(514-08-25) Common Ground
Summary: The first encounter of Lady Leodwen de Falt and her intended, Sir Ailil de Broughton.
Date: August 25th, 514
Related: Of Falts and Matches
leodwen ailil 

Falt - Salisbury

Overlooking the eastern banks of the River Avon, the manor at Falt is quite clearly of Roman construction, although the years since the occupiers left have meant that repairs and rebuilding have given it a more hap-hazard look. The main hall runs parallel to the river with smaller wings at either end, all two stories high, with a small courtyard in the middle. Gardens stretch from the buildings to the river and beyond the northern wing is a range of old service buildings. While the main body of the manor has been kept in reasonable repair, this range has long since fallen into disuse, with stone having been robbed from the walls to patch gaps elsewhere, with the exception of the old bath house which has since been converted in a small chapel to serve the needs of the manor.
Away from the building itself is a yard set aside for the training and drilling of men under arms, and a set of archery buts underneath the trees that line the road down to the river. A small docks can be found on the banks, and to the south a lone path lead towards the edge of the forest.

It is one of those pleasant late summer afternoons that seem to stretch on endlessly and pleasantly so. The weather is warm, the sky obscured by only a few tiny clouds that drift far above where Leodwen de Falt sits on a wooden bench in a small area of green before the chapel of Falt Manor. Her blonde hair is tamed in a long thick braid, a few strands that frame her features having escaped the hairdo; features that express such profound enjoyment and relaxation one could almost assume she were asleep. Her eyes are closed, a faint smile curls her lips. Her arms crossed before her in her lap as she feels the rays of the August sun caress her face. Clad she is in a rather plain gown for everyday use, dark blue the prominent colour there. A book resting on the bench beside her. Closed. With an apple placed beside it. Yes, The afternoon could very much continue in that lazy leisurely vein. Where it not for the ruckus coming from the courtyard of the manor, that has at least one of those eyelids open just a tad in faint curiosity.

Salisbury unfurling a jade banner under a clear sky is a blessing for the dark-haired man who rides his dapple-grey rouncy south towards Falt. Behind comes a squire on a roan, and the Broughton knight's much uglier warhorse that no one in their right mind considers friendly on a first glance, carrying a sword, lance, and other paraphernalia of combat. In all, not an uncommon sight about the county during the summer, what with Dorset being aflame in hostility towards Earl Robert de Sarum. Traveling by road, they might be spotted long before reaching the Falt manor. Probably the cause of the ruckus, it will be in the courtyard where Ailil makes a gesture behind him and nods to his squire, Arzhel. "Take command of Ysgrublaidd. Make sure he does not disrupt anyone over much." The command is issued in a quiet baritone and receives a nod of compliance, for Arzhel is long practiced at managing the brutish charger.

Then he swings off his own horse, landing solidly on his feet. Women take slightly less courage than facing the front line. He still wears chain, though his deep green tunic overtop sports the fish badging of Broughton. It will be the relaxed blonde he spots who brings him up short, and he bows curtly to her. "My lady, well met this day."

Her eyes open fully now, a hand coming up to shield her view from the late afternoon sun. Leodwen observes the arrival from afar, and suddenly the relaxed posture becomes less so, when her hands move to her skirts, smoothing the fabric there as if such would be necessary. When the knight even approaches her she moves to stand, a complete opposite now from the view she offered a moment ago, hands joining before her, fidgeting restlessly with her braid - perhaps even more so, when two details, the unfamiliar face of the man and his approach, along with the third detail of that badge, may already hint at his identity. "A good to you as well, Sir," Leodwen intones, an easy smile warming her features as she studies him curiously. "I don't believe I know you, Sir. I am Leodwen. Have you visited Falt before?" The tone almost casual, her hazel eyes attentive as she meets his gaze. And yes… the way her fingers twine before her in what could be slight nervousness may already give away she quite suspects who this unkown visitor may be.

