(1311-04-24) Day Of Anael: Horse Race
Summary: The first and second round of the horse races.
RL Date: 24/04/2019
Related: Other feasts of the Days of the Companions.
cyriel desarae philomene timothee cedoric etienne isabeau symon 

Marsilikos Hippodrome — Countryside

In honour of the ancient Hellenes and Eisande's own history of horse-breeding and rearing, the Marsilikos Hippodrome stands apart from the city in a reclaimed marsh.

Stony terraces march down to the sea on the windswept site, holding back the waves pummeling the low-lying coast. Tough salt-resistant grasses and flowers cluster along the rocky fringes of the wide oval space. At first glance, the place resembles nothing so much as an untended field surrounded by a complex of weathered rock walls hemming in none too productive fields. But a seasoned eye may distinguish the lime-traced oval track at a distance, and the neat avenues slicing ruler-straight through the grassy mound. Clearly a favourite for riders to launch into galloping runs pell-mell over the flat ground, clods of earth and divots provide some level of hazard.

Here every spring and fall, the greatest horse fair in Terre d'Ange gathers and transforms the hippodrome into a sea of tents and Tsingani carts. The fields marked by rough stone walls become pens for yearlings and adult horses for trade and barter, the whole of it lively and wild. During races in the season, crowds throng the sides of the track and wooden stands spring up like mushrooms after the rain to accommodate immense crowds drawn by the sport.


The weather is warm for the early spring season, a faint breeze bulging banners and tearing at them where they have been planted to the far end of the hippodrome. The stone of the steps has been made more comfortable by woollen blankets, and here and there canopies have been raised to offer some shelter from the afternoon sun. A veritable crowd has gathered and now sits scattered upon the terraces that frame the hippodrome. There is an area for nobility, where servants and handmaids see to providing the lords and ladies with drinks, refreshing chilled white wines and more temperate reds, handed along with small baskets of bake rolls filled with cheese and seasoning herbs.

The gazes of many are directed downwards, to the center of the hippodrome, where horses, bridled and saddled, are stomping lightly upon the dirt ground. Those wishing to take part in the horse race, standing beside them, offering them an apple or merely a few murmured soothing words. The call has yet to come, from the herald, for the riders to mount and prepare.

The course is of oval shape, with obstacles having been prepared and setup, to add a certain challenge to seasoned riders. There is a puddle, running across the width of the race track, about 4 feet of muddy water there to brave. And a second obstacle awaits, just after turning at the obelisk at the other end. A few bales of hay that have been arranged in a line and require a sound jump for the horse to brave.


Part 1

The Days of the Companions are finally here, and they start off with a day honoring the patron companion of l'Agnace, Anael. It is not surprising, therefore, that the temple of Anael has been frequented quite a bit on the morning, all the way to the hours of late afternoon. And now, a number of people have gathered at the Hippodrome of Marsilikos, for a horse race to celebrate this particular day. Spectators are here, watching as riders deal with last preparations.

House Charlot is known for their horse trade, it has been the main reason for particular Kusheline vicomte to return to Marsilikos after all. Today, Cyriel Charlot is among the contestants in the horse race. Easily to be recognized by his striking features, with his hair pulled back in a ponytail, he can be glimpsed even by those not standing right beside the race track. His horse, a fine black courser, is ready, bridled and with the fine saddle with the sigil of House Charlot etched into the leather safely strapped onto its back. Cyriel is clad in riding attire, practical and none too costly doublet and breeches of black and red. The cloak he has left at the residence, as the weather is fair and warm. Pale blue eyes flash brightly as they glance about, taking in those that have come to watch as well as those that are intending to compete. His hands are covered in gloves of dark brown leather, one of them holding the reins of his horse, while he stands there and pats its neck, his expression that of expectant unrest.

For those more accustomed to seeing Philomène d'Aiglemort de Chalasse traipsing through the city, scowling at the ground, the sky, trees, passersby, imaginary people, insects, chirurgeons, and the entire world in general, to see her on horseback can only come as a shock to the system. For a start the misshapen leg and the obvious limp are hidden as she's seated on a comfortable, well-worn saddle with the bull-in-a-field arms of her house emblazoned upon the saddlecloth, but the greatest difference of all is that there's an easy smile on her face. As she walks her dun (which is definitely a sort of brown) mare towards the starting line for today's contest, she looks wholly at her ease, as though she and the horse are simply two parts of the same whole. And, to be fair, with the dark worsted of her riding breeches matching the dark socks of the mare, and the chocolate brown of her customary jacket setting off the horse's coat, perhaps they really are.

Desarae has also turned out for this event for Anael, the young heiress to the marquisate of Chavaise looking as if she means business as she rides in on her mount. It's a fine-boned animal of about fifteen hands in height, and it bears all the hallmarks of an Aragonian heritage in the delicate dish of its face and the arched carriage of its neck and its tail. It side-steps skittishly at the noise of the crowd, but the slender woman appears to have put a deal of effort into her lessons of horsemanship, for her seat is good and she moves as one her horse. She's sensibly chosen to forgo the elegance of a habit and the sidesaddle today, and rides astride in a pair of well-fitted breeches that are styled much in the fashion of her aunt Emanuelle. Perhaps there's been some influence there. "A good morning to you, Lord Charlot," she greets, as with a touch of her heels she manoeuvres her mount across the field and alongside his. "I'm wondering how much of a folly it is for me to enter since I've not ridden in a race before. At least nothing as official as this. Do you suppose I'll regret it later?" An easy smile touches her lips, and noticing Philomene approaching the line, a lift of her chin is given her way. "I'll be no contest for you, but I'm sure that the Vicomtesse d'Aiglemort de Chalasse might well be."

