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Chateau de Lusignan

Chapter Text

March

Summary:  French and English are separated by more than just a few miles of water.  But sometimes, bridges can be built.

Disclaimer:  Not mine, Shakespeare's and Renaissance Films'.  Not making any money out of this.

Slight AU.

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Travelling on royal progress down from Paris to the English duchy of the Aquitaine, Henry and his retinue planned to halt for several nights at the Chateau de Lusignan.  Late one afternoon they rode up through well-tended fields and vineyards towards the white castle on its hill; Henry liked the ordered and productive landscape, and his soldier's eye approved the grazing flocks keeping the outworks clear of any cover.

Montjoy moved up through the line of riders as they approached the chateau, and drew abreast of Henry as they passed the elegant stone waymarker at the crossroads.  A montjoie.  Henry reached out casually and just touched it with his fingers.  They exchanged a small, private smile, and then the Herald went ahead to make the formal announcement of their arrival.  They rode in past tower after tower, gate after gate, outer bailey, inner bailey, courtyard, and weary after the long, cold day's journey Henry looked forward to a decent meal, a fire, and the chance to climb into bed with the flesh-and-blood Montjoy again.

So he was irritated when, instead of the short, simple meal which he would have preferred and when in his own house insisted upon, they were treated to an elaborate banquet and a display of jousting in the Great Hall.  The theme was the Chateau's guardian spirit, the faery Melusine who, spied on by her mistrustful husband, a long-ago Lord of Lusignan, had changed herself into a dragon and fled her home forever.  Four knights, sworn to uphold her honour, fought a succession of challengers, and Henry looked on in frank disbelief at the sheer extravagance of the spectacle.  He'd seen peasants in the fields wearing ragged clothes in the biting March winds, noticed the profusion of vineyards rather than food crops, knew something of the taxes the people had to pay to their lord and the money was spent on this kind of thing?

Montjoy was avoiding his eye.  Seated halfway down the hall, he was watching the proceedings with professional interest, conversing with the lesser ladies and the officials of the household with his usual sangfroid.  Henry, up on the dais with the nobility, restricted himself to short, polite comments about the jousters' technique.  Shouts echoed round the chamber; when the spectators began to chant the contestants' names Henry slouched down slightly in his chair.  Eventually the entertainment came to a close, with enthusiastic applause from almost all of its audience and Melusine's honour safely vindicated.  Henry, thinking that the outcome could hardly be otherwise considering that half the local nobility claimed descent from the lady, took himself off to his quarters.

After a decent interval Montjoy appeared at his door and they embraced with simple enthusiasm.  Montjoy pulled back slightly in his arms and cast an experienced eye over his young soldier-king, twitchy with the annoyance he'd been suppressing all evening, and said, ‘It gives them something to do.'

‘I can find plenty of work for them if they're bored.'

‘But they like the chance to show off in front of their girls, and they can't do that fighting on the border.'

Sometimes Henry felt like the complete barbarian king, and this was one of those times because he knew full well that the defence of the realm was more important than the chance to preen and posture in front of an admiring audience.  He had, not for the first time, an insight into how he'd won his victories in France. 

They'd been through this a time or two since they'd become lovers, the Herald at home as ever in the world of words and Henry talkative as he sometimes was when the fit took him:  how, why didn't, if they'd... Montjoy had looked at him in surprise and said, ‘It wasn't in us.  We didn't think like that.  We'd thrown away the chance to unite under King Charles.  In the end we only had two choices left, you or John of Burgundy.'

Henry, who had had repeated offers from both the royalists and the Burgundians, knew that well enough, but was surprised that Montjoy, loyal as he was to King Charles and to France, could see things so dispassionately.

‘So I was preferable to John the Fearless?'  A sidelong smile.

‘To some of us, yes.  To Queen Katherine, certainly.'  Henry had winced at the thought of his sweet lass married off to the Duke.  ‘And to me, you always were.'

‘Always?'

‘Yes.'  And the conversation had ceased for a while, lost in kisses.

But it wasn't until Katherine had died, with the treaty still holding and the new Duke of Burgundy and all France's enemies (all her other enemies, as Henry, ever the realist, admitted to himself) held at bay, that they'd finally acted on or even spoken of that ‘always':  which had been an ‘always' for Henry too, though carefully not thought about.

