Title: Le Chevalier au Faucon
Author: H. Savinien
Disclaimer: Most characters mentioned are property of Marvel and the actors playing them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This AU is on my own head.
Pairing: Sam Wilson/Steve Rogers
Author's Note: Inspired by samalander. Some archaic dialect and sentence structure. Beta thanks to yuri_shoujo and a-social-construct.
Summary: Sir Samuel meets another knight lately returned from war shortly before the Midsummer tournament.
Mes qui le porte, et chier le tient
de s'amie li resovient,
et si devient plus durs que fers;
cil vos iert escuz et haubers
et voir einz mes a chevalier
ne le vos prester ne baillier,
mes por amors le vos doing gié.
But he who wears this, and cherishes it
Remembers his friend,
And thus he becomes stronger than iron;
This will be your shield and hauberk
And truly never before I wanted
To lend it or give it to a knight,
But because of my love I give it to you.
--Yvain ou le chevalier au lion, by Chrétien de Troyes
At hunting met them two knights, one dark and one pale and both fair as dusk and dawn. The first was hight Samuel, son of Willes, the other Stephen, called L'Escu. Samuel at his falcon gave greeting to Stephen, merry running beside his hound, as passed they in their chase.
Samuel blasphemed halfheartedly as Felys missed her pigeon and tumbled in midair, fighting to keep herself from a crash into the nearest bush. He took a breath to whistle her back when a rustle of brush on his left caught Sam’s notice and he spun around to see a shaggy, dark hound burst out, followed by a panting, grinning man. The man tumbled to a stop at the sight of Sam and called the hound to heel, which obeyed with a scrabble of paws.
"Are you like to run down a hare on foot?" Sam asked, amused.
"We have done before," the stranger said, breath catching on a cough. "Cry pardon for interrupting your hawking."
Sam shook his head and whistled Felys back to his arm. She came, talons pricking gentle against the leather of his glove, and he passed her up her scrap of meat before hooding her. "No loss. With this miss I had best set her the lure again. She'll lose heart else." His free hand he held out in greeting. "Samuel Willes' son."
"Stephen L'Escu, a knight of Duke Nicholas's company," he replied, clasping it. "And this is my Bucky. A fine Sacre and a pity she missed her prey." He nodded to the hawk. "What is her name?"
Sam stroked her back, pleased for the compliment. "Felys. Sweetness."
Stephen ruffled his dog's ears. "Better than this one. The stout-hearted, most playful pup he was, but gone all to sullenness." The hound leaned into his leg with a reproachful huff. "Now, Bucky, I love you dearly but you are a moody creature." His smile lit his eyes as they met Sam's. "She is a beautiful hunter, not unlike her master. A pity that master is not more skilled," he added, mouth twitching with playfulness.
"Oh really?" Sam looked Stephen over archly, from burnished hair and broad shoulder to strong limbs. "And where is your hare?"
Stephen laughed. "You have no pigeon and I no hare, true, sir."
"Still, I can not count it an ill day's hunting,” Sam said and set himself to enjoy another knight's company, as he had missed these many days past.
They talked together of the hunt, of home and the business of shire and keep until Felys grew restless and the sun recalled them to their separate duties.
“My friends name me Sam,” he offered, extending his hand.
Stephen grasped, palm warm and broad. "Sam and Stephen we are, then. My hunting today is more successful than I had dreamed."
Sam nodded. "I am a finer prize than any hare, to be sure. God be with you, friend Stephen."
"And you." Stephen threw him a soldier's salute and called Bucky to heel, striding back between the trees.
It was fair enough redress for the lack of a bird.
Duke Sir Nicolas the one-eyed, hight Fury, holden him the three-towered keep Triskele. The banner bold from the gate proclaimed argent, an eagle displayed sable, the Ducal arms. To that stronghold rode Sir Samuel, girt about with argent and scarlet, to call upon the dawn-gold knight.
"Hold," called the guardsman at the gate, hand on his bow. "Name yourself."
Sam reined in and slipped off Toly's back just before the gate. "Sir Samuel, Willes' son," he offered. "Come on the invitation of Sir Stephen."
