|Celandine's Chronicle (celandineb) wrote in cels_fic_haven,|
@ 2009-01-02 10:56:00
|Entry tags:||swordspoint fic diane/michael, swordspoint fic michael/rosamund|
Swordspoint fic: Principles [Michael/Diane, Michael/Rosamund, general]
Pairing: Michael/Diane, Michael/Rosamund
Length: 1675 words
Summary: Lord Michael Godwin is determined to defend personally the honor of the woman he intends to marry.
Note: Written for utsusemia in Yuletide 2008, and originally posted here.
There are rules, Michael Godwin reminded himself in order to keep from wiping the smug expression off Thaddeus Filisand's face with his fist. If you play by the rules, you can win; if you break them, even if you win this fight you will lose everything else.
He swallowed the words that sprang to his lips, therefore, and kept his face smooth. He even continued to play cards, and took the fact that he won twenty-four in silver from the other man as a good omen.
Later that evening he went to see his lover, hurrying through the streets, careful not to slip on the ice-rimed stones.
"You did as you should."
Diane, the Duchess of Tremontaine, set down the silver brush on her dressing table, the fair strands of her hair spilling over the soft lace that enwrapped her neck and shoulders. "Patience is the hardest lesson to learn, but the most necessary."
Michael paused in his pacing back and forth across her bedroom floor. Even in bed with her tonight he had been unable to keep still. "What ought I to do?"
She considered it. "How widespread are the rumors? The affairs of the younger set do not often attract my attention."
"Filisand has been telling everyone who holds still long enough to listen that Lady Rosamund Montrose is unchaste," replied Michael heatedly. "It is a complete falsehood, of course."
"Of course." Diane smiled. "Tell me, though, why do you care? What is the girl to you?"
Hot blood rushed up into Michael's cheeks, though he fought to control it.
"Nothing," he mumbled.
Diane raised her eyebrows, and under that cool gaze Michael was compelled to add, "Nothing yet."
He felt horribly embarrassed at even mentioning the matter to Diane -- it seemed uncouth in the extreme -- but then, the Duchess Tremontaine would scarcely marry Lord Michael Godwin, and she was versed enough in the ways of the world that she knew he must make a marital alliance sometime. Rosamund Montrose would make an admirable wife for a man of Michael's position... unless her reputation were besmirched. Michael's quarrel with Thaddeus was as much on his own behalf as on hers.
"Public accusations must be refuted publicly," said Diane. "This is not a matter that can remain discreet." She made a moue. "You could hire St Vier, I suppose."
"No." Michael was definite on that point. He no longer bore Richard St Vier a grudge for the death of Applethorpe -- the man had only been executing his profession, and had Applethorpe not claimed the right to fight on Michael's behalf, Michael would not be here today -- but he felt uncomfortable at the thought of hiring the swordsman now. "No, I want to fight this myself."
"I see," said Diane softly, never taking her eyes from him as she rose and wrapped the sash of her blue velvet dressing gown more tightly around her narrow waist. "You must take extra care, then, to ensure that you have a reasonable chance of success. I rather doubt that young Thaddeus will do his own fighting."
Michael chuckled at the thought of Filisand being able to do more with a sword than keep from tripping over it. "I doubt it," he agreed, good humor somewhat restored by his amusement. "Though if I bring the challenge, he has the right to say whether it be to first blood or to the death."
"He might choose the latter simply to frighten you into withdrawing the challenge altogether, so you must be prepared for that eventuality. I would suggest that you bring the challenge at Henry Galeno's house next week. Galeno keeps a house swordsman, but mostly for show; he hasn't done anything more than attend a wedding or two in years. As long as no one else has brought along a guard, that should do."
As ever, Michael was impressed by the scope of Diane's knowledge. "I shall take your advice," he promised.
"Good. Now that is settled," she gave him a creamy smile, "perhaps we can move on to other things for the moment."
Michael had received his invitation to the Galenos' some days before, but had not yet responded, in part because he was certain Filisand would be there. Now, however, he sent a note of acceptance, and began efforts to ascertain who the other guests would be, and whether any of them were likely to bring swordsmen more skilled than Michael now knew himself to be. He would never equal the abilities of a St Vier or even an Applethorpe, but without conceit he knew that he matched or bettered most of the blades for hire in the city.
