(1312-04-23) Spring Tournament: Horse Race
Summary: What it says in the title
RL Date: Thu Apr 23, 2020
Related: Spring Tournament
andre antoine armandine audrialla etienne gal justine marcus oriane philomene symon theodosia valerie yves 

Marsilikos Hippodrome

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.

Part 1

How lovely the hippodrome looks in this lovely weather, the setting seems to be perfect for today's contest, the horse race! The occasion has attracted a great number of spectators, noble and common, d'Angeline and foreign. The race track offers two notable obstacles, a puddle and a barrier of hay bales. For now, the track is kept clear, as last preparations are made, while the number of those competing are checking on their horses close to the starting line.

Lady Armandine de Mereliot watches the proceedings with glee, surrounded as she is by family and a few of her ladies in the ducal box. Her dress of cobalt blue satin sports short sleeves, to present some skin of her slender arms to the spring sun, whereever they peek forth from beneath the light golden cape. The herald stands not too far from her, overlooking the field and the preparations. For now, there are still people arriving and finding a spot for themselves at the sides of the track.

Audrialla isn't here to sell pies today, oh no. She wants to watch this one. So the common woman finds herself a place in the stands with a pretty good spot near the noble boxes. She's dressed for work, a red gown with a dusting of white flour over it which she tries to beat out and brush away when she catches it.

She had promised as much, and apparently Justine Chalasse de la Courcel feels up for the task today, as can be seen from her beaming smile and the light silvery chuckle that slips from her lips. She is attired in the Chalasse colors, a due to an absent husband, but she wears the white and green definitely with grace. It is a riding dress, appropriate in quality for someone of her station, with a certain practical elegance. She stands close to the starting line, offering an apple (in a very l'Agnacite gesture), but yet, it is undeniable she is not blessed with the virtues of true born scions of Anael. There may be little virtue in the look she gives a passing lord, and the smile and the soft spoken greeting, thrown out as some sort of bait — alas, it is not taken. On the other hand, there is a race to commence, and so Justine makes sure her white mare is content and well fed.

An absolutely magnificant dun mare, hooves prancing high as though the very ground is not worthy for her consideration, draws many eyes as she eases down onto the grass beside the track. She's a beauty, for sure, but the most astounding thing may well be the fact that her rider, one Philomene d'Aiglemort de Chalasse, the Dowager Vicomtesse de Gueret, renowned curmudgeon and three times voted miserable old bat of the year, is not only happily trotting in on the animal's back, but she has a broad smile on her face that immediately softens her appearance to something even approaching friendliness. Taking her horse out for a run, and then a little competition too, are two of the very few things that are certain to put Philo in a good mood. Hell, she even gives a wave to her cousin, one for the Duchesse, one for the baker, and a joyful laugh to the heavens as she trots on down towards the start line.

Valerie Cherevin and her golden palomino mare are also present and ready to compete. The Kushiline lady wears a riding gown of fine black and golden fabric. Cherevin colors that also make her amber eyes stand out. That long dark hair is pulled into an elegant single braid and she mounts up with ease, Trotting her pretty and exotic looking mare to the starting line the lady has a look of dedicated focus in her eyes as she surveys the track. A deep breath is taken as the golden coated mare tosses her black mane playfully clearly happy to have this chance to run free.

This time there's no mysterious commoner skulking around the grounds. Prince Andre van Westerlo is among the nobles in full Flatlandish glory, decked out in the colours of Brabant, gold and red. He is surrounded by a few guards and civilians he has gathered into his entourage. They are all munching on little snacks from bags while they watch the competitors arrive and exchange little comments on them and their horses.

Looking up, Justine notices the Prince of Brabant and lifts one hand for a delighted wave in his direction, while the other one holds onto Snowflake's reins. A smile is spared also to Philomène, a woman of the same fate of having married into House Chalasse. "This is so exciting," the blonde lady remarks, before she gives her mare another pat and mounts it with elegant grace. "I've been looking forward to it. My first race. Evariste would scold me, if he were here." But he isn't. Which might explain the ease in Justine's countenance, and the lively smile that adorns her features.

"Evariste can do one if he means to stop you enjoying yourself," Philomene insists with an easy grin, one hand running through her short, blonde hair to keep it back from her eyes. "Best of luck today," she adds to her cousin, even seeming to mean it as she offers the other hand to Justine. "And I hope your Flocon enjoys her ride. She's a beautiful horse. Yes, you are too," she notes with a wry laugh as her own horse whickers and fidgets, presumably at not being shown appropriate amounts of adoration.

Not one to miss a tournament, any kind of tournament, Lord Yves Valliers shows up just a short time before the beginning of the tourney and finds himself a place to watch, not in the stands, but closer to the field. One hand on his sword, the other on the opposite hip, sizes up each of the competitors and then goes to look for someone to take a bet.

Marcus has chosen not to compete in this even, having found a place in the crowd to watch. The sailor is making the rounds of the local bookies though, putting money on some of the competitors and saying hi to some old friends. He has avoided the noble stands for the most part, though he is dressed nicer then most of the commoners in the area, fitting in more with the richer merchants.

Audrialla would wave but waving at nobles is hardly proper behavior for a commoner. Instead when she spies people she knows and happens to make eye contact she curtsies and gives a broad smile. Marcus, in the commoner section as he is, is given a nod.