The guardsman relaxed and smiled. "Of course, from near St. Columban's. Stephen told us to watch for you. Cry pardon, I did not mark your blazon. I saw you at tourney last year." He leant against the gate, one eye still keen on the road. "Will you compete again for the Midsummer tournament?"
Sam returned his smile. "I shall, if I can find a fair enough flower to grace me with a favor."
The guard laughed. "Well-spoke. Good morn to you, Sir Samuel. I hope you find your flower, for I do wish to see you joust again."
"I hope to hear your voice shouting in the crowd," Sam agreed. "Your name, if I may have it?"
"They call me the Hawk," the guard replied, patting his bow, "but my name is Barton."
Barton waved him in heartily and returned his full attention to his post, though Sam thought the conversation had not much distracted him from his watch.
Sam led Toly through the yard, full of the business of the keep. A dark-haired woman bearing the keys of the castellan disdained the sheep offered to her by a tenant farmer, offering sharp censure of its appearance and healthfulness. Two children tossed a ball back and forth, sending it into the middle of a cackling mass of chickens, which burst outward in all directions with even greater uproar. They passed the forge and a disheveled man arguing with a patient-looking soldier over the dismembered pieces of a gauntlet. His horse snorted and pulled away as the forge sparked; the smith swore and turned to it, the guardsman just managing to catch the pieces of his gauntlet before they dropped. Sam followed Toly's lead and wended his way from the main yard toward the clack of wood he could hear beneath the other sounds of life.
True to his hope, he found the practice yard.
A bald man squinted against the sun as he clapped out a beat for the drilling soldiers, offering kindly suggestions about both their progress and the lewd things they ought to do with beasts and fowl did their blocking not improve.
"Sitwell has an inventive mind," remarked an amused voice beside him. "Do you mark what he says about Blake and the chickens."
The resulting proposal was both imaginative and vulgar. Sam stifled a laugh and offered his hand to the copper-haired woman, who looked him over, pondering, before accepting it. "Sir Samuel, Willes' son."
"Yes, our pretty captain told me of your meeting." She clasped his hand with a tiny nod. "Mistress of Kennels Natal'ia, of Duke Nicolas' hunt."
"Sir Stephen speaks well of you," Sam told her. "Though unjustly, not a word of your fair face."
"I had rather be marked for my skill," Mistress Natal'ia replied. "The first is God's gift, my own hard work the latter."
"Justly spoke," Sam agreed. "Your pardon, Mistress, for I have not yet had the chance to see your skill and can only speak to the report of my eyes. I hope I may yet bear witness to your work with the hounds and see it the best part of your person."
Mistress Natal'ia smiled. "You are pardoned." She flicked a glance back at the practice yard. "It was Stephen's company you came seeking?"
She whistled sharply and a large, flax-haired youth came running. "Theodred, fetch this good knight to Sir Stephen and dally not by the alchemister's son on your returning."
The boy's cheeks reddened and he nodded sharply. "Yes, Mistress. Sir?"
"One moment." Mistress Natal'ia nodded toward the stableyard behind the drilling men. "Leave your palfrey. He shall do well enough not traipsing around the grounds with you."
Sam released Toly's reins to the tiny stableboy she called over and followed Theodred.
The Knight of the Shield rested he by a coppiced ash a-braiding of a riband gules. Once again gave greeting Sir Samuel to Sir Stephen and offered he his hand. In friendship met they the two knights and together took their ease upon the sward.
Sir Stephen smiled bright as Samuel approached and offered his hand.
"You need not be so shocked," Sam admonished him. "Did I not promise you my company?"
"You did indeed, though I had not hoped to see you so soon." Stephen picked the riband from off his lap and gestured to the patch of earth beneath the tree. "Will you take rest a while beside me? The day is warm."
Sam sat, glad of the shade. He leaned back on his elbows and looked around. Stephen's tree rooted near to the wall and they faced the keep; the sprawling herb garden in front of them split by a path that branched to a well and a door that was like enough to lead to the kitchen or stillroom. Golden-eyed feverfew and the purple buds of lavender wafted a gentle scent their way and Sam was caught by the memory of sweet herbs crushed when Raghallach fell, then put it aside.
