by Faith Luna
The story and Simone belong to me. The idea of knights and battle belongs to everyone. Adrian belongs to J.
Happy Birthday, J!
All Rights Reserved.
Simone knelt, his maile heavy on his shoulders, bare hands resting the guard of his sword, the same carefully maintained sword that he’d carried into lands which his king had given him. The sword had been his on the day his father and brother had died. They were meant to be lords, both of them, dignified and honorable, the kind of men who looked good in velvet, who could stand easily by kings, as that was where they’d belonged. He had never been the kind of man to stand comfortably by the powerful. His hands were better suited steadying a mare or freeing a lamb from places it shouldn’t have been. His demesne knew the work of his hands. The timber he’d felled, hewn, set in place for chapel and silo, stables and homes, he had sweat himself into the being of his village. He’d never wished to be lord, nor dreamed of love and home, but all had come to him.
Candles flickered, more candles than he probably should have lit, but he didn’t want the dark. He didn’t want to see the dawn before it was upon him.
The voice was soft, deeper than when he’d first found the only real light in the his husband’s voice. His true devotion should be to God, but faster than he would have liked, the man he’d been ordered by king to marry had become his God. Idolator. The depth of his sin, he would carry that with him, so that if someone were to pay for his vanity and pride, it would be him alone.
“Simone.” The voice was sterner, as always less tolerant of a pious huntsman made lord, resurrected into lover.
“I am at prayer,” Simone said firmly, blond eyebrows drawing down firmly, refusing to look at his husband. “I join His Majesty with the dawn.”
“That is a possibility,” Adrian allowed.
The suggestion that he might fail in his honor stabbed Simone and he turned away from the altar before which he knelt, to glare at … his heart.
Confident, Adrian’s hand brushed over his shoulder, pushing silk robe from firm hard muscle. The candlelight brought out golden lines in the long richly red curls, as golden as any idolatry ever had been.
Goosebumps rose over Simone’s shoulders, up into the rough cut short blond hair, and his mail, his padded undershirt, all felt way too heavy. “Adrian.” It hurt his heart that was the first true prayer he’d had that night. “You must go, as I have commanded you. God gives unto all of us our Lords, our tasks and each of us must accept His will.”
“I accept you, my lord,” Adrian whispered. The silken robe dropped to hard stone floor of the small family chapel. “Is love not the greatest of them all?”
Simone swallowed, his throat narrow and small, eyes too wide to be a steady king’s man. “Love....”
Barefoot, Adrian walked quietly across the chapel. Outside, the faintest hint of bird song rose, the distant echo of Armageddon. Elegant fingers, more given to artistry and slow growing taste for scholarly pursuits, those fingers bore the fine growing rivlets of time no less than the pale silver in his lord’s blond as fingers brushed over his temple. There had been kisses uncounted, passion in all seasons, laughter and flowers, bitter cold and sharp words that would later melt as good intended hearts always let them do. Oats had grown heavy in summer, thickly sweetened with honey in the winter, but never nature ever whispered that there might come a final sunrise. “Love me.”
Simone laid his blade against the stone warmed by his knees, if not his prayers. Still strong arms reached slowly around the slender body of his heart, pulling him close, pressing bare skin to fine worked maile, imprinting unyielding reality against the beautiful pale of what they both yearned for. “I have love of you that etches my soul deeper than the love of God. Your breath is my breath and I have had had life only because I have known you. Had I never come here to you, my love, I should have never even have known that I did not live. I love you.”
“It is not dawn, yet,” Adrian protested. Tears cooled so quickly, sliding over thin links of metal, to warm again as they soaked into padded linen. “Let us be one.”
Simone’s fingers combed into long, soft red hair. He kissed the top of his head, rubbed his face against the fading scent of summer roses, a sweetly gone summer. “If I were a younger man, my heart, there is nothing I should like more. You know, there was a time when that pennant could have flown. My colors have flown only for you, my most precious heart.”
“Please,” Adrian said, arms around Simone’s neck, hands tight to his forearms, chains of bone and blood, the most primitive ritual and prayer humans might ever have owned. Naked presence to plead for hope against despair, for life against reason. “Please.”
The sun eclipsed the candles slowly, inching forward as life does, each sweet moment being the next the light burns away the secret wishes of dreams. Rivers run on rain. Oats sing to the sun. The affairs of men are written in blood.
Strong arms swept up a man who had once been given by a king as a prize, who had come to be the kingdom of life itself. “You are to go to the monastery, as I have commanded you. When I can come for you, I will do so. There will be no greater joy than seeing you smile at me in forgiveness.”
“No.” Adrian hid his face against Simone’s neck.
Simone went to one knee, grabbed up the robe, draped it over his love. “So I should be sure to die heroically even should we find victory, so that His Majesty might provide you with a better husband than I?”
“Fool,” Adrian hissed.
“Oh most definitely,” Simeone agreed. He moved back to the altar, squatted and picked up his sword, which felt cold and empty compared to the warm angry life in his husband.
The double doors of the chapel opened for them as he approached, the twin boys who were his squires looking eager for the adventure of battle. They had a youth that Simone wasn’t sure he’d ever had. “Chamberlain,” he bellowed.
“My lord,” the man said, bowing. The man was stout, as long in Simone’s family’s service as he’d years of life.
“I surrender my love into your custody. See that he is taken to the monastery, with what I have set aside for him. You are to stay at his side and serve him as if he were me.”