Andre meanwhile offers Justine a big smile, a wave and a thumbup to indicate that he is totally rooting for her.

There comes the fanfare, and the herald raises his voice to address the crowd. "And so it begins, the first round of the horse race, held in this wonderful hippodrome. People of Marsilikos, my lords, my ladies, visitors from abroad! Enjoy the spectacle as it is about to commence. Please, my ladies. Bring your horses to the starting line. Wait for the signal, after which I can only implore you to RIDE, RIDE, RIDE!"

Theo looks a bit harried as she and her horse come to the start line, the girl giggling as she shrugs, almost innocently. "Slept in late.." She murmurs to a spectator, the girl wearing a red riding jacket, jodhpurs and knee high boots. Her horse is a large grey gelding, that despite her short stature she seems to lead around quite comfortably.

Rolls for a bonus:
<FS3> Justine rolls Riding+Presence: Success. (1 2 6 1 3 4 2 6 2 7 1)
<FS3> Theodosia rolls Riding+Presence: Good Success. (5 6 6 7 8 8 1 4)
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+presence: Great Success. (7 2 8 2 7 1 5 7 7 6 6 1 1)

Marcus sees his cousin join the race and quickly makes several bets on the young Fhirze. He smiles and nods in Audrialla's direction even giving her a flirty little wink, before the dark skinned man moves to the nearest edge of the crowd and mounts a hay bale to see the race better.

Antoine has made his way in to watch this race, moving to find himself a place to watch from. "Looks like a great race," he offers to nobody in particular, along with a smile and a nod.

Rolls for the score:
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+3: Amazing Success. (6 2 8 7 8 1 8 7 7 3 4 3 2 2)
<FS3> Justine rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (5 6 2 2 4 7 3 1 1 8)
<FS3> Theodosia rolls Riding+2: Good Success. (7 4 5 6 7 5 6 7 6 6)

On solid ground, Philomene's outline is always easy to spot in a crowd by the awkward way her injury causes her to lurch and limp. On horseback she's equally as recognisable, but there's nothing awkward about it. The seamless juxtaposition of a beautiful and well-trained horse with an experienced and skilled former cavalrywoman is a sight to behold. Where hooves and equine flanks end and the breeches and familiar, worn brown riding jacket of the dowager vicomtesse begin is nothing but a blur. One can almost imagine the same woman leading a charge into battle many years before, decades younger of course but with the same fierce joy on her face.

Theodosia's breathing is still quick, the girl is not a morning person, so she swears under her breath as she leans in to whisper something to her horse, looking around at the other riders aligned on the start line..and when the signal is given she digs her heels in, leaning over the horse's neck..

<FS3> Valerie rolls Riding+Presence: Good Success. (3 4 8 2 6 2 8 5 2 5 7)

<FS3> Valerie rolls Riding+2: Great Success. (1 7 5 2 6 7 1 2 4 1 1 8 8 6)

Justine whispers some words into Flocon's ear, before she urges her on. Skirts fly as she leans forward a little, blonde hair subjected to the air, tearing a few strands free. A faint nod towards Philomène as the older lady overtakes her, and then to Valerie. Flocon de Neige, however, seems to be good spirits as she gallops towards the first obstacle.

Audrialla claps enthusiastically for the beautiful show of horsemanship. She even puts her fingers in her mouth to loudly whistle.

Rolls for a bonus:
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding: Good Success. (5 4 3 5 6 1 2 4 4 8 8)
<FS3> Theodosia rolls Riding: Good Success. (7 3 7 2 1 1 8 1 1)
<FS3> Justine rolls Riding: Good Success. (8 7 7 3 4 4 5 3 4)

Rolls to add to the score:
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding: Great Success. (5 8 1 8 8 8 5 1 1 3 5)
<FS3> Justine rolls Riding: Good Success. (1 1 2 6 7 3 1 7 4)
<FS3> Theodosia rolls Riding: Good Success. (5 8 6 1 2 2 6 6 7)

With a little whoop she can't quite keep in (really, it's like Philomene-ahorse is a completely different person), the old bat urges her Hirondelle onwards, hooves thundering down the turf towards the puddle. Despite her name, or perhaps because it's almost summer by now, the mare does not choose to hibernate in the pond, but soars over with the sort of grace one expects of her namesake, landing elegantly a few paces ahead of the crowd and galloping on. It's truly a marvel to watch. This is what a racehorse should aspire to be, and Hirondelle is nothing if not, like her rider, a massive showoff.

Theo lets out a very unladylike string of swear words as Philomene darts ahead, the small girl leaning over the neck of her horse even more, digging her heels in deep, and as they approach the puddle, she whispers something, trying to stay in the older woman's wake, also peering for Justine's positioning, letting out a small…OOF when she feels her gelding's hooves strike hard ground on the other side of the puddle.

The white mare rushes onwards, heading right towards the puddle. On her back sits a delighted Justine, who doesn't mind the excitement, but seems to seek it instead. Leaning a touch forward when she urges Flocon to a leap, and the horse obeys, rising in an elegant manner into the air, braving the puddle with almost no effort. It doesn't matter that Philomène is meanwhile taking a solid spot in the lead, this Chalasse chuckles and remains safely seated as Flocon rushes on. She and Theodosia seem to be equal, riding almost beside each other. "My lady," Justine chides in faux astonishment at those unladylike words she hears coming from Theodosia's mouth.