Nodding back toward the yard, Sam smiled. "I met your friends, Barton and Mistress Natal'ia.”
“Mistress Natal'ia trains her dogs well; she gave me aid in the gentling of Bucky after we returned." Stephen's brow creased and his eyes dropped.
Sam nodded. "I went a-warring with the king too. It is a hard thing, both the going and the coming. Ten bowmen and a friend I took with me, three bowmen came home with me again and we much hurted in heart and body." He watched Stephen's jaw work for a moment. “They seem steady friends. Barton I told I should fight in the Midsummer tourney were there a flower fair that would grant me favor."
"We have many fair flowers," Stephen agreed with a sigh. His mouth relaxed into solemnity and eyes glinted, returning to their lighter thread. "I should like to see you in the list with a great spray of rue and purple didymus atop your helm."
Sam kicked him, not overhard, but enough to sting. "'Twas not my meaning, as you know well."
Stephen grunted and rubbed his leg, but he laughed too. "Alas! Such cruelty to a friend?"
"Aye, to a friend who stings me so." Sam pulled a whetstone from his pouch and busied his hands sharpening his knife, regarding Stephen archly. "Though I should look goodly fair an' I did wear the blossoms so. What is it you make there?" He nodded at the scrap of cloth caught all forgot in Stephen's hand.
"Just a little thing. A silken band for to decorate a worthy arm." Stephen proffered the riband and Samuel laid his stone and blade aside to catch it up.
The ribands he had been braiding, near the same scarlet as Sam's tunic, made a cord from either side of a careful-stitched square of linen - upon an azure ground, a mullet argent. "A fair token for a fair arm, then," Sam replied.
"So I hope," Stephen said. "I know not shall it be accepted."
"And so, the Fury's shield knows not how to court a maid? Come, unfold your fears to me and give leave that I may advise you." Sam told Stephen, despite the gentle clench of sadness in his stomach. He dropped the band back upon Stephen's knee and clapped him upon the arm. "Have you known her long?"
"You mistake my meaning," Stephen protested. "I had not... I had thought, perhaps, I might give a token of esteem to one of the knights who goes to tourney, that my colors might at least be on the field. My lord has forbade me from the tournament myself."
Sam sat back once more, a laugh escaping in a bark of amusement at Stephen's red-faced stammering, but taking comfort from the words all the same. "I did mistake you quite." He tipped his head to regard Stephen more squarely. "In that case, I may offer help more direct, an' you will take it." He offered his hand. "May I bear your favor, Stephen L'Escu, and be your man upon the field as well as my own?"
Clasping his arm, Stephen smiled as the sun did upon the day about them. "If you would, it is thine, Samuel Willes' son, and in the most worthy hands I could hope for.”
Rode to tourney bold Sir Samuel, bright-armored by the Panther's forge and bearing gladly L'Escu's favor 'pon his arm. Greeted courteously Sir Samuel friends and vassals on his way, who came flocking to his colors. So arrayed him in both dress and manner as most befits a knight.
Midsummer morn dawned cool and clear upon the festive grounds, a balm for travelers and revelers both. Samuel's Fleurete followed well-mannered behind Toly as they made their way between the merchants' stalls that lined the way, hooves light and head tossing for the joy of the festival day and the good humor of the crowd. Samuel breathed in the air, scented of sweet honey and butter from the bakers ovens nearby.
"Well, if my eyes deceive me not, it's Willes' son and his wing-footed mare," a wry voice called from a stall. Sam turned to greet the speaker, a touch of the reins halting Toly as he swung down to embrace her.
"How fares my favorite merchant?" he asked, carefully untangling himself as they parted. Mistress Rambaut's curls loved too well the knight's chain about his neck. "Hast brought some silk ribands for my nieces again? They worry me for more and yours are by far the finest."
“In many and many a color,” Mistress Rambaut said. “Which do they favor this month?”