"Why, hello, Lady Desarae," Cyriel greets back, as he mounts Devil, now no longer at a disadvantage, as on the same level as her, at least in some regard. His pale eyes flicker, in a quick look over that may also include the horse. "I don't think it is a folly at all, but perhaps something that has been overdue, my lady?" His hawkish features twist into a faint smile. "There is nothing to regret, when there is something to be learned from the experience. It might alleviate you to hear that I haven't ridden in too many races myself. I usually prefer the contests of more martial kind. But here we are, as I try to promote the horses of Charlot breed, I should demonstrate some of their skill before an audience as this, I suppose." His gaze flicks towards Philomène, as Desarae points her out to him. "She…? Competition? Perhaps. But then again, only the race can reveal today's winner. I don't think my chances at winning are too poor. Truth be told, a win would boost my cause even more."

"Then I wish you good luck and good fortune in the race, my lord." Desarae returns to Cyriel in the sincerest of tones. "I'll be interested in how your horse performs, for Bisou here is not mine, but my aunt's. I've still to purchase one of my own, though perhaps this is something that is now overdue" Another glance is given the starting line where the others are beginning to gather, and a wry smile curls on her lips. "I fear I'll be seeking out one of the Balm-focused courtesans following this, but I'm determined to do it." Booted heels that sport no spurs, touch to her skittish mount's sides, and Bisou dances across the grass to be joined with the others.

A little bit further away from the rest of the competitors the young lord Timothée Rafael de Somerville is standing right in front of his black as coal stallion. Instead of interacting with any of the participants, the man seems to be concentrated on the emotions of his beast. His animal tramples the ground in a slight unrest. Timothée gently brushes his fingers over the horse's muzzle and whispers some soothing words. And that might be one of those very rare times when this ducal heir shows some care and honest concern. His effort gives fruit and right before participants are asked to take their spots, the beast seems to calm down. That is when Timothée saddles and guides the horse into the position. A young man is wearing clothes of fine silk but only the decorations of his saddle have the coat of arms of his family - an apple tree. His own attire is absolutely black. Matches quite well with his dark hair, dark eyes and noble fair skin. Some whispers may ripple throw the crowd closer to the hippodrome itself when the man passes them buy. Even if Timothée Rafael de Somerville is engaged to a beautiful niece of the Lady of Marsilikos - Phaénne Shaylee Mereliot, he wears no favor.

"Anael's favor and good luck to you as well, my lady," Cyriel responds to Desarae. "Your Bisou will do, for the race, I suppose." He gives the mare another look, and hmms a little to himself. "Ah. Balm? Why so? You are not planning to fall off, are you?" But it seems, that the race is about to begin, and so the vicomte urges Devil to follow Bisou and her rider. Pale blue eyes take in the competition, and in spotting the young Somerville heir, Cyriel offers a polite nod to Timothée, along with a greeting given in a somewhat flat tone. "Ah, my lord. Good luck. Your reputation precedes you." Not even introducing himself, the Charlot rides further up to claim his spot in the starting line.

And only a few moments later, the herald makes the announcement: "People of Marsilikos, visitors from near and far, today is the day that we celebrate Anael, and life, and all living. Animals live, and one sort of animal is the horse. Let us admire and celebrate, what horses can do, and so, let the first round of this race begin…!"

1) Starting Line:
Establish a good connection to the horse as to get a good start into the race:
+roll Riding+Presence
Those with Anael Scion merit +roll Riding+Presence+1
The resulting points are used as bonus in the following Riding roll.
+roll Riding(+ bonus) <— points added to the final score

<FS3> Cyriel rolls Riding+Presence: Good Success. (7 3 5 7 1 8 6 6 5 1)
<FS3> Cyriel rolls Riding+2: Good Success. (5 3 7 3 7 2 5 2 6 7 5)
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding+presence: Success. (8 5 1 2 6 1 2 5)
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (8 1 8 8 3 6)
<FS3> Timothee rolls Riding+Presence+1: Good Success. (1 2 5 6 7 5 5 6 4 8)
<FS3> Timothee rolls Riding+2: Good Success. (7 1 7 7 5 1 3 2 6 4 2 4)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+presence: Amazing Success. (8 3 5 4 8 4 8 1 8 7 7 6)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+5: Amazing Success. (3 7 3 4 2 1 3 7 4 2 7 7 8 8 6)

Cyriel starts off not too badly. After focusing his attention on his black steed for a moment, he seems to be as much on edge as Devil, and the vicomte has to rein in the horse a few times before the herald finally gives the sign for this first round of the race competition. Devil gets a rather good start, hooves thundering as he quickly gains speed. But obviously not speed enough, as they are overtaken by the Vicomtesse de Gueret, and those with keen eyes may be able to see a frown forming on Cyriel's features. A quick glance to the right and to the left, and he notices that Desarae and Timothée are keeping up with him. To Desarae at least the Kusheline offers a smile; his pale eyes tighten at the corners, and perhaps his attention lingers for a moment upon her riding attire.

There's no such hesitation for Philomène. Not a glance to left nor right, no eyeing up the competition, no matter how tight their breeches or how well formed their muscles within them. The focus of the Gueret lady is, as one might come to expect in these matters, bent on nothing more than winning. There are those who might say she's a touch competitive. Those people wouldn't be going far enough. Her gleaming brass spurs nudge the sides of her mare and the superb beast surges forward, horse and rider both with the same wide-eyed expression of sheer exultation. The poor, countrified, crippled old vicomtesse, the subject of pity and ridicule in equal measure on the ground, for those brave enough to try it at least, isn't just the equal of anybody on horseback: she's exemplary.

