own. But he can't, not at that moment, when it comes to her. He smiles reassuringly when her thumbs glide over the crescents left behind on his skin, the sting of pain a distant echo, but still present. Nothing he cannot take, after being tested and proven in battle. Then she closes his hand around hers and he holds it gently, his thumb caressing along the edge of her hand while he meets her gaze.

He feels the taste of her lips, his eyes closing, and even if she doesn't kiss him back, it is likely she can feel the smile that blooms slowly, almost sadly. It is hard for one to accept their love is unrequited, but he does, and he carries it well enough. Then, when she steps back after clearing her throat, he watches her reach into the pouch, the smile widening, the recollection of a memory from not so long ago.

"Yes, Lady Heulwen," he answers as he takes the kerchief, his fingers brushing against hers affectionately before he finds a way to wrap the kerchief between the links of his chainmail securely, as she might see, next to a rustic-looking wooden crucifix necklace; a modest testament of his faith, but still present. "And when Sarum is relieved, and we may feel safe to return to it, I would like to take you to dance as I promised."

As is the way with moments like these, Briallyn has chosen now - the most tender and absolutely awkward of moments - to reappear. She announces her presence with a loud clearing of her throat that draws a sharp glance from Heulwen. The girl is not to be cowed, however, and lifts her chin to deliver the important message of, "You brother would like to see you. It's about the knight they're hunting." Bri dips her curtsey, offers Acwel the must curious of glances, and then turns to disappear once more. The disruption has given Heulwen time to arrange her features into a more placid mask, and her fingers dart up to smooth down her hair self-consciously.

"Of course, Sir Acwel, and as soon as we return to Sarum, I will send you a message that I am safe. I'm—I'm not sure when we will see each other again, but I will wait for word of your safe return, and I will pray for you in the meantime." Heulwen smiles faintly at Acwel, still looking a bit green about the gills, and reaches out once again to touch his arm briefly. "Go with God." The sound of her footsteps fade as she walks away, following briskly after Briallyn.

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