“A blue like a periwinkle and the softest of reds,” Sam replied, “and golden as a burning coal for the eldest.”
“Mm, she's as dark-complected as I, Sir Samuel. 'Twould look well on her.”
“As she has discovered,” Sam agreed. “I shall stop again this afternoon, if you will set them aside. I would be drawn and quartered should I snag them on mail or befoul them with sweat.” He turned to fetch his purse. “My thanks, marvel among merchants.”
A thoughtful hum from Mistress Rambaut turned him back, coins half-forgot in his hand.
“I see a scrap of azure upon your scarlet sleeve.”
“So you do.” Samuel met her eyes squarely, though he felt the blood warm in his cheeks.
Merciful woman, she turned the talk then to the tourney and to horses she had known as a girl upon the trade-routes, the long-boned Arab mares and small, shaggy steppe-ponies, and Sam agreed that to fly upon the back of a horse in full stride was surely among the best of joys. Trading coin over for the ribands, he left them in Mistress Rambaut's care with her good wishes for the contest and only a little teasing for Fleurete's dancing impatience at Sam's stop.
The market hummed with cheer, as busy as a hive. Townsfolk mixed with travelers and traders, jongleurs and actors, pilgrims and Romani, horse-doctors and craftsmen, the retinue and servants of the noble houses whose knights and soldiers would compete that day. Sir Samuel greeted each familiar face with a nod, a smile, a word.
It was the sight of the archer that first announced to Sam the presence of the Triskele company. Sir Samuel caught upon his gaze and nodded cheerfully, but did not move to interrupt Barton in his conference with a tradesman and a violet-gowned young lady over a horse bow. After Barton, it seemed the whole of Triskele was emptied, for he saw the tall, flax-haired page arm in arm with a slender, dark-haired youth. The stern-faced castellan walked beside a curly-haired woman with red ribands braided in a crown upon her head and a basket full of bottles and bundles of herbs. The tiny stableboy – Miles, Mistress Natal'ia had called him, so likely of Roman descent – climbed a tree after an errant ball, followed by kindly scolding in Spanish from a woman like to be his mother.
By the time he reached the tourney grounds, the crowds hummed with joyous vigor. For the Midsummer tournament, all the nobles, churchmen, townsfolk and peasantry from miles about gathered to share in the spectacle. Sir Samuel tethered Toly and Fleurete beside his tent and greeted Rocelin there checking Sam’s lances for flaws. With the help of his squire, Samuel donned his armor, practiced fingers tugging straps tight and running over buckles as Rocelin fastened them. He twisted and bent to check that all was in place, then nodded thanks and dismissed Rocelin to watch the other bouts.
He clasped one hand over Sir Stephen's favor for a moment. Carrying his helm, and with a breath and head held proud, Sam set his course toward the roaring lists. Fleurete knew her duty and followed eagerly, bearing his shield and lance, light-footed as a doe.
Gilt with radiant sunlight around his head, as fair as Saint Maurice in his shining raiment, rode Sir Samuel unto the lists. Upon the first challenger proved he his lance, upon his second the sword's mettle, armored alike against the foe's buffets in steel and scarlet and azure. For his valor a great cry arose from the crowd.
Panting from the last bout, Sir Samuel doffed his helm and accepted gracefully the flask of water offered by a girl of no more than ten. “My thanks for your kindness, lass.”
“'s nothing, Sir.” She showed him a woven bangle with two silver beads. “All us that helps gets a token for it from the Lady Johanna. I brought water last year and year afore too.”
He admired the bracelet enough for her to preen. It was a kind thought and a welcome service to a weary knight. “Lady Johanna?”
The girl stroked Fleurete's nose as the horse calmed from the pass. “Aye, sir. That lady from the Lowlands, Johanna van Duyne, which wears such lovely gowns.”
He handed back the flask. “Pass along my thanks to the Lady too, then, if you would?” Sam asked. The roaring of the crowds had changed its tenor and Rocelin was waving him over; he was due back in the list.