Desarae's heels meet with her horse's flanks as the riders surge forward. A novice at this she might be, but she's determined to at least secure for herself a decent place within the field early on, since it allows for a better view of the upcoming obstacles. As the riders settle she finds herself somewhere in the middle, along with Cyriel and Timothée, and the Kusheline's smile is met with one of her own. No words are exchanged as the wind would only whip them from her mouth, and she concentrates instead on the ground-eating stride of her horse and the upcoming water across which they're fated to jump. She gathers her reins closer with supple, gloved fingers, and leans forward a fraction to whisper words of encouragement to Bisou.

Timothée's horse seems to be not fully tamed or might just have a bit wilder personality because it delays leaving the starting point at the given signal. Despite that, the beast catches up with the majority of the participants and a frown does not overcloud the emotionless features of a young lord. Probably that is the best sign of pride and contentment the Somerville lord can offer. He does cast a quick glance to Cyriel and Desarae but a race track ahead earns the most of his attention and he encourages his nameless companion to gallop forward with more courage and effort.

2) Puddle Jump
brave an obstacle: +roll Riding
The resulting points are used as bonus in the following Riding roll.
+roll Riding-2(+ bonus) <— points added to the final score

<FS3> Cyriel rolls Riding: Success. (5 1 7 6 6 6 3 6 2)
<FS3> Cyriel rolls Riding-1: Great Success. (7 6 6 7 7 7 1 6)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding: Great Success. (8 5 8 6 2 8 8 2 3 7)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (7 4 3 2 2 7 2 2 7 2 6)
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding: Failure. (3 5 4 2 3)
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding-2: Failure. (5 5 3)
Desarae spends 1 luck points on Not to get dumped in the puddle.
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding-2: Good Success. (7 8 1)
<FS3> Timothee rolls Riding: Good Success. (3 7 6 5 6 1 2 1 3 8)
<FS3> Timothee rolls Riding: Success. (5 1 7 2 5 1 6 2 1 3)

They are heading towards the first obstacle, the puddle, and Cyriel narrows his eyes, calculating the distance and the perfect spot from which to initiate the jump. Leaning a touch forward, he murmurs something into Devil's ear, and there, the black horse rises into the air in an elegant leap that will take Cyriel safely across the water, without his steed even getting a hoof wet. This gains him a little ground, as it gets him closer to the leading Philomène.

Philomene reaches the water jump a split second before the pack, riding hard into the manoeuvre; her Hirondelle soars above the water, the mare's splendid shadow cast upon the pond beneath putting to shame any hibernating namesakes. This is hilarious if you're a mediaevalist. Apparently. Great clods of damp earth are flung away from where she lands; the whole ground shakes beneath the weight of so many galloping horses.

Perhaps there's a touch of trepidation within Desarae as they approach the water jump. Perhaps Bisou feels that hesitation through her rider's reins. Where Desarae fails, the experience of her horse takes over, and expertly-placed hooves dig into the wet earth as she takes control and flies over the water. The clods of mud kicked up by Philoméne's horse shower those behind her, and Desarae's face and her previously pristine shirt are both the worse for it as rider and horse collect themselves on landing. Some ground has been lost, unlike this particular young Mereliot's determination. "Faster!" she urges, tucking herself in close along the silken length of her horse's neck.

Timothée's horse seems to become mildly distracted by the others since it starts turning his head to the sides as if in hope to catch a glimpse of one or the other. Or maybe his stallion just decides to take a step back in order to glance at nice large and well trained hindquarters of young mares if any of them are mares. After all, the Somerville's beast seems to be still a young stud in his teenage years. Young almost like the lord himself but with more joy of life in his demeanor than the rider. And so staying behind, the animal makes a leap over the puddle but his hind hooves land right in the water. The horse slips and for a moment one would think that it will fall to the ground and bury the ducal heir beneath its heavy body. However, the beast manages to stay up in line and now Timothée can not hide his displeasure in his pale features. He frowns and bites a bottom lip after sending some quiet curses into the beast's ear.

3) Bale Jump
brave another obstacle: +roll Riding
The resulting points are used as bonus in the following Riding roll.
+roll Riding-3(+ bonus) <— points added to the final score

<FS3> Cyriel rolls Riding: Good Success. (3 3 8 7 6 3 1 6 3)
<FS3> Cyriel rolls Riding-1: Great Success. (1 2 7 7 6 7 8 7)
<FS3> Timothee rolls Riding: Failure. (6 5 3 1 5 4 6 6 4 5)
<FS3> Timothee rolls Riding-3: Good Success. (8 2 7 3 3 3 3)
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding: Success. (2 6 1 3 8)
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding-2: Success. (4 7 6)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding: Good Success. (6 2 8 1 7 5 4 6 6 4)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding-1: Success. (3 8 4 1 4 5 4 2 3)

Cyriel Charlot seems very pleased with himself — and with Devil, of course — as he reaches the obelisk at the far side of the race track shortly after Philomène, and maintains his pursuit of the leader. His black horse is already rushing towards the next obstacle. The hay bale looms there before them, but a Charlot is not so easily intimidated, nor will he admit defeat at something that does not even wield a blade. With his senses sharpened and fully focused on the task at hand, he brings Devil in line to perform yet another elegant leap, not marred by lack of determination nor hesitation — which has him catch up fully to the Vicomtesse de Gueret, now riding beside her.

