1964-03-23 - A Moorland Phantasy
Summary: Lady Tywyll, queen's spymistress, has a thing or two to learn from Lady Isolde of the White Hands.
Related: Arthurian Cycle I: Don't Turn Your Back
Theme Song: None
wanda nyx 

When the fracas involving the camp of Avalonian supporters finally calms, it requires the leadership of a few good knights and several seasoned soldiers to bring everything under control. The Green Knight and the bard, Taliesin, individually work to calm matters. Several of the 'barbarians', who are clearly nothing of the sort, work to put out the smoldering brush and bury their dead. A few sentries lost equate men with names and families and stories, and the grief is plain. Already efforts to pack up the camp and retreat further into the moors before further problems arise add to the bustle. Wherever Lady Tywyll looks, she will see industrious efforts to collapse tents, round up what little livestock is present, and erase their traces from the landscape with a shocking precision to her calculated eye.

Lady Isolde has the benefit of her own tent, a canvas round thing contained in the heart of a concealed vale. One whey-faced guard protects the flap wherein at least the Green Knight went, and Sir Agravaine, one by one. It's no secret she wishes to speak with her rescuers alone, although it's plain she has no intentions to return with them. No palfrey waits for her. In time, as the rain grows into a gloomy shower, the spymistress is sought by another soldier giving her an odd look through his bronzed whiskers and shaggy brows. "Lady wants you. Know this, you hurt her and we'll gut you."


"If you gut me it is only because I already surrendered my death grip on this entire camp and put myself at your mercy," Tywyll responds quietly, fixing the man with a cool stare as she does. She's been pensive, worrying her bottom lip and looking around to see all these people around her. While she maintains a seren, serious expression it would be plain to anyomne whoknows her that she is being assailed by guilt. Still, the mask does much to alleviate that feeling. This is part of why she removes it as soon as she has entered the tent.

"Lady Isolde ferch Hywell." Tywyll curtsies politely when she enters, blue eyes intent on finding the lady's face. She clasps the half face mask in her left hand and tucks it away into her clothing once she has presented hersef in this way. "You wish to speak with me?" There's a certain deference there but it doesn't go as far as court formality. A concession among equals, perhaps.


The soldier curls his lip under his healthy mustache. Given the garments he wears, wildly dyed with goldenrod and woad, he undoubtedly comes from one of the far northern tribes or might well be a Gael, at this rate. He stamps along with Tywyll until reaching the flap into the plain canvas tent, and nods to the guard there. He then steps back and makes a quick salute of a kind, hand smacked to his chest. When she is escorted in, there's no sign of living in the lap of luxury even if the young woman's claim to nobility is considerable. There are boxes and at least two camp cots, a folding stool little better than canvas strung over a wooden frame. Here she sits, sipping lukewarm tea. Mortar and pestle to the side beside a jar — a mason jar, at that, cut glass canning jars behind it — waiting for someone's attention. Herbs hang inverted all around them, and lend a scent heavy on rosemary to the air. She wears a simple woolen cloak wrapped around her, and no one else waits on her.

The use of her name brings the young woman's head up, and her eyes are distinctly bluer than they have right to be. "I do, lady. I believe it likely my father, good man he is, dispatched you to a task he thought essential. Yet I would offer you a different perspective, and perhaps a course whereby you serve justice. For assuredly you are aware not is all as it seems here?"


"It seems obvious, yes," Tywyll agrees, taking a deep breath as she does so. "Your father was earnest in his terror of what had happened to you," she states firmly then, canting her head slightly to the left while she watches Isolde's expression. She notes those eyes. In that Tywyll is similar. Her eyes are strange, often seeming to shift in colour slightly dependent on the light. Her skin is paler than what most people have ever seen. And, yes, she is younger than she ought to be to play such an important role.

"And I have never known your father to be prone to hysteria." Tywyll takes a half step closer, maintaining sufficient distance between herself and Isolde to give no impression of offering threat. Not that the girl appears to be armed, of course. "Please, tell me what is going on here so I can lay my mind to rest. It is my job to be aware of possibilities and this situation seems to beg more and more fantastical notions of reality with every passing moment."

Somewhere in the back of her mind Tywyll is thinking to herself: When did I start talking like this anyway…?


