(1866-12-16) Courteous Congratulations
Courteous Congratulations
Summary: Justin t'Acuto pays Antonia l'Valdan a visit, to offer congratulations on her good showing at the Tourney Duels a few days prior.
Date: 16-21/12/2015 (Date of RP)
Related: Sunsreach Tourney logs, especially the Duels. Also references logs about Amara and Guardian.
Antonia  Justin  

Garden - l’Valdan Manse - Sunsreach - Rivana
In the scene.
Decembre 16th, 1866

Late mornings are usually busy for Antonia l’Valdan. She spends them with sword practice, either instructing her ten-year-old son, or sparring with one of the House knights. Such is the case on this late morning as well, so when a visitor is announced, Antonia will ask the servant to lead him out to the gardens. Grey clouds obscure the sun today, and there is an occasional gust of chilly wind. Even as the visitor is being led through corridors inside of the manse he can already hear the sound of steel clashing against steel coming from the gardens. In the moment Justin t’Acuto steps onto the lawn, the l’Valdan by marriage will lower her practice sword and offer her sparring partner a brief nod of thanks. “Thank you, that will do for the moment.” She wears training leathers, and her dark blonde hair is done in a braid that has been twirled and fastened to the back of her head. Grey eyes shift from the knight to her guest, and the corners of her lips twitch into a polite smile. “Lord Justin. What unexpected pleasure.”

Justin t’Acuto is led to the princess and patiently waits to be addressed before offering a formal bow befitting her station and says, “You honor me Your Highness. Forgive the interruption.” as he watches the sparring partner take their leave. He then stands fully if given leave to do so, though whether such leave or not he adds, “I wished to congratulate you on your efforts in your first tourney as a knight Your Highness. You brought honor to yourself and both your houses with your showing, you should be proud.” His tone formal, polite, and respectful.

The bow is noted, the courtesy as well. Her smile gains a few degrees of warmth, when Antonia admits with a shrug: “It isn’t an interruption, just a brief break I need to take anyway, Sir.” She gestures for a servant to bring them some refreshments, her grey eyes shifting then to Justin once again, her smile deepening even further. “Thank you. It is my first tourney, in which I am allowed to compete. And even if my squiring days were over before Etienne was even born, I am glad His Majesty, King Jean-Paul chose to grant me the honour of becoming a knight.” There is a slight twinkle in her eyes, a faint twitch at the corners of her lips that shows just how proud she really is. Even so, she makes a dismissive gesture of the hand. “I wanted to take part in the Duels, which I did. And I think it is in order, that my brother earned his victory in the end. He is a fine knight.”

The servant returns with a tray with a flagon of wine and two cups, and a plate with some bits of cheese and smoked ham to go with it. One cup is offered to Justin, while Antonia will take the other. “I think I saw you compete in the Joust Preliminaries,” she remarks then. “You rode well. And if I recall correctly, you were competing in the Melee as well…?”

Justin accepts the cup and nods saying, “I took part in the free-for-all and the joust, I intended to take part in the duels as well but something came up last minute. I had heard you were recently knighted. I may not have noticed normally, but a princess, not to mention I remembered your name in regards to your sister Lady Amara. I trust that her and Guardian are doing well?” in a conversational tone.

Taking a sip of the wine, after a few moments giving an approving nod then adds, “I am pleased the king granted you the honor, you clearly are overjoyed by the advancement and your skill shows it wasn’t given our of kindness or favoritism, but that you truly earned it.”

The information is received with an inline of Antonia’s head. “It was indeed a very fortunate development,” she comments then, her grey eyes flitting down to the cup of wine in her hand. “I believe my efforts in the Battle of Rovilon were taken into account, where I was allowed to fight the Brodlund Raiders.” The same battle in which late King Maris received a wound that would prove to be lethal, leading to his death shortly afterwards. Her demeanour turns a bit thoughtful there but lightens up when Justin mentions Amara and her cute little kitten. “Ah yes, Amara is here in Sunsreach, in fact. She has expressed the wish to accompany me to the royal court once we return there. She is doing well, but the display of violence holds little attraction for her. Even if it is only for entertainment’s sake. Unfortunately she is not here at the moment. I believe she wanted to visit the market.”

A long glance is given the t’Acuto as he continues, with words he probably means to be polite but which may hold a hint of suggestion within them that is not at all to Antonia’s liking. “In regards to suspected favoritism, you shall be relieved to hear then, that I never approached the King about this myself,” she states, her tone cooling a little. “It was a suggestion by the Queen’s own brother, and I assure you, Queen Louisa insisted to test my skill herself.” Leaving it at that, she allows her smile to return. “But overjoyed I was and still am, that much is true.” If Justin pays attention to those things, he may have glimpsed a pin attached to her armor, depicting a falcon. Which could hint at Antonia being in the courtly faction of the Falcons, Queen Louisa l’Valdan likes to keep in her company.