There is a line of hay bales, piled up to form an impressive obstacle that will come into view now for those riders that are competing to win the horse race. It will prove a particular challenge for the bond between rider and horse, and a murmur goes through the crowd, eager to see how they will brave it.

Rolling for a bonus:
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding: Good Success. (1 2 3 8 6 8 4 4 4 2 5)
<FS3> Justine rolls Riding: Great Success. (8 7 6 7 7 6 4 6 7)
<FS3> Theodosia rolls Riding: Good Success. (6 6 5 8 7 3 8 4 3)

Rolling towards the score:
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding-1: Good Success. (8 4 4 7 3 4 3 3 1 1)
Justine spends 1 luck points on Jump like an angel!.
<FS3> Justine rolls Riding+5: Good Success. (6 8 2 7 4 4 6 2 1 6 4 3 5 5)
Theodosia spends 1 luck points on Hay, schmay.
<FS3> Theodosia rolls Riding+4: Good Success. (7 6 7 2 6 1 2 3 1 8 3 6 4)

Philomène hurtles on towards the hay, applying just a little pressure with her heels before the jump, encouraging her Hirondelle to draw up both front legs and leap, almost delicately, over the obstacle, rear hooves trailing and setting free a tiny wisp of hay to drift down in the warm spring air.

Could have been worse! Seeing the bales of hay approaching, Theodosia hoped her big gelding wouldn't shy off, it's a good things he's so small as her hands seem strong, drawing the horse into the jump, lifting off her own saddle a bit and letting out an OOF when they land on the other side..but she's still behind!

Can someone put into words the overwhelming feeling of doing something very dumb and dangerous. But how come Justine's hands are not shaking, how is it that her cheeks show the flush of excitement and her lips are twisted into a wild grin. "Go, sweet Flocon!", she cries out, as her white mare rises into a leap. They brave the obstacle, but still, they cannot possibly hope to catch up with Lady Philomene d'Aiglemort de Chalasse… At least Justine remains safely in the saddle, and she urges her horse on, eager to manage the impossible.

Andre and his entourage have been cheering the young lady Justine on. Well, he has, the others follow his lead. Suggestions that the older woman in the lead is a terrific rider, are dismissed. "Well, she has to be good at -something-", Andre murmurs to them. He's murmuring in Flatlandish, too.

There is a cheer rising from the crowd, as the riders so elegantly leap over the intimidating barrier of hay bales. Not one single horse shies away from the challenge, and all land safely on the ground of the other side. Now it is the last part of the race track, a straight course where the riders can once again prove their connection to their horses.

Rolls for a bonus:
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+presence: Good Success. (1 4 7 4 3 4 1 4 7 2 1 2 4)
<FS3> Justine rolls Riding+Presence: Good Success. (3 2 8 4 6 8 6 6 8 4 1)
<FS3> Theodosia rolls Riding+presence: Success. (1 2 5 7 4 1 6 3 4)

Rolls towards the score:
Philomene spends 1 luck points on Frankly just showing off, if I'm perfectly honest with you..
<FS3> Philomene rolls Riding+7: Great Success. (6 6 4 5 2 7 2 3 3 5 7 7 8 6 6 8 5 4)
<FS3> Theodosia rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (2 6 8 5 3 2 7 5 6 4)
<FS3> Justine rolls Riding+2: Success. (3 4 7 6 3 6 2 5 3 3 4)

<FS3> Justine rolls Perception: Success. (8 2 6 6 4 6 6)

Head down and silhouette streamlined, Philomene stretches a hand out to pat her mare's neck as she throws everything she's got left into the final stretch of the course. She's still accelerating as she passes the finish line, hooves digging up great clods of the turf and making the ground tremble palpably for those lucky enough to have found a space to spectate close to the rail and up by the marker to indicate the end of the race. She's a good way towards the puddle jump for a second time before she really begins to slow, broad smile on the old woman's face and even her horse whickering delightedly. That, of course, might have something to do with the sugared almond treat offered as tribute when Hirondelle finally turns to prance back towards her fellow competitors.

<FS3> Justine rolls Composure: Success. (1 3 5 7 4 4 5 4)

Perhaps it is the fact that Justine catches some of those Flatlanders' cheers. Or perhaps, her white mare going by the name of Snowflake is a pretty conceited an vein creature. As they are drowned in the cheer of the crowd, perhaps this fickle white horse thinks it is all about her and cannot help but prance, which is bound to unnecessarily slow her gait. Nevermind, that they fall behind after Theodosia. Nevermind that Philomène has already reached the finishing line. While it must hurt one's ambition to ride into that line as the last of the riders, Justine cannot help but smirk a little at her dear Flocon's antics. And so she lifts her hand to greet the crowd, turning her horse even so that she can wave to André, with a faint shrug of her shoulders.

Theo can see the dust under the hooves of Philo's horse, the older lady far in front of her, but at least she manages to draw ahead of Justine..and as she goes past the finish line, she sighs…slowly straightening in the saddle and patting her gelding's neck. "Well, there's some carrots for you later.."