Caught on the spot, Ailil straightens almost unconsciously under the Falt noblewoman's regard. He lines up his shoulders and guides the dappled rouncy to stand rather than advance, clucking his tongue against his palate. A sheathed sword rides at his leather belt, and he adopts a rather respectful stance that lacks complete ease. "You need not stand on my behalf, lady," he says. "I thank you for the welcome." A pause follows as he strives for the right words, the silence lingering a spot longer than might be exactly comfortable given the circumstances. He meets her gaze nonetheless, accepting the study while returning one in kind. Courtly behaviour, however, requires a certain lightness of word and form that evades him for the moment. So he draws in a breath and gives a faint smile, leaning forward in another slight bow. "Sir Ailil de Broughton, most pleased to make your acquaintance properly. I have not visited your lands before, for my duties kept me largely to the east near DuPlain. I seek your forbearance, Lady Leodwen, that we lacked proper introductions beforehand. There is no excuse for my tardy arrival or a lack of letters, duties or no."

"I stand because I wish to," Leodwen replies, her brows wrinkling momentarily. "And I wish to stand as courtesy demands it, does it not? To bid welcome to a knight visiting our lovely manor." Words that trail off into a silence of considerations and assessing glances. The lady will remain quiet however, until he offers his introduction and confirms her lucky guess. "Sir Ailil, it is? In that case… Be all the more welcome here with us. And I assure you, I have not taken offence in a lack of letters… Such would have been odd, as we have not even met before, I would think?" And as he does stand so perfectly still, it will be Leodwen who approaches now, as if to take a look from closer proximity. "I am glad to make your acquaintance, Sir Ailil.", the blonde lady states after a moment. Her gaze flickers slightly and she lowers it for a moment. "Our families have agreed to see us two matched. An arrangement that requires us to get to know each other before the wedding, I would think. So you are not too tardy in arriving as we have still some time." She turns and picks up the book and the apple from the bench. "Perhaps you'd like some refreshment from your long ride. We have ale inside, and we have cheese and bread if you feel hungry." Statements, that might be questions as well.

Hands clasped around the reins keep the horse from wandering off, though Ailil takes a responsibility to meet her estimation of him. He touches his brow and gives an ironic, self-assessing smile. "I would be pleased to accept Falt's hospitality, though if I might see to my horse first? He has ridden well today and I would not wish to make him travel longer than we have." That said, he addresses the business of a letter with a soft chuckle barely audible to human ears; the rouncy perks, anyways. The sound is almost rusty with disuse. "Perhaps odd, lady, but some men possess better skill in words than spoken deeds." He waits as she comes near, giving Leodwen a curious look of his own. "Had I known that my liege would send me forth to Dorset, and keep me away, I should have written to you to fill the silence after the announcement of our betrothal. It was unseemly you should be greeted by no word from me." Though at least he's acquitted himself well in the field, as such news goes. She eases him slightly as the words pass between them, and no clear offense is taken. As much as his iron-rod back allows for, anyways. "You may be sure there be no rush on my end to claim you and consign you away from your family while the campaigning season follows. A lady of quality such as yourself deserves better of me."

Leodwen checked her Modest at 13, she rolled 6.

"Of course!", Leodwen smiles, as her gaze shifts from the knight to his steed. "Perhaps I can accompany you to the stables?", she suggests, already moving slowly into the general direction of where the horses are kept. His remark about written words earns him a curious glance from the lady. "If you'd think you'd be more likely to impress with a well-composed letter I shall look forward to receive one.", she remarks. "But even so… I understand there has been trouble that required knights to deal with it." Walking slightly ahead as she leads the way, the lady shoots Ailil a glance over her shoulder. "In fact I am here by mere coincidence. You were lucky to encounter me here, as I am often in Sarum these days. But with the new heir to Earl Robert born, three days ago… It was a birth that went well, without grave complications… And with a midwife now looking after Countess Esyte, she has given me a week off." His remark about her being a lady of quality earns him a raised eyebrow, but Leodwen manages to bite a giggle back. At least she tries to, as her hand moves to muffle the sound, fingers covering her mouth as she shakes her head. "I have learned one thing, Sir Ailil. That to assume what I deserve is quite an idle occupation. Yet I… am grateful of course for your considerate kindness."

"I would like that very much, my lady," Ailil answers with greater enthusiasm, the horse a known quantity over the woman elected as his future wife. At least one has been cared for over some time, the other presumably not. "My thanks on your understanding. All the same, I harboured some concern I could not reach out to you. Not that a camp is the best location to write." All the blood and mire. He guides the rouncey towards the stables, and the dapple grey has an easy amble that speaks to its quality as a walker. The news of Esyte's baby, however, brings him up slightly short. "She had her child! Blessings to the Virgin that she and the child came through safely. I am well glad to hear of it." Indeed, he sounds more than a little pleased on this fact, brushing his finger over his brow. At least that might cover the question of his faith on matters. "Kindness, my lady, is in short supply. Those who demonstrate it deserve commendation. Maybe I am old fashioned in this regard. You may choose to educate me upon that matter, for my understanding of ladies is very much the product of my sisters and cousins, and they have their way about them. I will not assume you are all the same." He slips into something of a sheepish but fond grin upon this. "I would, if you permit me, wish to make you at ease before we pursue any matrimonial bond. My whole wish in this journey was to properly greet you and move forward as you allow me."

