“The Duchess of Aquitaine has arrived.”
“Show her to her rooms. We’ll dine in the garden in one hour.”
Dangereuse lifted herself off of the divan. She did not need to change, so moved moved languorously. Only little things motivated her these days: a never before seen flower; an unusual food. But the habits of day-to- day life enervated her. [It was worse with her grandchildren. At least her daughter Aenor had been interesting, if a bit of a handful. ]
Of course Eleanor had to come here because of John and that fucking Ring. What trouble! She knew full well her aelven responsibilities. Her ancestors had let the Ring be forged through complicity with Angra Mainyu / Ahriman. It was the responsibility of the aelven race to guard it until it could be destroyed.
But she was more faerie than aelf. This argument was a data point – to be worked out with the other demands of her divided nature. It was not a call to action.
[was something to be worked out within her divided nature.]
But who knew what would happen when her niece the Lady Ithilæn arrived. Heaven help us if the two start fighting, as they do. The Lady Ithilæn was too wound up. Altogether too much ælf. She really should give in to her human nature more. Dangereuse wondered what it was about Alienor’s contempt for human that annoyed her. She decided that it was self-hatred. Faeries lived in the moment; they knew how to have fun. Why spend precious moments of your life hating one aspect of yourself? It was … she didn’t know the correct word, insane? unfortunate? unreal? Regardless, it was difficult to understand. Her late husband William Troubadour was a peerless musician and dancer. He could not have been more human and he could not have been more fun to be with.
Unfortunately, from that branch sprouted the magical dullness of Eleanor, the Lady Aquitaine. There was no arguing with her success, but she was … steadfast … and worst of all grounded. Perhaps her problem was elemental. Færies, and their cousins wisps, are creatures of air. For a færie there was nothing worse than to be grounded. To think, my granddaughter has no curiosity, no frivolity and weak magic. She blamed that on Eleanor’s father. (Duke William Troubador’s son).
But Eleanor was peerless at being human. That was a strength a færie could not aspire to. Except perhaps with that Penelope child. That færie-ælf-human mix was stronger than its component parts.
Too bad she could not take the Ring. But she was 122 years old. The Ring was a burden for a child. It would bring nothing but trouble.
The chapel bell rang. It was time.
Dangereuse took the servants’ staircase to the kitchen, checked with the chef to ensure they were well provisioned, made minor changes to the menu and then went out to the back garden and took her seat on a padded cherry-wood chair, under an awning covered with grape leaves. Although it was a hot, sunny day, the temperature under the awning was perfect. Enough sunlight got through that it was warm, not cool. The view was mottled by shifting shadows, which moved as the breeze blew.
Dangereuse took her seat just as Eleanor emerged from southern Keep, where her quarters were. Though 65 years old, she moved spritely, and with confidence.
Dangereuse rose and proffered her right hand. Eleanor knelt, took the hand and kissed it. Dangereuse said, “Greetings, granddaughter.”
Dangereuse replied, “You are doubtless here because of King John and the Ring of Power he just stole.”
“What!” Eleanor, startled, swayed on her feet. Her element was earth, so she quickly stabilized herself.
Dangereuse smirked. It was petty of her, but she liked to surprise her grand-children. Of course, she too was surprised – by Eleanor’s ignorance. Was Eleanor so insensitive to the Universal Spirit that she did not notice when Dmitrius was killed and John stole the Ring? Apparently.
This – like too many gaffs – reminded Dangereuse of her deceased daughter Aenor, who never made such gaffs. Dangereuse scolded, “You have been insensitive, granddaughter. Open your mind and I will show you a moment, which explains our situation.” She held her granddaughter’s hand and transferred a vision of King John killing Dmitrius and kidnapping/eloping Isabella.
Eleanor swooned slightly, but then collected herself. “Mon Dieu. That explains a lot.”
Dangereuse pressed, “Do you still have foresight?”
Eleanor replied hesitantly, “Yes. Maybe. I mean I can’t force visions they just happen. And I haven’t had a vision the one I told you about last year. The battle.”
“Yes. Yes. So no recent visions?”
[Alienor] “Do you understand why? Don’t answer! When the Ring is active fate changes.”
“Yes! No foresight. Or more accurately, foresight becomes less accurate. Visions show possible futures, even unlikely ones. They are no guide.”
“Well I can tell you your foresight is not working. When the Ring is active, fate changes.”
“You have lost …?”
“I still have visions, but there are too many uncertain futures, and there is no equilibrium.”
The Chamberlain entered the patio from the private dining hall. He coughed politely to get their attention and then announced, “The Lady Ithilæn has arrived.”
“Show her in.”
She was already in, of course. “Greetings Dangereuse. She curtsied deeply to her Great Aunt from a distance. Dangereuse smiled tersely and made a shallow bow.