Audrialla cheers for the competition but it's clear who the victor is. Philo is an amazing horsewoman and she's well deserving of the audiences applause.

In further miracles for the day, as Philomene makes her way back to her fellow competitors, still smiling, she digs her hand in her pocket and offers a sugared almond to Theodosia. "He's a gorgeous fellow," she insists, presumably talking about Theo's horse because when has she ever admired any man as much? "Here, he deserves a little treat, too. Well ridden, my lady. What's his name?" Even as she speaks, she's digging out another sweet treat for Flocon, offering the mare similar admiration and praise, if tacitly.

The Flatlandish group offers polite applause for the winner, then leaves the stands rather quickly in favour of the nearest wine tent.

Theo actually smiles at Philomene, patting her grey's neck. She takes the sweet treat and actually offers it to her horse, who munches on it with loud cracks. "He's Renard…because he's wily as a fox…but he's a good lad.."

Flocon looks very pleased with the offer and accepts the almond with a low snort. "Congratulations, Lady Philomène," Justine offers with a smile. "You were too fast for all of us, apparently. Your Hirondelle did very impressively… If she would accept an apple from me?" She gestures for her maid who — from one moment to the other — suddenly stands at the ready to offer said fruit to her lady.

Antoine applauds all the competitors from his spot in the crowd, smiling a bit as he watches the various people.

"I have the advantage of a few more years over you, Lady Justine," Philomene notes with a half smile, "and far too many years in the saddle. Well ridden, and Flocon looks like she's enjoyed herself, too. Thank you," she adds, giving a nod to the maid. Yes, she may approach Hirondelle and offer the haughty mare her tribute.

Theodosia offers her congratulations too, then dismounts, holding her horse's reins and looking around. "Did I smell Mademoiselle Audrialla's cakes somewhere around here?"

Marcus cheers for Theo right through to the end working the crowd up in her favor. As his horse comes in second he still smiles and pays off several of those around him who he had made wagers with.

Part 2

How lovely the hippodrome looks in this lovely weather, the setting seems to be perfect for today's contest, the horse race! The occasion has attracted a great number of spectators, noble and common, d'Angeline and foreign. The race track offers two notable obstacles, a puddle and a barrier of hay bales. For now, the track is kept clear, as last preparations are made, while the number of those competing are checking on their horses close to the starting line.

Lady Armandine de Mereliot watches the proceedings with glee, surrounded as she is by family and a few of her ladies in the ducal box. Her dress of cobalt blue satin sports short sleeves, to present some skin of her slender arms to the spring sun, wherever they peek forth from beneath the light golden cape. The herald stands not too far from her, overlooking the field and the preparations. For now, there are still people arriving and finding a spot for themselves at the sides of the track.

How many years has it been since she's done this—? The hostess, after all, doesn't compete. But she has been prevailed upon; and so with butterflies in attendance (and Quintavius stalking alongside) Oriane directs her black stallion toward the starting line and the other ladies gathered there, some familiar to her by sight from her scarce excursions to the ducal court, and others decidedly not. Her mount is, like herself, of good Somerville stock: his tack glints with silver in the sunlight, echoing the crescent moons embroidered on his saddle-cloth in thread-of-silver, and the still-brighter diamond moon ablaze in the white lace at her throat. The rest of her costume is plain enough, her ordinary black breeches and frock-coat, lightweight for the balmy spring afternoon and beautifully cut for her still-slender figure. The black satin mask covering her features is an old habit amongst ladies of her generation, to protect fair skin from the sun's dangerous rays. The black felt hat, however, she sweeps off after a moment's hesitation and confides to Quinquin. It's not very aerodynamic, is it? The breeze teases softly at loose wisps of her braided and pinned white hair. She looks not quite at ease, as she glances back and forth in the expectation of a certain… lateish entrant.

Standing around, having made a bet on Philomène, Yves has somehow found a goblet of wine and is eating while he watches the race. Not in the stands proper, but somewhere as close as possible to the action as he can be, without actually being part of anyone's escort and servant corps.

A flash of blue cape flicked back over a shoulder signals that the de facto representative of the City Guard is once more in attendance after a fairly severe gnashing of the dust at the duels. His head no longer bandaged, and out of his armor except for the plate of steel worked into his high brown leather boots, Gal’s actually looking half-dashing up there on a chestnut mare with a white star between her eyes and a black mane and tail. His shirt's not of a standard guardsman issue, and who knows where he might have come across it, but it looks well on him, and when he flashes back that short blue cape over one shoulder, it gleams a clean white that's generally reserved for the nobility. His trousers are well-suited to the task, reinforced with a ridged material at the thighs for grip and wear, and as he lets the mare he's mounted on test the reins, he looks to the crowd out behind, then, turning, meets Ori's expectant glance with a radiant one of his own, appreciating her form in the saddle and asserting himself at the rein just gently to guide the mare's head toward the starting stance and nudge her ahead with his heel until he's met with the Ladies there. Or one Lady. It may be he actually can't see any others.

