|Summary:||The various letters traded between the Lady Aeliana Charlton and the Knight of Midnight Grace, for the year 287.|
|Related Logs:||Just Another Joust, By Moonlight, By Grace|
March 17, 287
The Devil in the Dark, Midnight Grace,
The owls outside my window mark the hour, the pregnant hang of the low moon. There's a breeze blowing to send my curtains dancing and I imagine, out there in the dark somewhere…there waits you. Tall, I know, for I've seen how you sit in saddle. Good with animals, for I've marked well how you ride. Seducer, certainly, of women. For with each letter that you send, I find myself falling further and wonder if this is what it is like to fly.
I have told myself, thrice now, that I would answer it as neatly as it was sent, in perfect order to match you word for word and yet…this I find is an impossibility. Because you see, I am not above a white lie, I am not above a black one because like you I agree that in the end all that matters is the way in which ones actions reflect upon ones House. Upon ones reputation. A woman may marry and join a new House, but her reputation will follow her forever. Mine is a thing I would not wish to see tarnished, for in doing so, therein I damage my House. Knowing that, I may confess to that I did in fact long to tease you, how could I not offer favor where I may and as I did?
In truth, when you first rode up and requested a favor were it not for the judgment of the crowd I would have offered you none at all. It seemed arrogant to me, brazen. Presumptuous. I am a Charlton after all, and may say so because you already know that truth. So perhaps there was a touch of apology as well, with the second, for while you could not have known of my assumption I did. To me, in that moment, it mattered.
Is that too honest for you?
Once, outside the shops of Hollyholt, there came upon me a man and spying Stranger went on to inquire as to precisely why a lady might ride such a beast of a horse. To him I could do no more than smile and reply, 'Not every battle is fought with steel, most are decided over tea. Every time I leave, I ride to battle.' So can you perhaps imagine the way I smiled when I read so near my very own thoughts penned by your hand? Almost, but not quite as brightly as I smiled the day you won and in other ways, moreso.
But I am gladden to know that you sleep without issue, free of haunting dream to trouble it. Even…if knowing that you sleep while thinking of possessing me may well haunt my dreams in turn. I suppose it could be considered a form of possession then, but…it smacks of love. It reeks of those things of which a bard might sing. And I hate you, just a little for it. Because there is an honesty in you that I would not have owned up to possessing, even in a letter. Even with promises for nothing but honesty.
I confess then, that I am a romantic. That I dream of the day when I have a knight of my own, to want no other but me, to hold no other above me. Full of all the passion that laces those tales from our childhood, full of fire and life. And in that world we might then live as the stories never do, happily ever after. But if I am to confess such a thing, then…I will sacrifice the romance for my House. I will sacrifice the dream. I will do it without regret, if it is asked of me.
So are you truly worthy? Therein lies the trick of this, doesn't it. You know how I am, precisely who I am. You know my worth. And I know…a knight whose arrogance has charmed me when I had no wish to be charmed. A man whose mind is engaging and quick. Sharp and full of wit and humor. One that hints of decadence. A man…who confesses himself a romantic, when I would never have been so brave as to admit it first, or ever. I know that you intrigue me. But I do not know and can not without your name, if we live in a world where you could truly have me.
It infuriates me and challenges me in turn, to know that while you already have those answers and that knowledge I do not. That every letter deeper begs me nearer and like a moth to the flame I go, but unlike them, aware that it may burn. Yet still I play. You make it worth playing. Do not make me regret it.
Yours in prose,
P.S. Those are thoughts entirely too maudlin upon which to end a letter and I do not appreciate being so openly soft, because that in turn, makes me vulnerable. So I will say instead:
My dearest Midnight, send me your favor. A splinter does not a good bedfellow make.
May 4th, 287
'To the Lady Perfectly Mine
There are two kind of romantics, I think.
Those who see themselves blind on the romance, ignoring all facts that run counter to their dreams and aspirations. They weave a fable with their own self as the center, and whether or not the world conforms, they pretend it does. They count among their number the knight who sees a lovely lady at court, and so decides that he is smitten. In love. He hires bards to write songs of love for her affection, while he tells himself over and over that should he but have her, the world will be perfect. Or it is the Lady who sees from afar a darkly handsome knight, who smiles at her on occasion, and she thinks to herself that he is fine. Because it pleases her for it to be so, she gives him qualities unlimited; honor, generosity, charisma, wit, kindness. In her dreams he is all these things, but she does not bother to find out for certain. She prefers her dreams. Perhaps she will be happy if she gets her prince charming, but not because he is anything like what she imagines. She is happy in ignorance. Like a child, playing with her sand castle.
I will not be a child, my happiness dependent on playing pretend.
The second kind of romantic is the one who accepts that our world is full of traps and pitfalls. Deceptions and misunderstandings, cruelty and darkness and evil. He or she understands it, and plays by its rules. Yet even as they see the world with cynicism, they dream of something better. They cling to the hope, the possibility, and while they are tentative and careful in their approach, for they know these things are rare, should they ever find their fable come true, for them it is a far greater achievement. Far greater a joy, for they have defeated and know they have defeated the odds stacked so high against them.
I do not hesitate in claiming my romantic bent. I hope and I dream, but I do not expect, that I will find a true affection somewhere. Perhaps with you, dear Lady Perfect, perhaps. Hopefully.