The Lady Aquitaine mused speaking to Alienor through Dangereuse, “So my cousin refused a Ring of Power when offered?”
Alienor nodded. Her decision still perturbed her. She did not want the Ring – but she didn’t want anyone else to have it either.
“A wise move. Dmitrius killed himself because he couldn’t endure bearing it any more. But it creates a problem for you. What will you do now?”
Dangereuse had a terrible habit of offlanding difficult decisions onto others. This annoyed Alienor. She went on the offensive, “Eleanor – do you still support John now that you know …?”
“Geoffrey is my favorite son.”
“Geoffrey is dead! You have only two choices: John or Arthur.”
“John. Arthur. I’m tired of this. The fighting amongst my – our – progeny never ends.”
Dangereuse said, “I’m sad you have to care. But you do. They are your children.”
Eleanor replied, “Only one quarter of me is magical, grandmother. Have you forgotten? The rest of me is human. That’s why I leave the magic to you and cousin Alienor.”
Dangereuse never wanted to have this conversation, so she diverted, “What if we kill John and give the Ring to Arthur? He’s weak. We could control him. I mean even you could, Alienor, though if you needed a charm or two I could help out.”
Alienor snapped, “You know better than that Dangereuse! We know where this timeline should be headed. We’ve foreseen the possible outcomes. Arthur always looses.”
“You annoy me, Alienor but you are right. What about the haffen-aelves?”
“None of them want it, either.”
“Perhaps we should wait. See if anything is revealed to us.”
“It won’t be! That is the point of this wretched talisman. We don’t know the path.”
Eleanor, “Wait. Surely Dmitrius knew the correct path. His death was not simply out of despair. He had foresight and was pure until the very end. He gave the Ring to John to set something in motion. To move toward a foreseen outcome.”
“House Plantagenet’s victory over France?”
“I do not know.
It was a choice between immediate strong action and wait-and-see. They could combine against John and take the Ring. They would thereby regain foresight – assuming equilibrium could be achieved – but what would it give them? They did not know. They were driving blind.
Dangereuse was looking for an easy way out, and there was one, “If our goal is to destroy the Ring and re-establish the fates we can foresee, then we need do nothing now but give John what he wants.”
“Yes. Yes. That is best. You will work on that here. While this distracts him, I will join the attack on Normandy.”
“Good. Good. This will be fun.” She turned to the Lady Ithilaen. “Scoot. Scoot. Rejoin your army. John will be here any day, and I need to prepare charms for Arthur and Aylnor.”
At the Battle of Mirebeau later that year (1202) John captures Arthur and 200 other knights.
But John’s success quickly unravelled, in part because of the way he treated his prisoners. The king took the knights he had captured at Mirebeau back to Normandy in carts, heavily shackled and chained. ‘He kept his prisoners in such a horrible manner and in such abject confinement’, commented the author of The History of William Marshal, ‘that it seemed an indignity and a disgrace to all those with him who witnessed his cruelty’. Some, like Arthur, were imprisoned in Normandy, but John had so many captives that he sent dozens of them across the Channel to be kept in castles in England.
Because the king refused to enter into negotiations with Arthur’s supporters about the possibility of their lord’s release, they continued in their rebellion. In October 1202 they succeeded in capturing two of his principal cities, Angers and Tours, and by the end of the year John was forced to withdraw to Normandy. Becoming increasingly desperate, John first seems to have given orders for Arthur to be mutilated – orders which were not carried out. Then, in January, he apparently tried a different tack, and visited the castle at Falaise where Arthur was being held. According to the chronicler Roger of Wendover, the king promised his nephew many honours if he would abandon his struggle, but Arthur replied defiantly, saying he would not desist until John gave up all of the Angevin empire, including England. Wendover’s story draws some support from the fact that John did visit Falaise at the start of 1203 – his enrolled letters show that he arrived there on January 30th and stayed for three or four days.
Arthur is murdered
Mirebeau was a medium sized, tough castle, in the Anjou heartland a day’s ride north of Poitiers. The land was rich – there were vineyards, dairy farming, beer making, vegetables, grains – decent access to the international markets at Champagne and Italy.
Alienor goes there to meet Aylenor Eleanor and Dangereuse. Its a secret. Arthur is barrelling down from (Normandy). She is surprised to discover she can’t beat John. She leaves him, knowing he is no threat to Aylenor and completely incapable of handling John. She retreats, leaving Arthur to die – we see a scene of him being led away in chains by cruel King John.
What are you doing here? – Alienor secretly shows up … Everyone thinks she’s at Gaillard.
John is coming – earlier she senses this and the Riders turn and race to Mirebeau.