Is that a moment of hesitation? The leading mare and her Chalasse rider pull up just a little as they approach the hay bale that forms the next challenge to jump. The sharp-eyed might spot a little shiver running through Philomène's narrow frame, her expression freezing and her body stiffening for a moment or two. Responsibility for the entire unit passes to the horse alone. It's fortunate for both that the pair are so well in tune that Hirondelle needs little encouragement to jump — even if her rider is, for a while, not entirely with it.

Desarae is falling further back within the field, and as they round the apex of the course, the hay bales loom. The neat chignon into which her hair had earlier been secured has already started to suffer, and tendrils of dark hair that have worked loose, whip across her muddied face. Has she ever even attempted a jump before now? Well, most likely yes, and as Bisou's hocks gather beneath to clear the obstacle, Desarae's seat seems solid enough. But her lack of experience in competitive riding begins to show in several facets of the way in which she manages the landing, and especially moreso since it's being measured against the more experienced riders in the race. A certain look of triumph does flash in her eyes at having managed to stay the course, particularly given that the distance between herself and the finishing line is the now the only obstacle left.

Showing his own temper, Timothée's stallion starts to slow down to the point where he almost pauses. Obviously, the animal was displeased with the curses sent in his direction by the annoyed rider. But there is also a possibility that the beautiful and young stud was simply not in the mood to tire himself in a match. Not a competitive soul, one can guess. And so such a rebellious outburst leaves the Sommerville lord at the end of all participants. Since the lord never apologizes, he sends a couple of threats to his horse. The horse lets out a few annoyed sniffs and then proudly without taking into account the received threats, enjoying his own pace, gallops towards the hay bale. An animal makes a leap and continues a ride but without any rush, letting every person in the stands to admire his shimmering black fur and well trained body.

4) Galloping towards the Finishing Line
urging the horse to more speed: +roll Riding+Presence
Those with Anael Scion merit +roll Riding+Presence+1
The resulting points are used as bonus in the following Riding roll:
+roll Riding(+ bonus) <— points added to the final score

<FS3> Cyriel rolls Riding+Presence: Good Success. (4 1 4 1 7 5 8 1 7 2)
<FS3> Cyriel rolls Riding+2: Great Success. (6 7 6 2 7 4 6 8 3 3 8)
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding+Presence: Good Success. (6 7 7 3 3 3 7 6)
<FS3> Desarae rolls Riding+2: Success. (6 3 1 7 3 4 2)
<FS3> Timothee rolls Riding+Presence+1: Success. (3 6 4 8 4 4 1 2 1 1)
<FS3> Timothee rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (6 3 4 5 5 8 2 3 7 3 5)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+presence: Good Success. (8 7 4 7 5 3 5 3 5 3 2 4)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+2: Good Success. (5 3 2 3 7 5 7 1 5 5 4 1)
Philomene spends 1 luck points on I'm competitive, ok?.
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+2: Great Success. (7 1 7 4 4 6 1 4 8 7 8 2)

A cheer goes through the crowd, as the four riders urge their horses on for a final gallop and they rush towards the finishing line. "Currently leading are the Vicomtesse de Gueret and the Vicomte de Chavagne!", the herald announces.

Cyriel for his part is determined to win. It shows in the look of deep concentration in his features, in the manner he leans forward to murmur a few more words to Devil, a dark presence that just demands to be obeyed and will not tolerate any failure. The vicomte is of Kushiel's province, there is no denying that, and his eyes flash with a vague promise of something unpleasant as he glances aside to see Philomène remaining there, not granting him a mere inch. Hooves thunder below them, and Devil picks up his pace, pushed to explore the boundaries of his potential. But alas! When Cyriel passes the finishing line, it is clear that he is not the winner of this first round of the races. His displeasure seems to simmer for a moment, before it dies down, dowsed by the chill of disappointed pride.

Perhaps it's the sight of the lord riding up boot to boot with her, but Philomene gives another little shiver, hunches her shoulders, grips the reins of her mare and gives it everything she has for the last straight. Not that she's exactly in the same sort of joyous state that she was at the start. There's definitely something that's gripped her that isn't the thrill of the race, but a little spit to one side (as it happens it's Cyriel's side, because on the whole why wouldn't you?), a set of her jaw and brow, and she's back in this race to win. Only… it's not quite enough. They thunder over the line with not a gnat's ballhair to separate them.

The herald waits until all the riders have reached the finishing line. It is then, that he announces, "First to reach the finishing line are Lady Philomène de Chalasse and Lord Cyriel Charlot. Followed by Lord Timothée Somerville. And then Lady Desarae Mereliot."

It's amidst that thunder of hooves and mud that Desarae tails the others across the finishing line. It has to be noted, however, that even though she places last amongst the riders, she wears a smile on her face. Flushed in her cheeks from the exertion and speed of the ride, she reins in Bisou. Her laughter is euphoric, and releasing one hand from her horse's reins, she acknowledges the cheering crowds in the stands with a wave before trotting across to commend the winners. "Congratulations Lady Gueret, my lord. You kept the people on the edges of their seats." Her head swivels to find the other that had finished ahead of her, and a smile is offered in Timothée's direction. "And congratulations to you too, my lord. You rode the race well." That smile remains on her face as fingers tuck back those escaped wisps of hair behind her ears, but the splatters of mud remain where they are. And oddly, for once, she looks happy.

"Not good enough," Timothée answers to Desarae. He hops down from the saddles. A short glance is given to those who reached the finishing line before him. "Congratulations. I believe that I may need to have a short conversation with you, m'lord." His attention focuses on Cyriel. "I may need a new horse. However, I will send my servant with an official note to arrange our meeting." A young lord dusts off his shoulders, drops the reins into the hands of his servant who presents himself almost immediately after the competition is over. And then without any wish to speak more and even hear the answer of lord Cyriel, Timothée strides out of the hippodrome.