Rolls for the bonus:
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding+Presence+1: Success. (6 5 3 8 1 1 1 2 3 3 6 5)
<FS3> Gal rolls Riding+Presence: Failure. (1 3 6 5 2 4 4 6 1)
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding+Presence: Success. (4 2 2 2 2 3 3 5 7 1)

There comes the fanfare, and the herald raises his voice to address the crowd. "And so it begins, the first round of the horse race, held in this wonderful hippodrome. People of Marsilikos, my lords, my ladies, visitors from abroad! Enjoy the spectacle as it is about to commence. Please, my ladies. Bring your horses to the starting line. Wait for the signal, after which I can only implore you to RIDE, RIDE, RIDE!"

Rolls for the score:
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding+1: Success. (5 5 3 2 7 4 6 3 5 2 2)
<FS3> Gal rolls Riding: Good Success. (7 3 6 1 6 7 2 8 6)
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding: Good Success. (7 6 5 7 3 4 2 5 7 4 2 5)
<FS3> Étienne rolls 1: Embarassing Failure. (1)
Oriane spends 1 luck points on The embarrassment.
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (8 8 5 3 3 6 1 2 7 4 2)

Étienne arrives at the very last minute in Arguil colours with a bay mare who clearly is not much enjoying him or the crowds. He manages to get her under control enough to bow deeply from his saddle at the Lady Oriane and give Antoine a salute. He is stroking the mare's neck rather sheepishly when the race starts. The horse takes off, an alarm away from bolting, but he not only manages to keep his seat, but keeps her headed in the right direction and makes good use of her nerves on the opening stretch.

That smile from the handsome young guard over to the right sends Oriane's butterflies into a frenzy— her seat isn't as easy as it ought to be, her gloved hands are a whit too tight on the reins, and so her stallion picks up something of her unsettled mood, to the detriment of the harmony between them. Quinquin senses it too and helpfully produces a flask from his tunic. With a short shake of her head Oriane refuses it. She glances back to Gal and makes a note to give her laundress an extra tip; that shirt of his really is gleaming white in the sunshine… And then the servants and retainers are getting out of the way and they're off, and her own old habits and l'Agnacite instincts kick in to propel Oriane along the course credibly enough as her mount obediently gathers speed.

Gal's mare is confused. Her mistress is over there atop another from her stable, while she's got this half-familiar guardsman on her, edging her up close enough to be quite disconcerted by it. And Gal's not helping, at all, only mooning faintly over the angel in the riding habit next to him, about to say something to her rather than actually try to calm his own mount. But the words, if there are any, are stolen in mid-air by the signal to run and the sudden thunder of hooves. Fortunately for him, Oriane's chestnut mare decides it is her responsibility to run with her stable-mate, and, thus, Gal, too, stays firmly in the running, riding next to Oriane and at least seeming well competent in the saddle, leaning forward to give slack rein and hold himself knee and stirrup slightly over the saddle.

Yves, a spectator, spectates. Seeing as how nobody seems to be threatening his bet, he watches with anticipation but very little exhilaration. Next time, he should bet on an underdog so he can feel like it's a bit more sporting. Drinking from his wine, he tilts his head back slightly and watches clouds for a moment before he leans forward to put a foot up on the nearest haybale. In order to make things interesting, he'd cheer for someone at the back! "Go," he pauses as he looks over those in the back, "Guardsman from the duels! You've got this!"

Rolls for the bonus:
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding: Success. (5 3 6 1 2 3 4 5 2 7)
<FS3> Gal rolls Riding: Great Success. (3 8 2 8 5 7 8 3 6)
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding: Good Success. (3 2 4 2 3 5 8 4 1 3 8 3)

The riders and their horses are now racing towards the first obstacle they must brave, a puddle filled with water that bars their way, unless their mounts are so good as to oblige by jumping across it.

Rolls to add to the score:
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding-1: Good Success. (4 3 5 4 6 3 7 8 8)
<FS3> Gal rolls Riding: Good Success. (8 5 3 4 8 5 3 4 5)
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding+1: Good Success. (2 4 4 7 3 3 5 7 4 6 3 1 2)

Étienne flashes a quick smile towards a certain nobleman in the stands. His hair was tousled even before the race. Still, he seems to have found his rhythm and the disgruntled mare soars over the puddle jump without wetting her feet which is the best as can be hoped for from the discombobulated Arguil.

Symon is there to cheer, of course, and cheer he does! The time spent taking the air in the woods was greatly restorative of his power to cheer on Lord Étienne in particular, but really all the riders generally.

The puddle proves no impediment to anybody, least of all Oriane, whose stallion's saddle-cloth (as fresh, as white, as shining as Gal's shirt) takes not even a sprinkling of mud as he sails lightly across, remaining neck-in-neck with— well, almost everybody save that magnificent former cavalrywoman from Gueret whose dust is providing a meal for all as her dun mare eats up, in turn, the entire course… Gal's right beside her, their horses instinctively keeping pace as though the race were but a friendly contest between stable-mates; she glances to him, smiling behind her mask, then looks resolutely ahead to the next obstacle.

Gal does, indeed, seem to be finding his pace, a moment of masterful poise in his lean, well-muscled physique as he feels that moment's halt-and-heft, balancing his weight perfectly in aid of Oriane's chestnut mare, who lands at the stallion's flank and easily keeps stride with him post the landing, keeping just slightly behind, letting the stallion have his nose free and keeping her nose 'round about the level of his shoulder, and as for Gal— well, he could ride forever, like this, just the two of them.