And now here they were, French Herald and English King, alone in Henry's bedroom on a cold March night in the middle of France.  And there was his bed, and his French lover in it, lying propped up on one elbow and regarding his fidgety king with an annoyingly tolerant eye and a half-smile that held promises; and that was surely a matter for celebration.

Chapter Text

A/Ns : Nicholas Flamel, the philosopher of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was living in Paris in Henry's lifetime; hence this fic.

Thanks as always to my beta, theficklepickle.

Harry Plantagenet and the Dragon of Lusignan

On their second day at the Chateau de Lusignan, they woke late in a warm cave hung with scarlet and gold. Beyond the bed-curtains someone was putting another log on the fire; someone else was quietly opening the shutters. From the courtyard and the approaches to the castle came the sounds of the day beginning, the noises of sheep and poultry and water being drawn, the bark of a dog and voices carrying clearly in the cold air.

Henry went about the day's business in a more tolerant frame of mind. Perhaps his thoughts on the feast had been divined, because there was no repetition of last night's extravagances. A day being shown the defences was much more in his style, and at least the roads and bridges were in good repair. At the day's end they rode up past the walls of the vineyards, to that tall, elegant montjoie, the waymarker at the crossroads, and then up through the pastures to the gates of the Chateau de Lusignan.

The meal that night was a less glittering occasion, though every now and then there was mention of the legend of Melusine; the lady seemed inescapable. As were his duties as overlord; that night in their chamber Montjoy presented him with a list of petitions for his attention on the morrow. He looked at them with the best air of impartiality he could muster, and then put the matter from his mind, climbing into his nightshirt while Montjoy blew out the candles.

This quiet familiarity was something that had never ceased to content him; lying in bed, watching the tall figure make its way around the room, he was smiling to himself. Never did he sleep so soundly as when Montjoy was at his side. Montjoy, turning, saw his smile and returned it. Henry wordlessly held out one arm and Montjoy came to him.

'Better?' enquired Montjoy.

'I am now,' said Henry, settling back against the pillows with his beloved in the crook of his arm, 'I was not in the best of tempers last night.'

'They've had their banquet, and it'll be a year or more before the next one,' said Montjoy tolerantly.

'But the money goes out of the neighbourhood, and that's poor management,' and Henry felt some of last night's irritation return.

'It only happens once a year, and it's been going on since time out of mind. They're very proud of their Melusine, the peasants as well as the nobles. It helps to bind them together.'

That at least Henry could understand, though he could not admit to it. 'Maybe.' He watched the flames sinking low in the fireplace. It was not quite as cold as last night, but he kept his arm close about his bedfellow. Montjoy was so thin that Henry privately worried about him in winter, made sure that his clothes were all of the finest quality, English wool and furs from Scandinavia; but the long body was comfortably relaxed against him now. His gaze roamed idly past the open curtains at the foot of the bed, drawn back to allow the fire's warmth to reach them, and his eye fell on the night-lamp, which Montjoy had left burning. It was of antique work, very fine, and it was made, inevitability, in the shape of a dragon. Nodding at it, he said, 'She was a formidable lady, was she not?'

'A water-faery and a cold-dragon, but she was a great builder in stone as well. Many a castle and town she raised for her lord, until he drove her away with his mistrust. She would have made a worthy opponent even for you.'

'Hmm,' murmured Henry, and they lapsed into silence while the fire burned yet lower; and softly they slid into sleep.

And Henry dreamed, and the next night, after many tedious conversations with this lordling or that, who surely should be able to resolve their differences more efficiently, he found himself once more in bed with his best-beloved, who had managed the day's business with a patience and tact that he could only admire. Henry's dream had stayed with him throughout the day's trials, resolving itself into a tale of romance and magic; and now he enquired of his bedfellow, 'Shall I tell you the story of how montjoies came to be made of stone?'

Montjoy gave him a quizzical look, but smiled and settled back against the pillows. 'Tell me, then.' His voice was all amused indulgence.

Henry looked out past the foot of the bed to the fire burning low on the hearth. He remembered how he had once spun a story of a merchant's son, on a cold evening before a battle, sitting by a small camp-fire. That tale had not had the result he had hoped for, but perhaps this time he would be luckier; perhaps he could ask the question which had been in his mind for a while.

'Once upon a time,' he began, 'there was a fortress on a hill, with white walls and blue roofs, and in it there lived a great lord and his lady. They were happy together, and they and their ten sons were loved by their people, and all their lands were prosperous.