"Your concern for not being able to write speaks in your favor," Leodwen remarks with an ease in her tone, as she slows her steps so that she can walk beside Ailil de Broughton. "And yes. Countess Esyte and the Earl are of course as happy as can be about little Rhenault's birth. I was," she confides with a gleam in her eyes, "allowed to hold him for a moment, when the midwife took care of the Countess, right after he was born. A healthy child, a blessing indeed in these dire times."

Then the lady falls silent, listening to Ailil's words with an upturn of her lips as she pulls the door of the stables open, and steps aside, allowing the knight and his dapple grey horse to enter, before she follows along after them, leaving the door open. "You speak less like a knight, but more like an educated man," Leodwen observes then, taking up a bucket of fresh water, provided by one of the stable boys. "And indeed, if you see yourself as a more gifted writer than speaker, these letters of yours I look forward to receive in the future may turn out even more delightful than expected!" Her hand comes up, gesturing for a vacant box, before it halts midway as a sudden thought passes her mind. "What kind of temper does your horse have, Sir? Not too troublesome, I hope? Then he could very well get the box right beside Princess." 'Princess' most probably meaning the fine white mare in the box to the side that lifts its head and lets out a low whinny when it hears the name, and the familiar voice of the Falt lady.

Ailil directs his rouncy towards the stables, listening attentively to the Falt lady and taking in the property surrounding him. Between the two, the man's concentration renders him effectively silent. The rouncy's hooves clop against the ground, a steady patina of metal shoes lending punctuation to the air, and he pets the horse's neck with a gloved hand. "The Countess has been fair and by all accounts kind," he says. "An earl has need of a warm feminine presence to balance his duties and one cannot say she has not provided for him." He does not venture further upon the matter, unable to speak very much further. Nonetheless, her comments upon the babe and the blessing receive a nod of agreement out of the dark-haired Broughton knight.

He takes his time handing over the horse to the care of stableboys, giving a brief set of instructions that amount to checking the saddle and reporting any irregularities they might find. "Luwchwynt is a mild horse with little like of bees. Minds manners better than Ysgrublaidd, I assure you." Princess, then, is lucky to have the handsome spotted horse and not the great brute of a charger in the care of an unlucky squire. He does raise his head to admire the white horse, an eye to her disposition, before relinquishing the duties of the stable over to those best suited for it. Turning towards Leodwen, he offers his arm and the gesture is, if a bit stiff, entirely formal. "My lady. It was not to my father's liking to raise ignorant boys. He said a knight unable to speak or read fell short of his duties. My cousin might say it also prevents us from reading the Scriptures properly, too."

There is something in the wording Ailil uses that makes Leodwen’s head turn and glance in his direction. “Oh, indeed,” she smiles warmly, “Earl Robert is doubly blessed then, with child and wife. And I am glad he granted me the honor of waiting upon her, upon my request. A few ladies were chosen, and I am glad to be among them.” Her hands loosely joined before her, fingertips touching lightly, the blonde lady stands upright, attentive, the blond braid hugging her neck as it hangs down over her front. When Ailil speaks to the stableboys, she lets out a gasp of relief when the rouncey is placed beside Princess, instead of the charger. “These are beautiful names you have chosen for the horses,” Leodwen de Falt comments after a moment towards the Broughton knight, tilting her head to the side as she regards him. “They sound much more inspired than ‘princess’, to be honest. But then again, to call a charger Princess would seem out of place…” She chuckles, a melodious chuckle that, even if it betrays a faint hint of tension in the lady.

Accepting the offered arm will force Leodwen’s hands to unjoin, yet her smile deepens at the gesture, especially when she hears his explanation. “Oh, forgive me, I did not mean any offense, Sir Ailil. It is just I have found so many of your profession to be more interested in the daily practice of their weapons, fighting techniques… perhaps politics, if they are aiming that high. So I am positively surprised… relieved, in fact, that you actually are such an easy conversationalist. Literate, of course! And yes. To be able to read the holy word, and to master the language of science and religion,” she adds, raising her chin as to meet Ailil’s gaze, “these are qualities I hold in great esteem.” Her smile deepens. “Shall we?”