Rolls for the bonus:
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding: Good Success. (5 6 4 3 7 8 3 6 1 6)
<FS3> Gal rolls Riding: Great Success. (1 4 7 7 3 3 8 1 7)
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding: Great Success. (8 1 1 2 2 8 1 8 3 4 3 8)

Looming into view is a line of hay bales, piled high to form an impressive obstacle for those riders bent on winning. It will prove a particular challenge for the trust between rider and horse, and a murmur goes through the crowd, eager to see how well they’ll brave it.

Rolls to add to the score:
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding-1: Great Success. (8 2 4 6 3 7 8 7 5)
<FS3> Gal rolls Riding: Good Success. (1 1 2 8 3 7 1 6 8)
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding: Good Success. (8 5 2 5 4 3 4 8 4 4 2 8)

In days of yore no barrier encountered in the hunting field — no drystone wall, nor hedgerow, nor turnstile, nor fallen log — ever inspired Oriane Somerville to slow down. This footling wall of hay bales proves no exception. She and her handsome Somerville-bred mount have had time enough together to get back into their stride, after a lacklustre commencement, and some extra burst of speed they haven’t yet made use of propels them fractionally ahead… They’re first over and highest, the stallion’s powerful dark musculature forming a glorious arc through the air with her sleek and confident figure perched at its very apex. And then his hooves hit the ground with velocity intact, and his lead of a nose and a half lengthens stride by stride.

Another quite skilled jump on Gal's part, waiting perhaps only a blink of a moment while Ori clears the haybale ahead of him, but the mare rises and then lands as though hardly anything were in her way, though a few tracks behind the stallion, now, and directly behind, landing in his very hoofprints and then edging to the side to try to catch up again.

Étienne settles lower. The borrowed mare is clearly warming up to him on the next stretch, though he has to urge her a little harder to get her over the bales.

Rolls for the bonus:
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding+Presence: Great Success. (2 3 7 5 8 1 8 4 7 5)
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding+Presence+1: Good Success. (5 5 7 2 3 3 2 7 6 7 4 2)
<FS3> Gal rolls Riding+Presence: Failure. (3 4 5 2 5 6 2 5 5)

Rolls to add to the score:
Gal spends 1 luck points on defensive riding for Ori. <3.
<FS3> Oriane rolls Riding+7: Great Success. (1 5 3 8 1 5 5 7 8 2 3 4 2 4 7 1 7)
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding+3: Good Success. (1 1 2 1 2 1 3 2 2 8 4 6 7 3 3)
<FS3> Gal rolls Riding: Success. (2 1 3 5 1 2 1 8 3)
Étienne spends 1 luck points on Reroll.
<FS3> Étienne rolls Riding+3: Great Success. (6 2 3 8 3 1 4 5 3 8 2 1 2 7 8)

Gal leans aside into the last straightaway, trying to get back to that sweet spot at Ori's side, but she's too far ahead, now — though not half as far ahead as Philomène, of course. But the young man breathes through a big grin as Oriane comes into her greatness on that stallion, and his own path slants further across the course, slowing himself down, for sure, but also creating a bit of a clumsy bottleneck amongst those still vying in the middle of the pack, making it a little more difficult for any given one to break out ahead.

It’s ridiculous, after all — and surely beneath the dignity of the doyenne of Siovale, a lady of years so mature and worldly experience so varied and great — to be worried about a friendly little horse race just because there’s a boy watching. But having Gal here, and sensing him falling behind her, young and strong though he is and mounted upon an admittedly excellent mare of her own, inspires Oriane to lean subtly forward in her saddle and urge her stallion to the fleetfootedness of which she knows him well capable. She’s oblivious to the goings-on behind, her attention bent fully now upon the finish line and Philomène d’Aiglemort soaring over it. She crosses it herself only a couple of lengths behind the younger woman, though her masked mirth is a more private affair, and she reins in her stallion some distance before the Swallow deigns to halt her flight. Quintavius is waiting with the hip-flask and this time Oriane, stroking her mount’s sweat-glistening dark neck with one gloved hand, accepts it with the other, nudging her mask back to put the neck of it to her lips and take a sip or two of good uisghe.

Étienne is just spurring the temperamental bay towards the final stretch when the guardsman who beat him so heavily less than a week ago. His face sets in concentration as he tries to angle the opposite direction. It is at this point the mare gets a whiff of Lady Oriane's stallion and puts on a rather sudden burst of speed. The Azzallese manages to hang on as the amorous beast follows Oriane's mount over the finish line.

Symon is naturally excited by this sudden gaining of the bay. He yells loudly but entirely indistinctly. “Horses!”

Horses, indeed! And Gal on the star-faced mare last of all, hugging the outside of the course and already slowing down after having sown his bit of confusion into the race and having watched Oriane's stallion escape the last-minute advances from Étienne's horny mare. He lets the chestnut slow to a walk, draping the reins loose about the saddle's front and lifting both arms into the air, stretching arms and neck and back and basking in the cheers that are certainly not meant for him.