'But sorrow came upon them. For when they were wed, the Lady Melusine had made Lord Raymond swear that, for one day in every week, he would make no attempt to look upon her. Through many long years he kept his word, but one day his curiosity got the better of him, and he spied on his faery wife on the forbidden day, and discovered that she had transformed into a mermaid.

'But she was aware of him, and gave a cry of outrage at his treachery, and in a moment changed into a dragon of frosty-gold. Flying out of the window of her room, she circled the tallest tower of the castle and then vanished.'

'I may have heard this tale before,' remarked Montjoy, 'and quite recently, too.'

'Not from me,' said Henry, 'and not like this. Hush, now.

'Melusine, by her magic, had built castles and cities for her lord across all his dominions, but now that strength was turned against him. She put forth her power as a water-faery, and the land was inundated by the rising floods. Lord Raymond and his people departed the Chateau de Lusignan, and only a few peasants were left to scratch a living on the hill-tops. She took up residence in the deserted castle, and many wise men and many brave knights came to challenge her, but she defeated every one of them.

'It so happened that a wandering knight, Sir Harry Plantagenet by name -'

'Ah! Of course that was his name!'

' - and his scholar friend Montjoie,' said Henry, a little more loudly, 'heard of the desperate plight of the land, and they came to try their luck at lifting the faery's curse. By paths and tracks in high places they rode above the flood-waters, and came at last to the Chateau de Lusignan on its hill. An old ploughman, Piers he was called,' and here Montjoy made an incredulous noise, 'Hush... warned them against going any further, for the cold-dragon had defeated her challengers time and again; but the friends were determined to go on.'

'You mean, Sir Harry was determined to go on, and Montjoie knew it was useless to try to stop him.' Montjoy becoming interested in the story, no question about it. Henry smiled a little to himself, and continued.

'Now Sir Harry was a warlike man, but Montjoie was for peace above all things - no-one knows how they came to be such good friends - and when they came in sight of the castle and saw the cold-dragon curled round the roof of the tallest tower, he said that he would ride forward alone, to appeal to her and entreat her mercy for the land and its people. For it was her lord, not they, who had betrayed her. And though Sir Harry was uneasy at this, he could not gainsay his gentle friend, and let him carry out his plan.

'But barely had Montjoie reached the crossroads and called out to the dragon, asking for parley, than she slid off the roof and flew straight at him, and breathed a cold blast upon him, and turned him to stone! And now it was a waymarker that stood tall and graceful at the crossroads, carved and fretted and made of cold, cold stone.

'Now Sir Harry was outraged at this attack upon his defenceless friend, and to his own surprise the blood of Merlin the enchanter, and Taliesin, mighty bard and shape-changer, rose up in him - for he was Welsh, you know - '

'Born in Wales doesn't mean that he had Welsh blood in him,' the herald pointed out, as Henry had known he would.

'Welsh,' repeated Henry firmly. 'And he sprang up from his horse in the shape of a dragon himself, a creature all of air and fire. And this dragon was red - being Welsh - and high above the castle he fought the cold-dragon, and singed her wing, but his own wing was caught a little in Melusine's blast, and turned heavy and cold.

'They tumbled to the ground below the castle walls. Here the red dragon found his heavy wing and long tail a burden, and once more he transformed himself, into a lion this time. The cunning Melusine, perhaps hampered by her own injured wing, became a most beautiful half-naked siren, with a golden crown. Fortunately Sir Harry was virtuous, and unmoved by this sight,' and there was a snort of laughter from the man at his side, 'but the lion, being a chivalric beast, could not attack her. Seeing her advantage, she treacherously drew a sword, but the lion became a swan and flew away; the lady grew wings and pursued him, and he transformed into a swift antelope and doubled back beneath her. But Melusine changed once more, into a serpent in his path, and struck out at him. In haste he became a beacon of fire, which no serpent could harm.'

'You've forgotten the plants - the woodstock and the rose,' said Montjoy, who had been following this litany of Henry's heraldic devices with close attention. 'And what about the leek, since Sir Harry was Welsh?'

Henry had completely forgotten about the leek, but: 'It wasn't St David's day,' he said, with great aplomb. 'As for the rest: patience... Instantly Melusine responded, thinking to rid herself of this troublesome knight, by taking the form of a fountain, with which she hoped to extinguish him. But with one last effort, he shifted shape again, back into the form of the red dragon, and with a great blast of golden fire, he turned the fountain into a cloud of vapour.