Ailil actually laughs when the blonde noble woman suggests naming a charger 'Princess,' taken clearly by surprise. An easy grin follows. "I tell you this, if I find a mare who has the disposition to be a princess but still carries me into combat, I will consider it. Though she might demand to be Queen or Empress after a battle, and a poor knight such as myself would be cast before her pearly hooves to satisfy her," he jests. "The other knights might wonder. It makes an excellent diversion, don't you agree?"

Walking with Leodwen is surprisingly easy for him. He is a tall man, and whatever they put in the water in Broughton, it leaves him a rock solid presence beside her. But his long stride is tempered to be casual, if a little stiff. "I would be honoured to escort such a keen lady, if it pleases you." Back to the formality, it puts him on familiar ground at the very least. It may well be he's afraid of offending her somehow, and approaches an unknown quantity in customary caution. "Have you an interest in science, my lady?" No judgment registers in his tone. It's curiosity, as though she announced she just returned from Rome after a conversation with a cardinal.

His counter manages to draw another melodious chuckle from the lips of Lady Leodwen de Falt. “Oh, indeed. It does sound diverting… and familiar as well.”, she opines then, with a slight rosiness to her cheeks and a slightly probing glance shot his way. “This would be your preferred choice of steed then?”, inquired lightly, as she lets her hazel eyes drift to the area ahead of them when they approach the doors of the manor. Where Ailil may impress with a tall and imposing figure, Leodwen moves gracefully beside him, admittedly shorter than the knight, but still above average in height of a female. His formal reply to her rather friendly encouragement will be met with a smile, but Leodwen seems a little taken aback by his flawless if a little stiff courtesy. A good thing perhaps, that his next question enlivens the conversation, and the Falt lady as well. “I have an interest in the healing arts,” she admits, “the treatment of illnesses and wounds, even grave ones. So I am eager to learn, and every time I happen to come across a tome that holds more knowledge in that area…” Her words trail off. “It has happened only once, I admit. That I had the chance to take a look at a book dealing with the works of Hippokrates and Galenos of Pergamon. And of course… the Regula Benedicti.” Her smile deepens, and her eyes gleam with obvious enthusiasm, when she turns her head to meet Ailil’s gaze.

The doors are drawn open for them by two commoner residents of the manor, and so Lady Leodwen and their guest enter the hall, exiting the fair weather outside for a comparatively glum darkness, dimly lit with torches at the walls. It may take a moment for their eyes to get used to the different lighting conditions, but once that is accomplished, the lady will lead the knight over to the long table. “I trust you’d wish for some refreshment, Sir? Some ale perhaps? And a bit of bread and cheese to go with it?”, Leodwen inquires, as she goes to get the things from the kitchen at the back.

When in such company, the knight must at least fall back to the familiar or, failing that, the courteous. They are not old chums, nor the sister of one of his dearest mates to pound into the dirt and share arms and drinks with. He thus treats her accordingly, cautious to mind where he walks and leaving Leodwen quite a wide berth, even if it means to pinch himself at a corner or taking the edge of a path. "You have read of Hippokrates! Why, my lady, the Greeks and the Romans? You have me at disadvantage there. I shall confess disappointment not seeing such a thing for myself. His treatments are supposedly particularly efficacious, and his theory is exceptional. Much better than the ignorance that would have us believe disease and illness are a matter of divine punishment." As he animates, once again his face loses its rigidity into a far more mobile mask. He gestures lightly towards the house in front of them. "A practitioner who subscribes to his calm and honest manner is welcome in sick room or the battlefield tent."

It comes almost as a surprise to reach the heart of the manor, and he will take a seat with some reluctance. Ailil releases her arm and bows again slightly, but he will not sit until she has. The question of hospitality is no question at all: "I would grateful for some ale, my lady. Bread if you are hungry."