“With my life, my lord,” the chamberlain swore.
Adrian screamed as the chamberlain took hold of his arm. “I will follow you! If you must fight for the king, then I will follow you!”
“Adrian,” Simone said, his large rough hand caressing Adrian’s cheek, caressing, “My heart.” He leaned and kissed him, pale dry lips against softer darker ones. “Do not be afraid, I swear on all that holy in the world that I shall return to you, that as long as I have being, I will seek you, I will defend you, I will love you for as long as I have thought and will.”
“Take me with you. Let me fight at your side!”
“If not you, my heart, who would pray for my soul?”
The twins brought his mount, already dressed for battle. As much as he appreciated the twins, it was older companions who had his armor. He’d never been adept in full armor. It had been his father and brother who owned full plate and fought in such a fashion. He wore only the cuirass and fauld, on his arms only pauldron, rerebrace, and vambrace, greaves on his calves. He cared nothing for appearances, only for the safety of his king, for his ability to move like the wind, bringing death to those who opposed God’s will as known through their king.
Their agile hands encased him for battle, as he tried to close his heart off from the very vocal opinion of his husband. “Look at me! Simone! Look at me!”
Another advantage of lighter armor was that he could mount without a winch, which had meant he could spend the night in his chapel. His king remembered the pious boy he’d been and Simone would give him nothing less, so that no matter how the battle went, Adrian would be safe at the monastery.
“Brigade! Monk! Do you think I’m a fool? I know as well as you the forces the prince brings against his father. Simone!”
The chamberlain held both of his arms. Face as red as his hair, he screamed, “You will not go without me! I am your husband as you are mine! Obey me!”
Three dozen warriors mounted warriors waited for him. Straight in his saddle, his mount a great black weapon itself, went forth to duty.
“You bastard!” Adrian screamed. “Simone! Don’t leave me!”
As soon as Simone and his warriors departed, a waggon was brought round. It took three strong men to lift Adrian into the wagon, to hold him there, wrapped in silk and impassioned fury. A serving girl stood behind him, braiding his hair, singing soothing songs. Men did not cry. Men did get head aches. The monastery overlooked the plain where souls would bleed into the afterlife, but beforehand they would fly the colors of their king, their lord, glittering golds, silvers, the best colors that could be made. To Adrian, it was bitter honor that saw the sides lined up, facing each other. Trumpets screamed.
“Battles are best in song, my lord,” Chamberlain said gently. “It will be impossible to see him from here. We need to reach the safety of the monastery. The prince has made it clear that he will seek vengeance on the families of those who oppose him.”
“You’re wrong, I can see him. I can see the king and Simone is the only one that does not gleam perfectly in the sun. If he falls, there will be no safe place for me.” Adrian climbed up by the driver, standing even though the chamberlain tried to get him to sit, on the off chance an arrow could reach so far, perhaps carried by an angel.
In songs, battles lasted for hours, days even. Homer’s battles for years, but this broke like an angry sea against unforgiving rock. Simone, his gentle carpenter with a laugh like sunshine, who carried children around as if he were a mule, now fought like a devil. Like an angel, a great archangel, for god had to be with the king, did he not? The greater forces of the prince surrounded his father’s forces and Adrian felt, quite suddenly, the passage of time as if all the sand that had filtered away while he held to Simone had weighed nothing at all and this last moment weighed everything. The young took the world as old lions died. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” Adrian whispered.
Maybe it was because father and son had really wanted to be next to each other, that there was more anger there than love should allow, but the fighting brought them to each other, to a small hill off center to the main field. The prince’s blade took a foreleg of the king’s mount and Adrian clutched his gown together, sure that he could hear the horse’s scream above the chaos of the battle. Unseated, in full armor, the king rolled, mud and blood ruining the polish of his armor.
Simone was on his feet, sword in both hands as the prince and his lieutenants circled. That battle ground and stalled around them. Squires in padding and maile alone worked to right their king. The prince swung. Simone blocked.
Adrian was utterly sure the field grew quiet, for kings and princes and heroes are not mortal souls. The prince could want his kingdom and angels justice, but Adrian just wanted his knight, his carpenter, his thunderously stubborn huntsman.
An arrow took Simone in the thigh, but he held. Squires and king’s archers worked on freeing him from his armor. Simone guarded his king and Adrian waited for the king to rise, to do what kings did, to smite with the hand of God, to restore rightness to the world. There would be a great feast in Simone’s hall, the music that his lover revealed in. There would be dancing.
The king rose to one knee, his sword in hand. The prince leaned to taunt Simone. The king thrust, his blade entering the visor of his son’s helmet, a thrust that carried rage and blossoming grief. The edge cut across Simone’s neck. Knight and prince both fell. The king lifted his sword over his head, screamed. Adrian sat, dropping back, hands shaking. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done....”
Adrian would speak no more in that life.
The songs that are sung of that battle tell of a red headed angel standing on a hill, calling to the bravest knight. It is often whispered that Simone was neither man nor knight, but a pagan spirit of ice, a pale being who protected a great king in penance for loving a spirit of fire, who survivors of the battle swear they saw standing atop a hill, calling out to his love.
Of course, as such pagan superstition faded, it was believed that they were simply lovers and that if one walked near the ruins of the monastery, one might see them wandering the paths, hand-in-hand, fire and ice, impossibly together forever.