He arrived twenty minutes after the time stated on the invitation; early enough that he would see nearly all the other guests arrive, and be able to hear what if anything was being said about Lady Rosamund, but not quite so early as to appear gauche. He drifted through the rooms as they filled with guests whose chatter drowned out the string quartet playing in one corner of the main hall.
In the card room sat Thaddeus Filisand, looking unlikely to leave its comforts any time soon. Michael noted that as expected, he wore the usual petty-sword, quite unlike Michael's own dueling weapon. He nodded to himself and went to see if the Montroses had yet arrived.
They had. Michael saw how Rosamund's hands clenched in the bell of her skirts as people's faces turned toward her and then away as they whispered to their neighbors. Her mother's expression was set. Had Lord Montrose lived, or had there been any sons, surely they would have defended her daughter's honor, but as it was, she had no recourse but to pretend the ugly gossip did not exist.
Michael threaded his way through the crowd to them, bowing in courtesy and kissing first the mother's hand, then the daughter's. The scent of Rosamund's skin struck through him. As he straightened, he murmured, "All will be well, my lady."
She gave him a resigned smile and a tiny shrug. "I thank you for your good wishes, Lord Godwin."
He asked her for the first dance, and brought her a cup of hot wine punch to sip until it began. They danced well together, and when the first was done, he claimed the next as well, but left her again with her mother at its conclusion. If all went well, he might seek a third tonight, thus declaring his intent, but not until after he had settled matters with Filisand.
Despite his efforts to show that he, at least, believed none of the scurrilous rumors, he saw that Rosamund sat out the next three dances. She endeavored to look composed, but the flush on her cheeks deepened as each dance began without any partner appearing for her.
It drew near to the time when the music would stop for an interval, to allow those guests who had been dancing throughout the evening a chance to refresh themselves. Michael squared his shoulders. Entering into the card room again, he tapped Filisand on the shoulder and stood to attention as the other man looked up.
"Thaddeus Filisand," he said formally, "I challenge you over the matter of the honor of Lady Rosamund Montrose."
Filisand's face went slack for a moment, sweat springing out on his forehead. "You challenge me?"
Michael gave a single nod and waited. Vaguely he was aware that the room had gone quiet around them, that someone had scurried out to bring in their host, but he kept his attention fixed on Filisand.
"I, well," Filisand stammered, and then his face eased into relief. "I say, Galeno, may I borrow your swordsman?"
Galeno hurried up. "A duel? Where's your swordsman, Godwin?"
"I have none." Michael's voice was clipped. "I claim the privilege of the sword, and I shall fight in my own person."
Filisand's eyes narrowed. "Even to the death?"
"Even so." Michael ignored Galeno's start and muttering under his breath. "If you choose."
For a moment he could see Filisand calculation, then his realization that it would be unmannerly to borrow Galeno's swordsman and require him to fight a death match. "First blood will do."
They waited, then, while the swordsman was summoned. He was a blond fellow, well-built, but several years past his prime, and Michael thought that he could probably manage to draw first blood... if he did not become over-confident.
"The courtyard?" he suggested, and Galeno agreed, shepherding the guests from the room.
Michael had been careful to wear clothes in which he could move freely, and he stood, relaxed but alert, watching the swordsman move toward him. He had caught only a glimpse of Rosamund's face, but put her astonished delight and concern out of his mind for the time being.
First blood, he reminded himself. Don't get fancy, play it safe and look for an opening. The sound of steel on steel made the blood race in his veins. Though he had seen many fights before, and fought in practice many times himself, this was the first -- he hoped only -- duel he himself had ever participated in. The intensity was different, far different from practice, and even as he parried another stroke, he realized why someone like Richard St Vier could dedicate his life to this skill.
The swordsman had nearly clipped him, and Michael circled warily. He beat back another riposte. There. Without thinking twice Michael made his move, and caught the swordsman on his left arm.
"Blood!" he heard someone cry out, and, panting, he lowered his blade.
The swordsman bowed. "The fight is yours, my lord."
Michael turned to Filisand, who looked furious. "My lord Filisand, I require you to apologize openly to the lady Rosamund Montrose for your malicious and untrue statements about her."
Fierce satisfaction warmed him as Filisand made his apologies to a flushing Rosamund. He would speak with her mother first, although he doubted his attentions would be refused, and then he would claim Rosamund for that third dance.