Am I worthy of you? If I did not think I were, I would not write these letters. A torment it would be, both of myself and of you, to pour heart on a page were there never a hope for a joyous ending. Then again I have poured my heart into other matters before, to see it broken. I gave the Dragons my devotion, once, and was burned by the experience. Will you be more tender in your care of my affection?
Enjoy my favor, regardless. It is yours. May it bring you dreams, such as yours have given me.
The letter comes with a parcel, and opened up she will find a man's shirt. It is clean, though still worn enough for it to contain the unmistakable smell of the masculine. His shirt, then.
August 21, 287
To the Cynical, the Romantic, My Own Midnight Grace,
With every glimpse into your mind that you give me, with every glimmering of your heart that I find within the words…I find that I am charmed all the more and fortunate to know you. I have seen too many of the first, seen the way they rise on the high of elation and then fall; crumbling but naught to ash, no more than echoes of the people that they once were. I would see neither of us made a shadow, but rather, both made stronger for what each of us may bring to the table.
You may not be a child, my shadowed one, but I hope that you may still recall the laughter of your childhood. That there are times, occasionally even in the worst of moments, when you may still laugh with all candor simply because something moves you. And at the very least, if you can not, I would wish that you look with no judgment upon those that may for I, despite knowing the darkness, despite the evil in the world, despite the traps and the deceit. I laugh. I smile. I know joy, even in the darkest hours, even at midnight. And these days, because of midnight.
Thank you for your favor, and for the smile that it brings as I sit here enshrouded in your scent, with your letter before me and the darkness of the hour slipping round me like a veil. For the way my heart quickens and hope grows at the knowledge that what might be could be instead, what is. I will say that it feels strange though, to confess even here between us still. Like you I expect in the world no true affection, had not even dared thing such a thing could be possible. I may say, with ready honesty that it seems the lark of fools and weak souls to be charmed by no more than words on a page and yet…
Here I sit.
Here I sit with highs that come with your every letter and lows that stretch out to fill the space between. With hopes and dreams and the memory of seeing you seems anymore to be something conjured by my mind. My soul is not weak, but here I am. Perhaps I am a fool after all. I have only your words and never your face. Only your mind and yet with them…with them you have won my heart. I would hold your own with care, cherish it close, as with every letter come to pass between us.
But I do not like this way of yours, to make me feel soft. I do not appreciate being made to feel vulnerable and I realize, with the admission that now you know - Yes. You can hurt me. Still, I play. Play and thank you, because in showing me how I may be hurt, you have also taught me what to be armed against so that others may not. A blessing-curse, perhaps.
Though…I don't think the Dragons were unworthy of your devotion. I think they were dealt an unfair hand, by one who lobbied as the worst sort of romantic; like a selfish child, bent on punishing everyone for his loss. But he can certainly drink, can't he!
As I will drink tonight, a toast to Dragon's lost and to cynical romance. Just enough that when I fall back into the pillows for slumber I may pretend that it is your arms instead, while I've your scent to surround me.
It will certainly say, it's given me an idea.
Little Lady Yours
December 20th, 287
'Dear Little Lady Mine
My apologies it has taken so long since our last correspondence. Do not think you've been out of my mind for all this time, though, for you have not. I carry with me your favor wherever I go, and just a month ago your ribbon – somewhat threadbare for use by now, I'll readily admit – streamed from my shoulder as I took to the lists. I shall not lie and say I pursued the victories in your name, for by the Warrior I enjoy the thrill of knocking a man off his horse, and proving that I am his better. Those times that I lose, too, I appreciate. For they teach me valuable lessons, every time, so I will not repeat past mistakes. Though not in your name, your name was still on my lips at every night, for in the clash of arms I was reminded of the first time I saw you and heard your voice. The aches of bruises and strain in my muscles becomes a sweet pain when joined by such memories.
I assure you I can laugh, too. For I sit here and read your letter, and plot my response, and there is laughter in me. Bubbling up by the light of the moon, joyous. Delighted. The laughter of a man who has found finally a kindred spirit in these letters. For months I have traveled the Reach to participate in knightly tests of arms, and always there have been fair maidens looking on. Not once have I felt the desire to request another favor, though. Their talk seems dull, their eyes seem without wit, or if they possess a wit, then it is a wit unlike yours. And so leaves me disappointed, and yearning all the more for another tidbit of your soul.
You speak of hurt and vulnerability. Perhaps you're not mistaken in this. Yet if each of us is a keep, well protected against the outside world that would seek us damage, with strong walls and deep moats.. still the purpose of such fortifications is not to keep everybody at bay. Their purpose instead must be to block those who would attack by force, or use stealth to attempt nightly raids under the guise of darkness. For inside is something cherished, valuable, not to be easily given away to anyone who would take it, but instead offered up to only those worthy of it. Your walls remain intact, Little Lady Mine, you've simply let me inside so both of our hearts might be protected by them.
Of Dragons I rarely speak. It is a bitter pill to must beg 'pardon' for the crime of not being a traitor, and punished for it by those who claim to be honorable, yet broke oaths and set the whole land afire with death and destruction for the sake of infantile infatuation. Were the Dragons worthy of my devotion? I know Prince Rhygar was, and though Aerys was Mad, even his death did not change the line of succession. Do these words make me a traitor? No, they are simply the truth. I bent knee as we all did, and unlike some.. I am true to my oaths.
It surprises me how easy I write these things, even so. It feels strange, but liberating. As if a small weight lifts off my shoulders for having someone to confide in without fear it be turned against me.
Ser Midnight Grace.