Cyriel looks up, bemused, when the Somerville heir addresses him. "A conversation? About what?", he asks and almost gives Timothée a scowl. But then his expression and posture relaxes and he dismounts. "You need a horse? Hmm, I am certain that I can find a fine Charlot breed for you. A short conversation?" But he is already addressing air, as Timothée has already left, a fact that brings back some of the frown on Cyriel's face. Pale blue eyes follow the Ducal heir with their gaze, as the Vicomte de Chavagne shakes his head, ever so slightly.

While conversation continues among the civilised, Philomene, never one to flirt with things like courtesy or custom, merely wheels her mare away, tail flicking (the horse, not the vicomtesse), as though there was never a race to begin with. She's apparently satisfied, and she leans to murmur something or other to her horse instead of dealing with the niceties of actually thanking her fellow competitors or being a good sport about the whole thing.

<FS3> Desarae rolls Politics: Success. (5 2 5 5 6 5 4 4 7)

Bright green eyes follow Timothée's egress from the hippodrome, and a quiet smile plays Desarae's lips. "I do believe that we just have witnessed the heir apparent to the ducal seat of Somerville express an interest in purchasing one of your family's horses, my lord." she addresses Cyriel. "A coup for you, should it come to fruition." Leaning forward, she swings herself out of her saddle and lands lightly on the ground, her hand finding Bisou's reins just behind her bit where she now firmly holds her. From her much reduced height, she looks up at Cyriel, and a gleam of mischief shows plainly in her eyes. "Perhaps I should ensure that I have a long conversation before Lord Somerville's short one." Her eyes meet boldy with his, and they mirror the smile on her lips as she then further adds. "Though you were in front of me for all but the start of the race, and I won't complain of the view that I had, you have seen me ride and can judge both my style and my horsemanship skills. I really would be most interested in seeing what kind of a horse you might suggest for me." Her smile deepens and cracks the smear of mud on her face, the sensation of which has her hand lifting to touch to her cheek. "But for now," a faint blush, "I fear that I should retreat and repair my appearance."

"It would serve House Charlot well," Cyriel agrees, a fine smile playing on his aquiline features as he meets those green eyes of Desarae with his gaze. "You are lucky that the Somerville heir's time or attention are obviously needed elsewhere today, so I am quite at leisure and available for a conversation of any length you may see fit." He pats the side of Devil's neck, and perhaps it is the horse that stands there, all sweaty and in good spirits, that reminds him the race did not go so bad after all. "You ask what steed I would suggest for you?", he wonders lightly, as those pale eyes of his assess her. "A black Charlot stallion, wild and proud, very much like Devil here. You are not to be bored with pliant mares, as I think, you need the challenge."

*
In the meantime, there is more mingling and socializing at the hippodrome, and also some cleaning up of the race track to prepare for the second round of the horse race.
*


Part 2

The weather is warm for the early spring season, a faint breeze bulging banners and tearing at them where they have been planted to the far end of the hippodrome. The stone of the steps has been made more comfortable by woollen blankets, and here and there canopies have been raised to offer some shelter from the afternoon sun. A veritable crowd has gathered and now sits scattered upon the terraces that frame the hippodrome. There is an area for nobility, where servants and handmaids see to providing the lords and ladies with drinks, refreshing chilled white wines and more temperate reds, handed along with small baskets of bake rolls filled with cheese and seasoning herbs.

The gazes of many are directed downwards, to the center of the hippodrome, where horses, bridled and saddled, are stomping lightly upon the dirt ground. Those wishing to take part in the horse race, standing beside them, offering them an apple or merely a few murmured soothing words. The call has yet to come, from the herald, for the second round of riders to mount and prepare, the first round riders already on their way across the course, with the starting call staggered for each group, lest the course and especially its obstacles become too crowded.

The course is of oval shape, with obstacles having been prepared and setup, to add a certain challenge to seasoned riders. There is a puddle, running across the width of the race track, about 4 feet of muddy water there to brave. And a second obstacle awaits, just after turning at the obelisk at the other end. A few bales of hay that have been arranged in a line and require a sound jump for the horse to brave.

Isabeau Cherevin sat her horse, hands light on the reins, as she watched the first form of riders making their way through the course. She was dressed for both comfort and elegance, rising pants, knee-high boots, a closely fitted shirt and vest. She loosed a hand from her reins, the right, reaching down to pat the neck of the gelding she had selected for the competition, a fair beast with a coat of pure chestnut, whose lines recalled those fleet horses found in the deserts of Khebbel-im-Akkad. A simple, single gesture, before she reclaimed the reins and moved into her starting position.

Étienne is still looking a tad pale after his recent ordeal, but he's here in riding leathers and leading a bay, pretty, with good hindquarters, but of no particularly distinguished ancestry. His curly black hair is tied back and braided. He waves to a friend in the stands as he walks the horse to the starting line, and gently pets her nose before mounting with characteristic grace.

Symon has settled himself up in the stands with a basket that has a few provisions inside, and is enjoying some of the wine provided while sharing food with his neighbors and chatting garrulously away in his own peculiar manner. The observant person would certainly see that he is keeping a close eye on Etienne all the while, but since he looks all right for now, Symon smiles. He sets his goblet down to clap his hands.