'It drifted away upon the wind. There was no sound but the lapping of the flood-waters. The Dragon of Lusignan was defeated. Sir Harry craned his head round, and caught sight of the montjoie at the crossroads, that had once been his friend. He let go his dragon-form, and made his way down through the sheep-runs and past the vineyard walls. At the foot of the montjoie he cried out his distress, but it remained still and cold and stony under his touch. Not even his tears brought it back to life.' He paused, but Montjoy was silent and thoughtful.

'Turning away in grief and despair, he caught sight of the horses tethered to a tree-stump,' and here Montjoy smiled a little, 'and remembered the long journey they had made together from Paris. Remembered too that Montjoie had had a mentor there, a most wise philosopher, one Nicholas Flamel; and hope sprang up in his heart. Surely this learned man would be able to help?

'So he gave the horses into the care of Piers the Ploughman, and set his face towards Paris, and once more spread wide his dragon-wings, and flew, like a fierce tempest, towards that city.

'He found the aged philosopher there, studying in a walled garden, and taking on his form as a man again he stood before him and begged his aid.

'The scholar listened to his story, and heard with horror of the fate which had befallen his pupil, and straight away went into his house to fetch a book. It was bound with brass, and the pages seemed to be made out of birch-bark. He turned to the fifth page, and pointed to a picture of a fair rose-tree, covered in rich red blooms.

'"Tell me, Sir Harry, do you love your friend?"

'"Why, most truly," responded the knight, though he had not realised it before.' Montjoy was listening intently now.

'"Then show him a token of your love, and all will be well," said Nicholas, and made as if to pluck a rose from the tree in the book, and it was real, and he gave it to Sir Harry. Who, with many protestations of gratitude, took it into his hand, and leapt lightly into the air in dragon-form again, and sped back to Lusignan.

'There below him, the flood-waters still spread across the land, and the montjoie stood tall and graceful upon their brink. Sir Harry's heart wept to see his friend thus, but he took courage at the sight of the red rose in his dragon-claw, and he alighted before the montjoie and took on his own form again.

'Then he laid the red rose in a niche in the side of the montjoie, and kissed the cold stone, and whispered "Come back to me, beloved," and the stone warmed under his outspread hands, and lived, and was his friend again! There at the edge of the waters they stood, each holding the other close in his arms, and they laughed and wept and kissed under the open sky.

'Later that day, they found two golden rings and a golden key in the tower room that had been Melusine's. Sir Harry was for taking them as booty, but Montjoie, who was many times wiser than his friend, insisted that they be blessed by the village priest first. When the key was blessed, the flood-waters drained away and ran back into the ground, and all the land was restored, and the two friends took the golden rings and wore them always thereafter.'

Here Henry paused in his tale. He drew a deep breath, and felt about on the chest that stood beside the bed, taking up a little case, of carved ivory inlaid with mother-of-pearl, that he had carried round with him for a while. He opened it, and took out two golden rings that lay inside; clasped Montjoy's hand in his own, and looked into his eyes deeply and questioningly for a moment. In the light of the dragon-lamp he saw an arrested expression on Montjoy's face, and then a solemn nod; so, almost formally, he slid one of the rings onto his finger, before giving him the other one. He could not speak at all, but Montjoy did the same for him, with hands that trembled slightly. At last Henry smiled. This time his story had succeeded in its purpose.

They lay there quietly for while, content, their hands clasped in a knot.

'Well,' continued Henry after a silence, 'Sir Harry took the red rose as his emblem, and all waymarkers in the land were known as montjoies thereafter. But the transformation back had not been quite complete. For a clumsy dragon's claw is not best suited for holding a flower as delicate as a rose, and a few petals had been lost in that swift flight from Paris. And so it happened that there was a part of Montjoie that would, on occasion, turn back into stone. But Sir Harry was resourceful, and he found another way to take the spell off.' Here Henry's hand slid slowly down Montjoy's flank, smiling, he kissed him.

It was a while before Montjoy commented, 'That's making it worse, not better.'

'Should I stop?' enquired Henry, drawing back a little way; but the hand stayed where it was.

'No!'

Which was as close to a demand as Henry had ever heard him make. And mindful of this instruction, and well satisfied at ruffling his calm, which even dragons could scarce disturb (unless it be a Welsh dragon, of course) Henry proceeded to work his own particular magic upon his bedfellow.

FIN