"My father," says Isolde, "means well. He cares greatly for his family and his people, yet this threat to the common folk he cannot see. Nor does he listen to my entreaties or the reports from the villages. They struggle more than ever they have, and not merely from sea raids and sickness. 'Tis a deeper trouble which afflicts them. Beasts none have seen but in a bestiary, things that should not be marauding through the country." Grimly she sets down her tea, steeling herself for the potential conflict. Pulling on her golden braids, she inclines her head up to Tywyll. She is unarmed, those famed healing hands pale and delicate as porcelain. "Lady," she murmurs, "'tis time."

The air warms a few degrees around her as the brilliant hue of her eyes takes on a lustrous glow, bright as the hooded lanterns adding a dim light to the tent. Her breath passes out and beside her stands a figure of barely five feet, clothed in undyed or bleached wool, probably about forty. The woman's brow is tattooed with a small moon, and her chestnut hair falls in fat braids to her knees, threaded by silver attesting to modest age. She specifically might not be familiar, but the mark of her rank is: a priestess.

"Lady Tywyll, take no alarm," says the Lady of Avalon patiently. "My lady Isolde has offered the means of her voice to speak in confidence with those who may be willing to assist rebalancing the land."


"It seems those fantastic notions of reality were well-placed," Tywylll murmurs in response to the appearance of the lady. She blinks a few times then, her blue eyes searching the woman's face for a long second before she takes a deep, carefully measured breath. "Well. I arrived hee with the powers of a mighty Bard with the spells of any wizard. I am fresh out of shock and dismay at displays of power this afternoon."

Laughing weakly Tywyll inclines her head to the lady and holds that pose for about one entire second. then she ofers a quiet smile. "If I can help rebalance the land then I will. I have a bout five hundred questions first, my Lady, but I get this feeling you will answer the majority so please. Speak. Mmm." Tywyll takes this opportunity to adjust her dress ever so slightly . Just to keep her hands busy.


The woman standing before them is not fully embodied, a projection as lively as the original must be, but clearly some measure of spell. Crows feet gather in the corners of her eyes and mouth, and her face carries a certain softness that might be called matronly; albeit, this matron has the wit of a bear. "The court bards ever have talents unto themselves, secrets they preserve in their traditions as surely we do ours." She spreads her hands. "It is not meet for me to travel from the Blessed Isle. Thus I ask for some patience, and that I may answer thine queries as best I may."

Five hundred questions, five hundred answers. Lady Isolde shuffles back to her seat, which probably explains its presence and the tea.

The priestess gives a slight dip for her head. "I am Viviane of Avalon." Which further designates her as a senior priestess. "We upon the Isle have greater sensitivity to troubles than most. What has beset our realm began subtly and slow, like winter reaching from the hills. Wells gone brackish, fields where naught would grow. But know you little in Caerleon of other damages, I think. How the unquiet dead on the battlefield rise and assault the living, how livestock withers without cause, and now tales of wurms in the woods, the deep fae taking their sport among the common folk. They live in great fear and, as yet, none from the walled city send out the famed legions to alleviate their suffering. Good souls petitioned to no avail, so put down their plow and hoe to take up arms. Our factions do not avail us against a creeping darkness near to the walls of the city. I would fain have assistance, that we may seek to reunite the land and ease its pain."


"The dead walking? I must see this for myself," Tywyll responds, her expression suddenly flickering between shock and dire certitude. "It is not that I doubt your virtue, Lady Viviane, but I do not even- think I can comprehend how this has gone so thoroughly unanswered from the city if such a vblight is so close. I will do anything you ask of me to deal with this matter but first I am going to ride out and see these things for myself. That's always been my way."

With those words spoken Tywyll tilts her head slightly, blue eyes scouring Viviane's face as if to commit her visage to memory. She nods once, perhaps to herwsef, before she adds. "My other questions are almsot irrelevant. Truly we live in the end times if so much has happened and no one even seems to see it. There were prophecies spoken of Caerleon's demise to sloth and greed. People ignored them." She shrugs her slender shoulders delicately now.

"Tell me what you would have of me and how to assist you. Upon my return any power I might be able to bring to bear is yours."