Justin nods in regards to Amara, saying, “Good to hear, I am sure Guardian is much larger now, but it is good Lady Amara continues to enjoy his company. I wasn’t quite sure if the effort to catch him would be appreciated, though given her reaction that settled any doubts.” in a calm, conversational tone.

Then comes her words of favoritism as he passively lifts a hand in a defensive, but polite gesture, “Forgive my poor choice of wording Your Highness. I did not mean to imply any favoritism in the least. I simply meant to say that your skill shows it was not favoritism and if any dared to suggest otherwise would hear from me the proof of your skill and how deserving you are to have been given the honor. Once more I beg your forgiveness for the misunderstanding.”

Antonia smiles to Justin’s remark about Guardian being appreciated. “He truly is,” she says, “Amara is very fond of him, as she has always been very fond of caring for living creatures.” The smile reaches to her eyes now, as the l’Valdan Princess adds: “So much, she keeps telling Elrick and me what vile creatures we are, for indulging in hunts and going to battle.”

His gesture of a raised hand is met with a slight dimming of the smile. “I am sure you meant only well with your remark, Sir. Even so, I am aware of the courtly gossip, and the willingness of all too many to jump to conclusions, because of my marriage to a prince. Queen Louisa asked me to represent the Falcons in the tourney, which I have managed to do, I daresay. Alas, the bracketed jousts will happen without me. I am rusty with the lance, and took only part in the preliminaries to see where I stand.”

Justin nods and says, “I am not the most familiar with intrigues and gossip, that is more the field of my niece Lady Eva t’Acuto. Regardless I was merely saying I understand such things can arise and if they do I will be one to stand in support of your skill as I have seen it personally.” Clearly serious about the offer to support her and attest to her skills if they are called into question.

Pausing a moment he adds, “I did get the impression from Lady Amara as well in regards to hunting and war. I intend to take part in the joust myself, though as a representative of the Falcons it would seem I am benefiting from your choice as we will not have to tilt against one another.” with a soft smile, his words obviously intended to be a compliment to her skill, likely to cheer her up a bit as well. “Do you intend to take on a squire some day or do your duties prevent such?” in more of a curious tone, not a judgemental one in the least. It is almost as though he has suddenly shifted into ‘eager to learn student’ mode.

Antonia inclines her head in a nod, to Justin’s apologetic clarification. “I understand,” she says simply, a brief flicker in her grey eyes acknowledging the mention of Lady Eva, but not commenting further on the matter. “I just don’t think I am ready to take part, but stay assured that neither will I ever evade the opportunity to better my skills in a spar or a tilt, nor would I think ill of a worthy opponent. I am sure my brother Elrick will do fine. And you probably as well. Couviere is strong in the contests, perhaps surprisingly so as we are in Rivana.” His question takes her by surprise though, Antonia lowering her gaze as to consider it for a moment. “I shall,” she states then looking up. “But… this being an option that hasn’t been open to me till very recently, I still need to… adapt to my new role.” Her lips twitch into a smile. “Why do you ask? Do you have someone in mind?”

Justin nods and says, “I understand completely Your Highness. As to squires, no I have none in mind, nor do I blame you for wanting to settle into your new role first. I simply ask out of curiosity, you are a princess after all, I was simply unsure how much time you would have for instructing others, not that you couldn’t. I suppose it is on my mind as I have never had a squire myself, and another niece of mine, of whom you might be more familiar with, Lady Sir Lillian l’Valdan asked me if I had any squires and if I were willing to have one.” He doesn’t explain how Lillian and Eva are both his nieces, likely assuming it to be obvious, or that Antonia already knows that information. After all she married into the l’Valdan family, and may well have met with Lillian, at least in passing a few times. Not to mention Lillian also taking part in the tourney, and was even his ‘teammate’ so to speak during the free-for-all.

“I don’t see that my duties will keep me from taking a squire,” Antonia says after a moment of consideration, her smile polite, her grey eyes gleaming. “After all, I am already spending a lot of my time in the training yard.” The mention of the l’Valdan niece earns Justin a curious glance. “Ah yes, Sir Lillian,” she smiles. “A very persistent opponent. I faced her in the duels, and she made it very hard for me to best her,” said with her respect obvious in her tone. “Then High Cavalier Sir Andrea is your niece as well, I was aware, but had forgotten for a moment…” Her grey eyes focus on the t’Acuto and she tilts her head slightly to the side. “And? What did you reply to her?”