Cedoric is not yet mounted, though probably he should be; instead he's talking to a few others near the tracks, standing by his beautifully turned out piebald mare with the black haunches and the long, impossibly fluffy white legs. His own legs are less fluffy, dressed in shiny black riding boots, riding breeches of green velvet along the outsides of his thighs and supple, gripping leather built structurally to the crotch and the inside of the thigh for hold and comfort in the saddle. For a shirt, nothing more than some fetching white shirt-sleeves unlaced at the chest in a manner less practical than charming. But sometime it occurs to him that all the other riders are moving to the line, so, with a tip of a hand in farewell to his compatriots now clearing the space, he mounts Àlanu and takes her along to where Étienne has just mounted, as well. "Are you quite right, good Lord?" he asks over, with a big grin, not as much worried as simply saying hello. And beyond, well, there's Isabeau, for whom he has a sufficient dearth of words to cause a desert on his tongue, but a quirk of a smile, at least, before the heralds begins to make noises at them to be prepared to ride. Saved by the… trumpet… thingie.

1) Starting Line
<FS3> Isabeau rolls Riding+presence: Great Success. (4 8 7 7 2 2 2 2 3 7)
<FS3> Isabeau rolls Riding+3: Amazing Success. (3 7 5 7 6 1 7 8 8 1 1 4 7)
<FS3> Etienne rolls Riding+presence: Failure. (3 2 1 3 6 1 1)
<FS3> Etienne rolls Riding: Great Success. (1 4 2 8 8 3 8 5 8)
<FS3> Cedoric rolls Riding+Presence: Great Success. (8 4 5 7 7 3 4 1 2 3 3 7)
<FS3> Cedoric rolls Riding+3: Good Success. (3 5 5 8 2 1 3 2 1 1 5 4 7 1 8 5)

Isabeau glanced away from the course, as she caught the movement of the others who would be joining her in this second round of the competition. She knew neither of the gentlemen, alas, but that did not stop her from offering each man a dip of her head in respect. Had she skirts, or had she been unhorsed, she might have offered something more formal but this would simply have to do. It was just as well that the herald sounded the horn at just that moment, calling they trio to the course, and she pranced forward, both rider and her steed moving with an almost haughty grace. The movements were precise, exactly, the sort that only came from years of tireless practice at, at a guess, both riding generally and dressage specifically. And there was some element of performance in that as well, for they were not riding alone, but were performing, in their way, for the gathered crowd.

Étienne eyes the much fancier clothes and horses of the other nobles with a bumpkin cheerfulness. He leans over a little, fixes big, innocent cornflower blue eyes on her and confides to Isabeau, "I've never done this before. Your horse looks fantastic…. So we follow the flags, right? Oh! We're starting?" The young Azallese seems to have no clear idea that he's meant to be looking impressive or dignified, let along that he is performing for a crowd. He flashes a last gormless smile at the audience and pelts after Isabeau, much as he would after whoever was leading the hunt back home, body low and streamlined. For all his simplicity of dress and obvious cluelessness, he rides with the effortless grace of a natural. He is not a serious rider like the Lady, but rather a natural athlete who is having a wonderful time.

Symon drinks more wine but he does put his goblet down to add his voice to those who are shouting. He is not shouting as loudly as people who have laid bets on the event.

Cedoric's attention returns to Étienne and his innocent ways with a boyish smile of comraderie, and, at the sounding of the final trumpet, he— wait, does he hang back a little at the start? Surely he was ready; he and his mare seem perfectly suited to one another's company and he doesn't seem to be exerting himself in the least. It seems as though he's just happy enough to gallop along to one side and slightly behind the race-course virgin, as though to ride escort rather than make an effort for the lead. Àlanu seems slightly heavy for a racing-horse, or possibly just stocky of frame, but she prances like the most lithe of ponies, her fluffy white tail lovely in the spring breeze, as are the open lapels of Cedoric's shirt as he keeps an easy pace on Étienne's racing flank.

2) Puddle Jump
<FS3> Isabeau rolls Riding: Good Success. (8 7 6 2 7 5 3 5 1 2)
<FS3> Isabeau rolls Riding: Great Success. (2 6 2 8 5 5 7 3 8 7)
<FS3> Etienne rolls Riding: Great Success. (3 6 2 1 8 8 4 8 8)
<FS3> Etienne rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (2 5 7 1 3 3 6 2 8 2)
<FS3> Cedoric rolls Riding: Good Success. (8 6 3 3 7 5 1 3 6 1 6 6 7)
<FS3> Cedoric rolls Riding: Good Success. (1 1 4 6 1 7 5 4 6 2 5 5 8)

The light canter at which Isabeau and her gelding had begun the course, as they approached the obstacles proper became a fine gallop, the horse and rider moving with effortless coordination, as the gelding lengthened his stride and Isabeau lowered herself nearly to resting on his neck, adjusting her weight just so as she directed him towards the puddle. The first obstacle seemed not to bother the horse at all, so neatly did be jump the muddied waters, landing lightly, before Isabeau rose to turn him towards the next leg of the competition. In that short space, she once again seemed to offer some bit of entertainment, displaying herself and her mount to best effect.

Étienne gets a transparent look of concentration as the bay mare leaps the puddle. He even manages not to fall off! When the horse lands safely, he grins goofily and just keeps riding.

Symon claps his hands. Etienne did not fall into the mud! He takes this as a positive development. And drinks wine.

And here's Cedoric, taking up the rear, quite nearly halting while making certain that Étienne makes it over the mud, then leaning in just enough to hasten Alanu into a brisk and lively leap over the puddle, landing with unhurried aplomb and falling back into formation with the fellow.