The respect and the care Ailil displays in his conduct towards Leodwen might be expected. After all they are strangers, and even if the lady may be of an energetic and sometimes chatty disposition, she for her part is slightly nervous as well, considering she is to become this man's wife at some point. When the knight suddenly seems to warm to the topic of Hippokrates, the blonde woman of fetching features turns her gaze to meet his, and he will see hazel eyes gleaming with curious delight. "You think so? You have an interest yourself in the healing arts?", she inquires, pleased be the thought. "I mean… of course… knights usually have some basic understanding of applying first aid in the field, but I have to admit you are the first knight I ever met who has even heard of Hippokrates." The smile on her face that had remained there all the while deepens even more.

But then there are the doors through which they enter the manor house, and others whom she has to greet with a nod of her head, distracting Leodwen's attention briefly from Ailil de Broughton walking at her side. Once he is safely settled - even if remaining standing until she returns - his betrothed vanishes for a moment, only to return with a jug of ale, two clay cups, and another woman in tow who carries bread and cheese and two wooden plates. All of which will be put onto the table, the other woman sent away with a smile and a "thank you, Mirella," from Leodwen. The lady notices Ailil is still standing, and so she takes a seat, opposite of where he is. "I am glad to finally meet you, Sir Ailil," she begins then, reaching over the table to pour them both some ale. "I believe this arrangement has been as much a surprise for you as it has been for me…?"

When they are seated, he will finally answer her question. Ailil does rather have an easy way around a table, but he does offer to take the jug or cups from Leodwen. Whatever her or Mirella actually permit him to do, in this case. "Thank you, mistress," he adds to the servant, bowing his head to her. So comes the prospect of getting back to the subjects. Subject, whichever they might prefer.

"In honesty, I left the choice up to my cousin. Until now I have been a knight errant. Sir Caerdin has his goals to do best for Broughton." He raises a shoulder slightly, a negligent shrug or a shift in his posture? He turns slightly to face her, considering the Falt woman more openly. "Though perhaps the Earl heard something of your reputation, for a match for someone who knows of Hippokrates?" The cup is taken and lifted in firm salute. "A toast to your learning, Lady Leodwen. 'Tis few I have met in Logres to Frankia to match you in that."

No idle flirtation, then, but an honest statement, he takes a small sip of the ale. "I'll make no claims I match your skill. The tourney circuit gives a young man more free time than an estate does. He has to fill it somehow." His expression dims and the knot of his dark brows slashes over his stark gaze, turned away to the wall so she's not the subject of it. "Most youths are wastrels, at game or other unmentionable pastimes. Some practice endlessly at war or horses. They do well, but that's all they do. Others have faith, when they can. I took to medicine. It's making. Always a need, you see. We were constantly facing Franks, Neustrians, Saxons, even Danes. Irish, the odd Cymric turncoat even. I'm no chirurgeon but I do make the simples and compounds they use, among others."

He's an apothecary, such as they exist, or a chemist by other names.

Leodwen nods, her gaze flitting down to the mug of ale before her, a twitch there at the corner of her mouth when Ailil refers to his cousin. “And here at Falt it is my little brother Custennin who is head of the manor; but this arrangement came about through our uncle, Sir Cadogan, who has arranged my previous marriage as well.” Hazel eyes are raised to give the Broughton knight a slightly probing glance. “You are aware that I am a widow, Sir Ailil…?” A faint hint of a tremble there in her tone, aware as she is, that such might make her a less desirable match in the eyes of her betrothed.

The other topic seems more to her liking, when Ailil compliments her on her knowledge. “Not a quality most would value in a wife,” she opines with a lift of a brow, but her deepening smile does not hint at any personal experience to back up her remark. “You’ve… been to Frankia…?”, the blonde Falt woman inquires next, as she reclines in her seat, surprised by this new detail. “You seem to have travelled further than any of my acquaintance. It must have been quite… instructive. And I am sure you have many a tale to tell.” A gesture with her hand as if to diminish her own achievements. “I’ve been required through necessity, and disposition to study the healing arts. It is an area I am quite interested in, I admit. And there have been numerous times when I needed to patch up mine own brother.” She exhales. “As to not have him follow the fate of others. There is hardly a male Lord of Falt who has lived long enough to see his own children grow up, Sir.” Which may explain some of the relation she holds to Sir Custennin de Falt.

When Ailil de Broughton discloses his own area of personal interest, Leodwen’s jaw drops, giving her a slightly dimwitted appearance for a moment. “You don’t say! How interesting! I know little of herbs, only how to apply the tinctures and salves made by others.”, she smiles, then falls silent, her eyes shining brightly as she considers him. “I am glad to find, we have some common ground after all, Sir.”

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