The priestess' silvery hair grows white as a winter field, and wrinkles indent the lines of her face, sagging along her neck and jowls. "Ah," Viviane says, her voice warm and solid as ever. "Have you seen retinues come to the city? Lords and princes, ladies and their waiting women? Do they ever leave?" Her dark, slightly rheumy eyes follow Tywyll's movements, perhaps lending an alert, birdlike quality. "Caerleon lies at the heart of power. It would naturally be last to come. Yet when have you ridden beyond the Roman roads? Taken to the sea coasts, spymistress? I do not doubt your devotion. We can dispute a hawk's message from a warm solar, whereas the peasant in a hovel with naught to eat and his stocks in flames cannot."

She draws her hands together, clasping them easily so. "Not all hope be lost. I know of a sacred relic contained for safekeeping in a crystal cave by a wise soul for such times of grief. It is not the first nor the last time shadows gather, ravens on the battlefield. It does grievous harm to those fell powers. I would implore those brave of heart and stout of mind to obtain it. We cannot abandon the people in the Summer Lands to obtain it. Avalon has always worked best by inspiring the hearts of worthy men and women."

Her voice creaks as much as her joints, but she does not complain. "You would not go alone. Already others hear the call and will lend the aid they can. Strength of arms, but I think few as resourceful or witty as you. A woman's touch, among all these gentlemen." The smile she has is almost girlish. Viviane gives Tywyll an amused look. "I may show you these things for yourself, though not advised to go with naught but yourself and a horse. The dead do not exist as one or two, but many. A wurm might slay any champion of Caerleon on its own. How do you wish to assure your own certainty? I wouldn't dare to show you a vision or think you would take the word of the men here. Though many in the camp lost their farms and families and homes to such threats. That's why they gather, fearing tyranny and darkness."


Tywyll appears to be in thought for a few long seconds, her expression grave. Finally she takes a deep breath, holds it, and says, "I've only one recourse if I am to be wise enough not to trust my magics to cloak me from entire armies of observers." That frown deepens slightly as she speaks but her words are soft and firm. "I will go around to the people in this camp and ask them to tell me their stories. Look into their hearts and hear what they say… And remember it because they deserve to be remembered. Perhaps the Bard can do something with those tales someday."

Tywyll shrugs her shoulders gently then, a nervous gesture she repeats from oens she had made in moments before. Her voice, cool and collected, does not waver or alter. It is her way, in most cases, to be as neutral as she might. Long hours being constantly observed. "But yes. I expect your story will be just as you have said. I will go and retrieve this artifact, bringing with me whichever companions have pledge their blade. We will see this evil vanquished. Is there… Is there anything else?"

Finally Tywyll shows the strain of riding off to fight, of the murder of innocent men and promises of horrors soon to come. Her facade falters and for an instant she is actually a young woman once more. If one who has taken the role of someone far more experienced.


The girlish laugh from pink lips follows as the petite brunette maiden cups her hands together. "How bold, my lady. I do credit you for a wise thought. You may sneak up on the ravagers, but thine gifts be not perfect. A risk you run, oh." The slip of a girl, at five feet, is hardly threatening in the least, and when she walks, her thin arms swing too much, her braids heavily swaying. "I invite you to ask whom you would. All here I credit as a victim to forces beyond their ken, and they are very good people. Oh, you'll put the fear of much into them, spymistress, but their hearts are sound. Mayhap the bard can." She blinks, owlishly, and Viviane the maiden puts her fingers over her mouth. "Be careful of him and the Green Knight, old windbags both. They chatter on and drown out the meaning, at times."

All this, from a girl, might be disconcerting were it not apparent the slim-hipped figure is still the matron and the old woman seen minutes earlier. "Anything else? What else might there be? Watch how you walk. Have faith in those with you. And as you see what dread things lie here, never forget there is still goodness and hope. Those are the feast fires to feed, as you can."


"Goodness and hope have been in short supply for many a year," Tywyll responds quietly to that last statement before offering another curtsey. "When we meet again I hope to have good tidings to bestow upon you. I'd best get started in the mean timer, however. Farewell.

The young blonde woman turns then and starts to take a step before pausing in midstride. "I almost forgot." Tywyll withdraws her mask from within her clothing and carefully puts it on once more. "This is, after all, the face of Lady Tywyll, Mistress of Spies and Shadow over the court of Caerleon." With an ironic smile gracing red painted lips she departs."

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