3) Bale Jump
<FS3> Etienne rolls Riding: Success. (1 2 2 2 7 6 3 4 5)
<FS3> Etienne rolls Riding-2: Good Success. (7 8 2 7 4 3 6)
<FS3> Isabeau rolls Riding: Good Success. (7 1 5 2 4 4 7 2 4 4)
<FS3> Isabeau rolls Riding-1: Good Success. (5 3 8 4 1 5 1 7 2)
<FS3> Cedoric rolls Riding: Success. (4 6 8 2 4 3 2 1 3 2 5 1 4)
<FS3> Cedoric rolls Riding-2: Good Success. (7 5 5 3 7 7 6 4 2 1 1)

Isabeau both was and was not aware of what the other riders around her were doing. She had enough attention not to get in anyone's way, though, to be fair, her gelding was as much responsible for hat as she was, but her main focused, as she brought the horse around to approach the second obstacle, the baled hay, her main focus was on performing well enough to give herself at least as much success, or as close to it as she could, as she had had in braving the muddied waters. And manage she did, though not quite quite the flair she had shown previously. Still, it did not diminish her spirit, and she tugged the reins to lead the gelding on towards the next leg of the course.

Étienne gets that serious look on his face again as he approaches the bales, but is a little more relaxed this time and manages to look like he almost knows what he's doing. He lands solidly and gallops on, following Isabeau as best he can.

The horses did not fall over the hay! Or try to eat it! Symon turns his head briefly to speak cheerfully to his neighbors about the sizes of the bales and whether they are not just a little big? Or are they always so big in Marsilikos? This is a topic of some debate in the stands.

And Cedoric, in turn, is easy and relaxed, following Etienne straight over the haybales and on the other side. He's not winning this thing, certainly, but he can enjoy a ride in good spirits, no less, drawing away from Etienne in distance and closing the gap in the chase, making to ride alongside him as they hit the straightaway, that it may be at least a game between them to hit the finish first, now that the obstacles are out of the way.

4) Finishing Line
<FS3> Isabeau rolls Riding+Presence: Success. (5 5 8 4 3 1 6 5 6 2)
<FS3> Isabeau rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (1 3 7 4 3 7 7 5 1 2 1)
<FS3> Etienne rolls Riding+Presence: Good Success. (4 7 8 5 5 8 1)
<FS3> Etienne rolls Riding+2: Great Success. (1 4 6 7 6 5 8 3 8 7 3)
<FS3> Cedoric rolls Riding+Presence: Good Success. (8 7 4 2 5 5 3 5 2 7 4 2)
<FS3> Cedoric rolls Riding+2: Amazing Success. (3 7 8 3 4 3 5 2 3 7 7 8 2 7 7)

Isabeau, having cleared the final obstacle, straightened in the saddle, for it was not a race, in truth, and she was, in many ways, competing more against herself than the other riders. And she glanced to see their locations, so that she did not interfere with their own approach to the finish line. And in so doing, she returned to the same stance and gait as she had begun, the gelding and his rider offering a final show of themselves as they made their way towards the end of the course.

Étienne is doing his best and in the flat he's in his element there, riding low to the horses neck and whooping his delight and he noticeable closes some of the distance with the Lady in the lead. It's not enough to make up for the puddle jump, quite, but unlike his clothes, his loss is respectable, only a length behind Cedoric. He also appears to be enjoying himself immensely.

Cedoric gets some speed going at the end, himself, improving in competitive spirit once the Lady has gone on ahead— it may not be a race in the traditional sense, but there's little more healthsome and sporting than to ride shoulder by shoulder through the last push with Etienne and to pull ahead with a final charge that sends him speeding into the lead just in time to pass the mark at full rush, and go quite a while beyond in the allowance of Alanu to slow of her own will and find a quiet place to stand whence he can turn her about and salute those with whom he was riding.

Now that the riding seems to be ended, Symon grabs his basket and hurries down to the front of the stands, waving a hand. Many of the spectators are setting up noises, mostly joyful. A few are grumbling over the bets they've lost.

Étienne gets his beast turned around and trots over to Symon, grinning like a madman, but the last few feet he turns oddly shy, long black lashes lowering over startlingly blue, angel kissed eyes.

Symon climbs up on the fence separating the benches from the ring. He bobbles a bit in keeping his balance with the basket over one arm, but then pulls out a garland of flowers to drape over Etienne's neck. "Congratulations!" He must have bought it from someone else, not made it himself, since it does not instantly fall to pieces.

As the herald once again sounded the horn, this time to announce the end of the second leg, Isabeau drew her gelding up to a slow canter, making her way back towards where those who she had competed against were gathered, watching the young man with his basket and his wreath of flowers approach. Her tone was amused, as she approached, "It would seem that whomever will be judged the winner, we have our Lord of Beauty."

Étienne looks up, really startled by the garland, but then a dimpled smile bursts like sunlight through the clouds. His Azzallese accent is more gentry ten elevated and rather country, "But I didn't actually win, Symon!" He manages a surprisingly graceful approximation of a bow, "Thank you, Lady. You ride incredibly well!"

Cedoric wraps the reins loose about the fore of his saddle, lifting his arms in a big stretch as Àlanu winds down in a still-energetic pacing, in which he merely guides her elsewhere with his knees if she is heading someplace she ought not go. He lets his eyes dally on a less obstructed view of the equestrienne who took their form's lead so easily, then, as his piebald mare approaches, he takes up the reins for a mote more immediate control, turning her alongside. "Oh?" he's not sure what she means, but, then, following her attention, "Oh, heavens. Well, it was well run for someone who hadn't the knack. He went the whole course without tumbling off, which is more than I did in my first obstacles-race." He glances aside to Isabeau again, and, after a pause, only makes a dry noise from the back of his throat, then coughs, putting his fist to his chest and looking back toward the lads. "You do," he agrees with Etienne. "You have the look of a dressage dancer— well— both of you," rider and horse, he must mean.