Justin nods to the mention of Lillian’s sister and says, “Indeed, Beatrice, their mother is my older sister. I fear I am a bit of the baby among my siblings.” with a soft smile, likely teasing himself a bit. Then to the question he adds, “I was never opposed to it, but like with my failings in my duties as a nobleman and marrying to give the t’Acutos more children, I was swept up in my work as a knight. First in the wars, then in helping to rebuild the infrastructure under King Maric, then most recently overseeing the repairs to Valetta after the Battle of Three Crowns.” a battle he took part in, as one of the defenders of the fortifications.

“Ultimately time passed too quickly for me, and I didn’t notice until recently how old I have grown, and to never be betrothed or wed is a great shame to my family at my age. So I seek to counter that as soon as I am able, but I suppose that would depend on the options my brother can find. As to squires I am on the look out for them as well, though even my niece Sir lillian has offered to keep an eye out for suitable candidates for me. I suppose I am blessed to have such a helpful niece, especially one so skilled as a knight. As to duels, I agree fully, she actually beat me the other day in swordsmanship, I suppose I am getting too rusty or too old to keep up with even my nieces anymore.” chuckling softly. Though he is less than a decade older, he is older by a fair number of years, but seems more making a jest to keep the mood light.

Antonia listens, taking an occasional sip from her cup of wine, inclining her head when Justin speaks of his failing to get married before. “Such is most often not a guarantee to stay unmarried, my lord. As usually the head of House t’Acuto… your brother, Baron Artos should have seen to find you a match. So… may I ask how old you are? Even if you’re already past the usual age of marriage, I believe not all hope is lost yet?”, she remarks with a ghost of a wink. As Justin continues about seeking a squire she remains silent, her demeanour a bit thoughtful. “About high time then, to find yourself other occupations,” she comments in a half-jest to the t’Acuto’s remark about getting rusty.

Justin chuckles softly and says, “I do like designing and building fortifications equally to my role as a knight, it is a bit trick to make that a career, but now with peace being such a real possibility who knows. As to my age, no I am not too old for all hope to be lost, I am thirty winters now. Mostly I seek a noblewoman who is respectable, one to bring honor to my family, myself, and herself. Beyond that I have little in the way of goals. I know well the lot the nobility have and I am satisfied with that. Artos I wouldn’t be surprised if he made the attempt to find a match, but with my lack of availability due to the wars and my work as an engineer during peace time I no doubt made it harder for him.”

“If I may Your Highness.” added after a few moments, “ I understand it is a bit of a personal question, and obviously one there is no need to answer if I overstep in my curiousity. It is just that you seem quite happy with your own match and I have neither seen nor heard any complaints in regards to your children. How much did your know your husband the prince prior to your betrothal? Most nw little to nothing of each other, yet the two of you seem to be genuinely in love from the glimpses I have gleaned from observation. It seems the two of you might have known each other, perhaps even have been friends prior to your betrothal. or is it simply a case of a prime match, where the two of you just got along from the start and it is one of those rare cases of growing into love quickly?”

"Thirty winters isn't too old, I agree," Antonia comments with a smile that shows a bit more warmth. "You are one year older than I am. And I would think, the age of the woman in question will be viewed with a bit more scrutiny than that of you as prospective husband. You are of a respectable family, I am sure such a match could be found."

The l'Valdan princess blinks, surprised at Justin t'Acuto's question, but obviously not offended. "My own match, my lord, was not a love match from the start, but rather an arrangement that was made to benefit both of our Houses.", she begins after a moment. "But it seems I was quite lucky with Prince Silvio. I was not acquainted with him prior to the betrothal. The One saw to it that we developed feelings for each other. Which was not hard in fact, given his temper and kind heart. Our son…" She lowers her gaze, her smile deepening, "is a gift from the One, our pride and joy. However…" Grey eyes are lifted to meet Justin's pale gaze, the warmth dimming ever so slightly, "No one can tell how a relationship may develop in a match that usually is made for political reasons, Lord Justin. True love… is a bonus most marriages must do without."

Justin nods and says, “Your love for each other certainly shows, as does your love for your son.” It is blatantly clear from his tone he means this as the deepest compliment. He then waves dismissively with the talk of true love, “I have no illusions when it comes to love Your Highness. As a knight my boy belongs to my kingdom, to serve it as it must. As a nobleman my boy serves to ensure the legacy of my house doesn’t end. Love is a luxury for the nobility, the thing of commoners. For nobility to experience love, whether right away or with the passage of time, that is a rarity to be treasure. I have no idealistic hopes I may find the same, as I said I am a man and I am to produce heirs to House t’Acuto. I may not seek to harm or leave whoever I am wed to emotionally distant or dissatisfied, but I am well aware of how much of a rarity love is, especially for the nobility. Tolerance is enough for me, if more comes from it, all the better.”