Étienne has rather a bit of trouble keeping his own beast away from the black stallion. Once he has her safely tethered he walks over to bow to the winners. "My lady! That was impressive riding. I wanted to express both congratulations and gratitude for your kindness when I first arrived in the city." He looks lovingly at Symon, whom he first met at one of her dinners. He flashes Gal a dimpled smile, "You really were quite good in the duels. How did you finish? I fear I was a bit addled and missed the later bouts."

Nor — once he has come briefly downwind of her — is Oriane's stallion indifferent to the present delicate season in the life of Étienne's young bay mare. Hence the lady tarries some distance away, still in the saddle but walking her horse gently to help him cool down after his final glorious sprint, and keeping a firm and watchful hold upon the reins, rather than going at once to greet her young acquaintances. By the time Étienne comes across to her they've both caught their breath, and Oriane's belly is warm with uisghe and her black satin mask back in place. Not that there's any difficulty in recognising her — the black and white colours chased with silver, the crescent moon iconography, the soft snow-white hair, mark her out unmistakably to anyone with an ear for the old songs. "Lord Étienne, thank you," she says pleasantly to the boy from Berck. "Lord Symon, well met. How long it seems since I had the pleasure of your company at my table," she marvels.

"I was done the very next match, my Lord," Gal offers back to Étienne, "It was a tough go, but pretty fun. How's your head?" he goes on to ask, only slipping reins back into his hand when the mare decides to explore too far afield, and he turns her attention back toward the others— toward Étienne, ostensibly, and Oriane in reality.

Symon waves again at Étienne and makes his way over. "Doesn't it seem as though the duels ought to go after the horse racing?" he asks. Obviously he's been thinking about that the whole time but had no one to say it to. "B-beautiful riding, my lady," Symon returns to Oriane, inclining his head at her.

Étienne looks more mature than he did, the last of his youth melting away to reveal the rather impressive architecture of his face. Those startling eyes finally have a setting worthy of them. "We would very much like to pay a call on you to ask your advice on some things." He smiles at the guardsman as well, "Much better. How's yours? Have you met the Lady Oriane Somerville de Toluard?" He shakes his head, "we need time to recover from the duels before the melee."

<FS3> Oriane rolls Composure: Good Success. (5 4 6 2 6 1 5 6 1 7 8 5 5)

The uses of such a mask as Oriane’s are many and various: if she colours slightly at Étienne’s awkward attempt at an introduction, it’s her own little secret. “Why, yes,” she offers then, her educated voice as level as it is warm, “we’ve met, haven’t we? Gal took good care of me when I was robbed, once,” she explains to Étienne, “not long after I came to Marsilikos… His detective work brought back to me something precious I supposed I had lost forever.” To put it mildly. “Lord Symon, thank you,” she says to that young man, and then to him and Étienne both, “Then I hope you’ll both come to me for supper one evening soon, and we may talk of whatever you will.” She sounds discreetly curious. “Forgive me if I don’t dismount,” she adds then, with a smile in her voice; “a nice easy ride home will suit my horse very well, now.”

<FS3> Gal rolls Composure: Failure. (2 4 5 5 5)

Gal wears no mask, neither literally, nor, for the moment, figuratively, turning slightly with the force of a child-like grin which, left unchecked, might have been accompanied by some rather lasciviously-toned affirmation that oh, they have met. They've been 'meeting' for a year and a half already, believe it or not. But he doesn't go so far, and Oriane's story of the locket puts away that puerile innuendo and trades it for something decidedly more devoted, a touch of heart-felt warmth in his eyes as she recounts, with some innuendo of her own, the story of how their lives were first entwined. Meanwhile he almost forgets to say anything at all, too busy gazing emotively, but, finally, "Yes, my lady," he agrees with her story aloud, in case anyone might be fooled by his formal deference. "And thank you for the use of your mare in the race. Shall I follow you to your stables again?"

<FS3> Étienne rolls Composure: Success. (4 2 8)
<FS3> Étienne rolls Perception: Good Success. (6 3 6 2 5 5 7 5 8 6 1 4)

Étienne beams at Gal, "How valiant! You must tell us the full history of your ad—" He blinks, long black lashes over eyes the colour of the southern sea. "Oh!" He looks at the lady again, for once not quite telegraphing every thought in his head. He smiles gently, "I am very much looking forward to that dinner. I have always greatly admired your taste and generosity."

Never let it be said that Philomène is not gracious in victory. At least as far as horse racing is concerned, anyway. Not, perhaps, to her fellow competitors who are, if not exactly ignored, certainly given second place or less to the effusive praise and treats of sugared almonds she shares with the real stars of the show, the horses. The riders are really just an afterthought. She's not about to pat their necks and murmur encouragement against their noses.

Lives entwined? Not so much. Limbs? Certainly, as often as possible. The chestnut mare has come up beside the black stallion, they too being accustomed to one another’s company; Oriane reaches out a gloved hand for Gal’s reins and declares with gentle firmness, “Why don’t I take her for you, Gal? I wouldn’t for the world keep you from your duties. You did very well, you know,” not that she understands, even now, his chivalrous efforts on her behalf. Taking easy charge of the chestnut as well as her own mount, she turns her satin-masked face then towards the approaching Philomène — who seems to be making the rounds of all the horses — to praise her victory. “My lady Chalasse, congratulations. You were marvelous as always.”

