“Lord Dallas, would it be possible to speak with thee for a moment?”
Conor had just stepped out of a long meeting with The Duke of Panthers, the most powerful local Sidhe of the Summer Court in North Texas. They had been discussing various things, including the nature of "debt" between the local Fae Courts. He and his personal assistant (or ‘valet’ depending on one’s particular preferences) were getting ready to leave the Ducal Nevernever Palace when an attractive young Sidhe came up to him.
The speaker was The Lady Kenna, daughter of The Duke, who would be turning eighteen in a few days. The preparations for her party were occupying the days of most of the Fae of the Summer Court for the past few days.
“Of course my Lady, I’ve a few mortal hours to spare if you need them; though I must return to my own duties by nightfall. Shall we adjourn to the solar?”
“I should like it of all things.”
Conor towered over the young Sidhe as he walked down the long corridor. There were Fae of all sorts scurrying or flying about hanging up decorative flowers. Behind them walked Mell, Kenna’s Lady-in-Waiting and Roxie.
“May I ask what you were speaking with my father regarding?”
“Of course you may, though I’ll not give specific details as it pertained to your gift.” He smiled.
She giggled prettily, “Oh I see. Very well, I shall not pry further on that topic.”
The continued down the hallway towards their goal for a few more steps before she spoke again, “Lord Dallas, have you yet met with the Herald to see to your Arms?”
Conor looked perplexed for a moment, “My heraldry you mean? As in a Coat of Arms?”
“Why of course! It must be so exciting to be newly ennobled, to receive arms and a fief and all the things of that kind!” Her face seemed aglow with excitement.
He chuckled, “In truth My Lady I hadn’t given it any thought at all.” He opened the door to the Solar and held it open for the other three Fae to enter.
They entered and the Solar’s attendants saw to their refreshments. The room faced the Great Rose Garden of the Ducal Palace, the personal playground of The Duchess and her Courtly attendants.
While they waited, Lady Kenna continued. “As I was saying, that is surprising! As a newly ennobled Changeling you get to pick your own colours and blazon, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself with so many things to choose from!”
“My Lady, if this would bring you joy, I would be glad to leave the matter to yourself.” He bowed as deeply as reasonable for one who was seated, sweeping his right arm like a courtier.
“Oh I would love it! I have so many ideas. Would you like to hear them?” She was nearly bouncing in her chair with energy.
“My Lady, I leave it entirely to you. Your knowledge of such things an’ good taste are so far beyond my own that I trust you in this completely.” He smiled and, partially to show his amusement but also to subtly hint that he really didn’t care one way or another.
She seemed deep in thought, twirling a lock of her red hair between her fingertips and chewing on the ends. A small cough from her Lady-in-Waiting caused her to notice was she was doing and stop. “I shall think on it Lord Dallas, this will be great fun!”
“Happy to bring you joy. Now my Lady, what was it you needed to speak with me about? Was the Heraldry all?”
Instantly her smile vanished and she appeared to consider her next words. “No, there was another matter, but I don’t know how precisely to broach the topic.”
The attendants brought the requested refreshments, when they had gone back to their prior duties (tending to the party decorations) Conor spoke.
“I’ve always preferred direct action my Lady. Never mind the maneuvers, just head right at it – frontal attack.” He chuckled, remembering the many times he’d said something to that effect while his compatriots were plotting and scheming something.
The Lady of the West giggled, her face regaining some of its previous mirth. “Yes, such I have heard about Lord Dallas.”
Then, after a pause she continued.
“Very well; in a few days, I shall no longer be considered a child by all save my father.”
“I shall also be expected to become involved in the various schemes and politics of the Court… which in truth I have no idea what to do.”
He grinned, “That makes two of us my Lady. You’ll find your way, it’s in your nature to do well I should expect.”
“Perhaps… however, I find that I have few allies within the court from which I can get useful truth.” She actually pouted.
Conor’s brows knit, “What determines ‘useful truth’ my Lady? Lies are difficult for full Fae, and there are few undecided Changelings like myself in the Ducal Household.”
“Oh Lord Dallas, you’re well aware as I am that among our kind… truth is used as a weapon well as any lie.” She was still pouting.
He nodded; there was nothing to say to that. Fae couldn’t directly lie, but they could tell convoluted truths that might as well have been lies. It was a species specialty.
“Lord Dallas, may I impose upon you a charge? I know that technically you served my father, but if you would accept it I would be so delighted.”
Conor’s heart dropped to somewhere around his stomach. Accepting Geas and charges from Fae was a fast track to misery most of the time.
“I should like to hear the charge my Lady before I make any sort of answer.”
“Oh of course, that’s reasonable. Lord Dallas, will you always speak to me in your refreshingly direct manner? Frank and open opinions are as rare as shadow here. Too often I ask questions and get carefully crafted and gilded responses that are completely of no use.”
He couldn’t help but laugh, “So long as I can always simply choose to not answer I might be willing to accept such a charge.”
“Of course you could.”
“My Lady, why me?”
She looked thoughtful, “I am not sure. As a Changeling you can still lie and do things contrary to what you say… but I do not think you would do such things unless you felt there was a reason to do so.”
“It’s a strange paradox Lord Dallas, but in a way, you, who can still lie and break your oaths as you see fit, strikes me as the more honest knight because you choose to not do so.” She seemed to be looking for a word. “A black knight, as it were.”
Conor’s expression must have truly been interesting because Kenna immediately covered her mouth with both hands.
“Oh Lord Dallas! I hope I didn’t just offend! I did not mean to imply that you were a deceitful blackguard knight or a liar!”
He chuckled. “Calm yourself my Lady, I took no offense. I believe I know what you meant to say.”
“I will not accept your charge my lady, as I would not willingly give up a freedom by command or geas…” She looked crestfallen
“… but I will give you my word that I shall do precisely as you request whenever I am able.”
She cheered up immediately.
He grinned, “My Lady, I’ve been called a blackguard, a rake, a rapscallion an’ worse. When I can, I will always give you my frank an’ honest opinion if asked. So yes, you may rely upon me as your, em, black knight. I must say, black knight is a new one.”
“Very well, so my first question …”
She paused because Conor held up his hand. “My Lady, please. I would love to answer your first question, but please understand. The frank an’ honest opinion of myself, given when there are so many ears nearby… my words could be used against me, my friends, or my interests.”
Kenna looked around at all the attendant Fae, almost as if seeing them for the first time.
“My Lady, I must beg to be excused now. You’ve a party to prepare for an’ I should be off myself.”
She looked slightly disappointed. “Of course Lord Dallas, of course… I shall look forward to our first conversation after I’ve a bit more freedom.”
Conor stood and bowed, “As will I my Lady; until we meet again, at your Blooming Day celebration if not sooner.”
She stood and nodded regally, “Until then your Lordship… my very own black knight.”