The girl made quick courtesy and ducked around Fleurete, back toward the water barrel. Sir Samuel touched Stephen's favor quickly, then clapped his helm back upon his head and buckled it tight.
Fleurete tossed her head and tripped back into the list, a cheer greeting them. Samuel's vision, narrowed by his helm, focused upon his opponent. A shield paly wavy sable and gules with a beast upon it argent – a badger – not a knight he had faced before. He cradled his lance easy and light, as the chatter of the crowd swept around him as water shall around a stone.
Sam felt his breath quickening and slowed it apurpose, sucking the air in slow and deep enough to feel his ribs match the breadth of his armor straps. The breaths in time with Fleurete's steps were familiar, like flying beside Raghallach, their horses' hooves beating almost in time, for never was more joy between them than in a race. (The pressure of steel and leather about his chest was familiar, like the tight clench of shock as the arrow flashed past him and into his friend's laughing face.)
“Tch.” Sam tipped his head down for a moment and let his helm rest there against his hauberk. It was true, he rode Fleurete, he was armored, but the day smelt of turf and cooking food from the fair, not the rank sweat of fear and dirt of war. He stood on England's soil, armed for friendly challenge, not death, and there was a glimpse of azure at the corner of his eye. Samuel lifted his head, shook his arms loose with a jingle and clank of armor and couched his lance again, his shield set.
The trumpet sounded, and the badger knight's black stallion rushed forward. Fleurete leapt at the touch of Sir Samuel's heels, racing down the list with pounding hooves. Sam's gaze fixed upon the perfect point, the dip of armor inside the shoulder where his lance would land best. The count of steps between the two horsemen fell into pattern for Sam, like wingbeats in pursuit of his prey. With three more breaths, and two, and one, and there was his lance, grounded in the other knight's shoulder and the great shivering force as the badger's lance shattered upon his shield, bright, raw splinters of wood bursting around the azure token upon his arm. Fleurete tossed her head in ferocious joy as he slowed her hasty steps before the end of the list. Behind them on the ground lay their fallen foe, groaning and alive, but full undone.
A sharp, high, trilling whistle sounded above the roar of his ears and the roar of the crowd and caught Sir Samuel, bringing his head around to the booth wherein he saw Duke Nicolas and his retinue. Sir Stephen whistled again and let out a yell as Sam lifted a hand in recognizance, face full glowing with a joy that lifted Samuel's heart as much as the victory. Sam gave courteous nod to the nobles and crowded spectators and took his leave from the list.
Sir Samuel walked Fleurete toward his tent, soothing and petting the excitement from her, slid then from her back, and dropped lance and shield onto their rack. Rocelin he waved away.
“No, go spend your time at the stalls. I shall tend myself and Fleurete.” Sam shed his gauntlets, then unbuckled his helm and pulled helm and coif from his head to breathe free. Laid he these upon the board and with clean cloth wiped the sweat from off his face and hands. Set he to uncaparisoning Fleurete, praising her and currying the sweat from off her cheeks and forehead after he removed her steel champron.
“May I help?” There, all mildness, stood Sir Stephen, eyes alight and fixed upon him.
Sam nodded. “Will you tend her, that I might unharness myself?”
“If she allows it.”
Stroking Fleurete's forelock, Sam whispered to her of friendship and of the calm after battle, then reached unlooking for Stephen's hand. He gave it to him without hesitation and Sam pulled him close in to present it to Fleurete's muzzle, who sniffed and snorted, then pushed into their linked hands.
“You are acceptable,” Sam laughed.
Stephen's breath cooled the sweat-damp of Sam's throat for just a moment before he stepped around Samuel, taking the comb from him to tend to Fleurete. “You showed well on the lists. Barton had told me your skill, but your final bout was a thing of beauty.”
Sam stripped his surcoat off to hang upon its peg, carefully untangling and setting aside the azure and scarlet favor. The gorget and hauberk followed discarded upon the board. He set to undoing the ties of his mail, but his gaze was distracted by Sir Stephen in festival finery, shoulders moving under the azure cloth as he worked the comb to Fleurete's pleasure. “You laud me overmuch. It was a blow well-placed and nothing more,” Sam replied.