Symon looks to Isabeau and smiles. "Oh, congratulations to you, too. I don't m…mean to distract. You rode b-beautifully." His tone is cheerful rather than apologetic. "I know," he says to Etienne, patting him on the shoulder, "B-but either w…way, I bought the flowers."

Isabeau held the reins lightly now, as the small group of riders and one admirer came together far enough from the course so as not to end up being hurried off by those still needing the course for their use. "Thank you both for the compliments. I have ridden for many years, though it has been some time since I competed in dressage. The needs of my house have kept me away, but I find comfort in recalling the days of my youth." To Symon she shook her head, "You are no distraction," she offered, in a voice accented by the tones of the Kushiel province.

Étienne beams at Symon, truly touched, then turns to the Lady again, "I'm Étienne D'Arguil, heir to Berck. It is really a pleasure to see riding like yours. When I write about the race to my sisters, who should I tell them I had the pleasure of riding behind?"

"I should let you quit the field w…with your horse," Symon says, displaying rare good sense. "I'll b-be here w…when you get done w-with the other riders." He heads back to his abandoned wine.

Isabeau shook her head, a polite denial of something in Etienne's words. "Riding with, Lord D'Arguil. Win or lose, we all rode together. But I am glad to make your acquittance. I am Isabeau Cherevin, Vicomtesse de Chailland. And the wreath suits you. Your admirer made a fair choice in the flowers."

<FS3> Etienne rolls Composure: Success. (1 8 3)

Étienne says, "Oh, that's Lord Symon, Perigeux's Heir." He's eyeing her, but managing not to make all his thoughts plain for once, though his words give them away, "He's very kind and accommodating and unmarried. It really was a pleasure to watch you ride. My sister Agnès is very keep on riding herself. We've good land for the hunt and she is very fond of riding to it as well as hawking.""

"There seem to be a fair few unmarried nobles within the city. And no lack of parents attempting to make a match. With the death of my father, I suppose it will fall to me to find matches for my younger siblings, but they would be wroth to leave Kusheth, even for such a fair city as this, or for the lands of Siovale, though my mother still speaks well of the lands in which she was born." Her smile widened at talk of riding and hawking, "Hawking, I have never, I must admit, had much interest in, but should your sister ever come to the city, she would be welcome at our stables."

Cedoric, as is his custom, seems to sit back and soak up nomenclature rather than distinctly endeavoring to distribute his own. After all, his own name is af relatively minor import, at least in the company of all these governors-of-men and governors-to-be-of-men, or what-not. "Heavens, it is rarified air in this form," he laughs cheersomely at the confluence of entitlement. "I think I will decrease my elevation somewhat," he gives his opinion, and then, true to his word, he dismounts, winding his rein into a lead and drawing his hand along Àlanu's shoulder.

Étienne tries not to look crestfallen on his friends behalf, "My sisters will feel the same, I suspect. We are… supposed to be looking, Symon and I, I mean. Oh! Agnès would love that! She's far cleverer than I with horses and she really loves them. I've never seen one like yours." He turns those guileless eyes on Cedoric, "You rode really well! It was smashing the way you finished that last stretch! I don't think we've met?"

"Not at all, monsieur." For he had not given his name, "There is, certainly, a time and a place for station and politicking. Now, we are simply three who have raced together. "Matches are difficult things, and political or not, must be carefully decided. And entered into with a willing heart. The use of force tends to, I have found, end with discontent in any arrangement." Isabeau reached out to pat her gelding's neck, "A particular strain we breed at Cherevin. The desire to breed them further afield is what brought me to the city."

Étienne nods enthusiastically, "My parents and my grandparents were both love matches. Why else would Southern brides come so far North and East to live?"

"For political gain, I suspect. In an attempt to improve their situation? Perhaps to escape a life they do not desire? Because they are not wanted where they are and it is a way to rid your House of someone who does no credit to it?" Isabeau shook her head, as she considered the man, "Marriages for love are rare things. Less rare are matches which are built on mutual benefit. But the choice to enter into one is the same. Whether you enter into it with your name or your heart, you must be willing to work for success."

"Well said, good man," Cedoric enthuses gently, now grounded by the boot to the earth below and with Àlanu somewhat blocking line of sight between himself and Isabeau, "Cedoric d'Eresse, how well to know you. It was a fun course, I might see about coming back and riding again before they take the haybales down. But, yes, I used to be quite partial to the joust, so I suppose riding in a very straight line is rather my forte," he snickers at his own comment, ridiculous as is it.

The serious young Azallese nods his head earnestly, "Oh yes. It does take work, bt the work is easier when the partners suit and have… complimentary skills." He goes another of his approximate bows for Cedoric, "Oh! i've always wanted to compete in a real tourney! how terribly fun!"

"Perhaps so. But I feel that, especially when you are very young, you go into the world hoping for the fantasy of love, even if you will not admit it to yourself, and turning away matches which would suit, if only they offered you their hearts as well as their minds and hands." Isabeau seemed amused by that, "But perhaps that is what one should expect, in a land such as ours." She looked away briefly, then back, "But you both will have to excuse me. I have an meeting I cannot miss. But I have no doubt I will see you both again."

Étienne bows again, "I think one can balance love and practicality. It really was a pleasure seeing you ride, Vicomtesse!

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