A nod is given to Justin t'Acuto's assessment of the love between her husband, her son and herself, Antonia's smile deepening even. Taking his words as the intended compliment. She listens as he continues, and she nods again. "Of course. That is a sensible point of view, and one that most of us adapt to, fortunately. So, with that said… I'm not much of a match maker, alas, maybe your niece Lady Eva may be more helpful in that regard. But if there is something you feel I can do in this matter, pray tell me."

Justin smiles softly and says, “Thank you Your Highness, a matchmaker is hardly someone I seek out on any level. Though two of my nieces now have made similar offers I believe it is more playful teasing of their uncle. I do agree though, if anyone could have a potential to find a match it would be Lady Eva, though I am sure with the onset of peace my brother will have an easier time finding someone for me. I admit I keep my eyes out for suitable options, but I am well aware he has final say, and the pragmatist in me doubts I would find someone I would have enough of an interest in to suggest to him. I am a bit logical and pragmatic in many ways, why I tend not to have too many issues with Rivanans after the war. They were protecting their kingdom as were we. I can fight another if there is war or to defend others, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand where they are coming from. Such understanding at times can even help in both diplomacy and war.”

Antonia nods, shooting Justin a glance as she smiles: “I see you’re in competent hands then…”, this offered in regards to matchmaking. Even so his own assessment of having no suggestions on his own does earn him a curious look. “So you don’t have any intentions towards my sister? You giving her the gift of Guardian could inspire different assumptions.” Voicing the obvious elephant in the room, before the l’Valdan Princess offers a somewhat less enthused nod to the t’Acuto’s opinion on the Rivanean people. “I don’t flatter myself to have a likewise pragmatic view on our neighbours,” she admits. “But even so, your attitude may be what is required these days.”

Justin nods to the matter of the Rivanans and says, “Few hold such pragmatism, and I hold it against none who lacks such.” He then pauses a moment and adds, “The gift of Guardian was offered because I felt at the time I had offended your sister, it was nothing more than a friendly apology for the perceived slights. A matter even your brother questioned me on and I told him the same, because that is what it was nothing more or less.” in a calm, serious tone.

Pausing a moment he adds, “I will confess I do enjoy speaking with your sister. While we do not always agree, I enjoy her energy and the way she can go on for hours about the things she cares so much about. As to intentions, I would consider your sister a friend if she felt the same. Beyond that however, that is a matter for my brother to decide not myself. As I said I do enjoy her company, however I have no romantic nor intimate pursuits with her. If I felt that strongly about her I would have mentioned her name to my brother, which I have not done. I would only mention a name to my brother Baron Artos if I felt strongly enough in a match. Both for political and personal reasons, only if that changed would I speak up about anyone. Rest assured on my honor as a knight and on the name of my house the t’Acutos, I have no untoward designs on your sister.” His words are genuine and his tone serious, and he has a good enough reputation as an honorable and chivalric knight to suggest such a vow holds a great deal of weight. Either he truly doesn’t feel anything for Amara, or he does not feel them strongly enough to pursue her on his own.

"I see," Antonia says, her grey eyes lingering on Justin t'Acuto as she studies him, "a gesture of apology." The corners of her mouth twitch slightly upwards. "Even so, you are stressing you enjoy her company. Friendship… a high goal most couples strive for and not all manage to achieve it." There is a glint in the l'Valdan's eyes, her gaze slightly assessing, but in a light, amused manner. "But don't be afraid, I am not trying to act the matchmaker here I just declined to be. Amara can use some guidance, and for now she turns for such to me." A moment of pause there, as Antonia hears Justin out, on his assurances not to have any untoward intentions. "I thank you for your statement, Sir Justin. I know of your House's reputation as well as your own." She stretches, rolling her shoulders a little. "If there is anything else you wanting to speak to me about…?" The words half-question, half the leave to withdraw, if he is so inclined.

Justin nods and says, “I do not believe so, I simply came to congratulate you on your performance at your first tourney. Though the conversation was certainly enjoyable. With you as a guide, perhaps it is how easily you speak to others that has rubbed off on her combined with what I believe is her natural temperament as well. I understand your concern for guidance, and I would offer to assist in the endeavor if it were proper to do so. I wish you luck in such a task Your Highness, and I thank you for allowing me to take up so much of your valuable time with idle conversation when you no doubt have more important matters to attend to.” He then turns to depart once dismissed, unless of course his departure is delayed.

"It has been a pleasure speaking to you, my lord," Antonia assures with a smile as she inclines her head, "I didn't think it was just 'idle conversation'. Anyway… if you should visit Rovilon in the future, mayhaps you'd like to pay me another visit, for more conversation, or a sparring match if you feel so inclined. I didn't meet you in the duels, so I'm curious to match my skills against yours and get a demonstration of your sword technique." She smiles. "I do wish you a good day."

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