“In truth, I do not. I could not hope for a more fitting man to bear my badge,” Stephen said earnestly. “Never before wanted I to lend it or give it to another knight.”
Sam freed himself from the last of his armor and set it in its place. “And were you not making the thing to give any good knight that you might be in spirit on the field?” He stripped away the sweat-mired gambeson and the linen shirt beneath.
Stephen patted Fleurete and turned back to catch Samuel's gaze. His color high, Stephen dropped his head in not a nod, but a surrender, mouth rueful. Then, shrugging, he looked up at Sam. “I made it for you alone.”
“Having met me once and spoken for not an hour?” Sam asked, beckoning him into the closeness of his tent. Sam's blood warmed from sun's-glow to fire as he reached again for Stephen's colors, wrapping the riband about his arm and offering it.
Stephen's hands soft took his wrist and knotted the riband thereto. “Even so.”
“Even so did I wish to honor you by my sword and lance.” With one hand Sam caught Stephen's nape, and the other he traced firm over the line of Stephen's throat.
A rough noise broke from Stephen and that sound caught Samuel into his mouth with Stephen's breath, and returned to him joy and the flame in his blood, feeding him the clash of the joust and delight of Fleurete's dancing ferocity. Around him closed Stephen's arms, hands gliding over still-damp skin and Sam felt him shudder from every point they touched. With teeth and tongue expressed Sam his regard for Stephen. In return, Stephen tasted him, drew sure and admiring fingers over the wings of his shoulders. Broke Sam free to breathe, face aching in a smile and heart pounding like wingbeats once again.
“I am,” Stephen said, laughing full joyous upon Sam's shoulder, “most greatly honored.”
All Marvel characters as included by appearance or repute:
Sam Wilson/Samuel Willes' son, knight
Bucky Barnes/Bucky, hound (sorry, Bucky)
Steve Rogers/Stephen L'Escu (the Shield), knight
Nick Fury/Nicolas "Fury", Duke of Triskele
Natasha Romanoff/Natal'ia Romanova, Russian huntmistress
Clint Barton/Barton "the Hawk", soldier
Maria Hill/Maria, chatelaine of Triskele
Tony Stark/Anthonius, Italian blacksmith
James Rhodes/James atte Rode, soldier
Jasper Sitwell/Sitwell, sergeant at arms
Teddy Altman/Theodred, page
Wanda Maximoff/Waniuta, Romani alchemister (archaic form of “alchemist”)
Billy Kaplan/Wilam, Romani alchemister's son & apprentice
Miles Morales/Miles, stableboy
Rio Morales/Rima, midwife
T'Challa of Wakanda/"the Panther", blacksmith
Monica Rambeau/Dominica Rambaut, merchant
Kate Bishop/Katherine, Lady niece to the Bishop of York
Janet Van Dyne/Johanna van Duyne, Dutch Lady
Simon Roscoe/Rocelin, squire
Brock Rumlow/“the Badger”, knight
Riley/Raghallach, Irish hobelar
Rumlow now owes Sam either his horse and equipment or a ransom worth as much, so Sam gets money AND kisses.
This is the longest thing I've ever written, holy crap.
I can explain any words that are not obvious from context - if you see any, ask.
Monica Rambeau, as a merchant, has traveled from Norman France to Northern Africa to Asia and allll around Europe.
A "hobelar" is a special kind of Irish light cavalry.
According to medieval bestiaries, hawks are known for being small and courageous, the panther is a gentle beast whose only enemy is the dragon, and badgers are dirty and bitey.
Fleurete’s name comes from fleureter - to talk sweet nonsense.
All the re-namings are properly medieval - dated back to the 14c. at least - thanks to the Academy of St Gabriel (www.s-gabriel.org/).
Shout-out to MedievalPOC.tumblr.com for being awesome and unknowingly helping me fit these characters into 14th c. England.
Shout-out to the creator and maintainers of the Online Etymology Dictionary (www.etymonline.com) for teaching me which words hadn't been invented yet.