Étienne nods to Gal, "It really was a pleasure to meet you when we weren't thumping each other with swords." The lad does have an infectious smile. To the Lady Chalasse he bows again, "I do wish my sister could have seen you ride, my lady. It was truly an awe inspiring sight." His borrowed horse is tied at a distance to prevent difficulty with the stallion.

Gal feels thoroughly entwined, at any rate— but maybe he thinks too much lies in his limbs. He's gentle and amenable in taking his marching orders, and he doesn't contradict her praise, even though he came dead last. He knows his efforts on her behalf and is contented with his performance in that regard, not to mention simply to have been able to watch her ride at such close quarters. He dismounts with an easy hop onto the ground, and, with a jaunty salute for Étienne, "And you, my lord," he answers. "My lady," he beams up at Oriane, then starts to make his way clear of the hippodrome.

"I'm fortunate enough to be able to ride a marvellous horse, Lady Somerville," Philomène returns to the older woman, flashing what is usually a very rare but today apparently common smile as she digs in her pocket for another treat, this time for the chestnut mare. "We've known each other some years, and she does rather like to show off." Because that's clearly all the horse and nothing to do with the Chalasse. "Your sister, my lord?" she adds towards Étienne, raising a brow. "Do I know her?"

<FS3> Oriane rolls Persuasion: Great Success. (8 1 8 1 5 6 7 4 6 2 8 4 1 8)

Down on his own two feet, in his blue coat and his fine new boots, stepping as lightly as her other stallion and with something of the same youthful grace, Gal does rather catch Oriane’s eye— till at a crunchy sort of sound she looks down, losing him by the bye among the crowd, to see Philomène’s gloved hand extended toward the chestnut mare, who’s now happily nibbling from her palm. “… Lady Chalasse,” she says gently, “I’m sure my Marigold appreciates your kindness to her; but I wonder, would you take it in good part if someone you knew not very well came up to your own mare and fed her as they pleased, without asking your leave—?”

Étienne blushes prettily and looks down, "It's unlikely. Agnès is at home back in Berck, but she loves riding very much." His accent is Azzallese, very north, and gentry rather than elevated. “I am Étienne d'Arguil, my lady." He is looking at her from under those long lashes as if she is… not as beautiful as the Lady Oriane, because what woman could possibly compete with that legendary beauty, but as if Philomène were also a court beauty. He smiles a last time at Gal, "It really was a pleasure to meet you properly." The other man being out of sight now he turns back to the ladies in time for the exchange over the horses. He wisely takes the advice he was once given to talk less and smile more.

Philomène flicks an irritated glance towards Oriane, withdrawing her hand far enough that she can just pat the horse's nose instead. "Of course," she allows, a little of that grumpy nature reaffirming itself when she's interrupted in doing what she does best - making friends with horses - by pesky humans. What would humans know about the sacred bond between Philomène and the equine denizens of the city, lubricated in great part by the liberal application of sugared almonds, carrots or apples. "You'll want to treat her yourself."

“And so I shall,” the Somerville lady assures her quietly, delivering this little lesson with neither rancour nor reproof, “both of them, when I’ve seen them safely home. Lord Étienne, I’ll send you and Lord Symon an invitation to supper,” she suggests, turning then toward the Azzallese youth — no, he really has grown now, at length, into an Azzallese lord. “Your direction is still the same, Les Tanières—?” she wonders. Quinquin hands up her rather dashing black felt hat and she restores it to her head, holding both sets of reins easily in her other hand.

Étienne studies Philomène covertly. The light dawns, "I believe I've met your daughter. I have heard fascinating things about you from my friend Symon de Perigeux." From his expression they were good things? How odd. He blushes suddenly, the early spring tan not obscuring it at all, "If you send it to Lord Symon's address there, we'll both get it."

"Eleanor?" Philomène immediately assumes, arching one brow as she tries to work out how the hell this Azzallese lord would ever have come across her eldest, but then the name 'Symon' comes up and the penny drops. "Ah, my Laurene. Well… well, she's memorable." It's the nicest thing she can think of to say about her middle daughter right now.

The talk between the other two is growing more personal — and she does owe due consideration to Marigold and to Snow — Oriane looks between her present companions and suggests quietly, “Forgive me, but I think we’ve had a little too much excitement already for one day.” Obedient to her command the stallion takes a step backward and then another, the mare moving with them. Behind her Quinquin and her groom have regained their own mounts. “Lady Chalasse, my congratulations again. Lord Étienne, until next time.” Her handsome black felt hat with the white ostrich plume in it bows to each in turn, and then with a light hand on the reins of both her horses Oriane departs at a comfortable walking pace from the hippodrome.

Étienne shakes his head, "Yes. The lady Laurene. She's very amiable." His eyes cut towards the Lady Oriane in hopes of a sign of some sort, but she's excusing hereslf and so he bows, a graceful sweep like the edge of a well set sail, "I am much looking forward to dinner."

Philomène gives Oriane a slight nod. "And congratulations to you on a race well run. Your stallion is a beautiful animal," she insists, placing the praise firmly where it belongs. With the horse. "My lord, will you also excuse me? My Hirondelle deserves a good rub down and a thank you for her efforts today."

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