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A Knight to Remember

October 4, 5005 6:00 PM

March 01, 2005, 3:01 PM

Backstory: It is rare indeed for a commoner to receive the privilege of knighthood these days, although it was not unheard of during the Emperor Wars. It is rarer still for a candidate to present himself to receive this accolade while still mending from grievous wounds that would leave most men the guest of honor at a funeral rather than a knighting ceremony.

A few weeks earlier, the Hazat Dervish Santiago Sangre Mano Roja took part in a pitched battle against demonic entities that had slain two Brother Battle auxiliaries guarding the Four Gargoyles Bridge. Santiago was cut down by the fiends, and would have died but for the timely intervention of an Amalthean.

Though snatched from the brink of death, he has a long way to go before he is fully recovered from his injuries...

[Vargo] Audience Chamber, Municipal Palace
The seat of secular authority on Vargo is suitably impressive to the eye, with graceful tuscan columns and a floor of pristine white marble that bears a mirrored polish. This long chamber extends a considerable distance to the north, a crimson carpet leading away across the floor to draw one's eye to the throne-like chair that resides atop a dais against the northern wall. Mounted above it is a massive relief sculpture in bronze, depicting the stylized Trident symbol of the Vargen Triumvirate.

Graceful crystal chandeliers hang from the vaulted ceiling by slender golden chains, blazing with electric light to illuminate the chamber with a pleasant warmth. The western windows afford a splendid view of Vargo Square and the city, while those to the east look out upon the Little River and Eastbridge. Beneath the windows are comfortable divans for less formal interviews.

Beyond the windows it's clear, cool, and windy.

The audience chamber, seat of the noble Triumvir's authority (both figuratively and literally), has been appropriated by the Hazat for this occasion. An honor guard of Hazat legionnaires line the central aisle, their ceremonial regalia polished to mirror brightness and crimson surcoats crisp and spotless. Each soldier holds a pole-arm at one side, the keen edge of the blade gleaming under the lights of the hall. All told, a proud display worthy of the martial spirit for which the Hazat are known.

At the head of the aisle, before the throne, stands Duke Alvaro himself. His expression is stern, carved from dusky stone. Dark eyes gaze out levelly upon the scene, offering little clue to what thoughts might lurk behind them.

To one side of the audience chamber, with the other members of the nobility, stands Lady Isabel with both hands clasped in front of her loosely before taking an discreet observation of the legionnaires standing at attention. Attired formally in a gown befitting her station rather than the military uniforms favored by many of the Hazat, she seems to be calm and unflustered by the proceedings of the evening. One might even say a faint smile might be hidden, somewhere.

Arie is standing in the front ranks, something that would likely be a prerequisite for her being able to see anything given her height, but secured by the rank displayed on her dress uniform. She is tense, anticipatory, her fingers fiddling with the hem of her trousers as she stands and watches.

[Santiago tests his Endurance + Stoicbody,
rolling 20 against a goal of 8.]
[Critical Failure!]

Pascual, a mere herald by trade, revels in occasions such as this. After all, it is for times such as these that heralds exist. Thus, he is all puffed up with pride, ready to perform his duties as prescribed. He seems a bit flustered as an aide hastens to his side, leaning in close to murmur something. A flicker of consternation is evident on the herald's features as he whispers something in reply, his words unintelligible but his tone conveying a certain edge. The aide hurries off, and Pascual clears his throat. "My Lords and Ladies, gentle folk and peers of the realm," he calls out with just a trace of uncertainty. "Armsman Santiago Sangre Mano Roja, retainer to His Grace, Duke Alvaro."

Santiago appears at the door... Though rather than the blast of martial music there should be the distant strains of an organ, for surely had he been raised from the dead to attend this ceremony he could look no worse. Resplendent in his rust-red dress uniform, the Dervishi armsman should strike a pose that would wring sighs from the lips of women and respectful glints from the eyes of men, but now surely only gasps can answer him. His complexion is a ghastly olive-pale, as though there is little blood or strength left in him, his right arm strapped tightly to his side underneath a uniform jacket that, here and there is dotted about the shoulder with damp stains seemingly slightly more persistent than can be explained by the water dripping down his face - perhaps it was raining...? He remains at the door for the longest moment, his slow-moving left hand gripping it until the knuckles turn white, before he finds the means to lift his seemingly leaden feet and start the long progression down the aisle towards the Duke... At this rate, they're going to need to commission a new run of oak-leaf clusters for him to keep track of his wound awards.

At the head of the aisle, Alvaro's eyes narrow slightly as he takes in the bedraggled sight the poor Dervish presents. Perhaps, indeed, a wake would be more appropriate than whatever festivities he has planned for today. Of course, for all one knows, a funeral might be in order once the Duke is done with Santiago this fine evening. As the armsman makes his torturous way up the aisle, the legionnaires begin the rap the butts of their halberds on the floor in unison, the sound echoing through the chamber. Perhaps this gesture is a martial tribute of some sort in Santiago's honor. On the other hand, maybe they are just providing a rhythm so that he has something to concentrate on, in an effort to his feet moving forward. The Duke, for his part, waits patiently for the Dervish to reach him.

Hopefully, Santiago -can- endure the rest of this evening without incident. That's for foremost thought in Isabel's mind as she catches the appearance of Arie in her new uniform not too far away, after scrutinizing the Deverish's appearance even more. Hrm. Pulling her lips into a thin line, there's no mistaking a touch of concern for his well-being. On the other hand, there's nothing that she could do in assisting. No, this is something that he has to endure on his own. But does she know 'for what', exactly?

Arie looks... yep, a whole lot more anxious upon seeing Santiago's state, her eyes widening in shock as she watches him walk, stagger? Up towards the Duke.

Micheal stands impassive near the front of the room, as his rank dictates. His dress uniform is a bit uncomfortable, but given the circumstances, necessary. Given the wounds that Santiago suffered, he is lucky to be standing, let alone walking. But this is something he will have to do by himself, without help from anyone.

The herald, Pascual, frowns slightly as he watches Santiago make his entrance. Why, how dare that upstart Dervish spoil the herald's time in the spotlight, by bleeding on such a day as this? Pascual jumps slightly as the legionnaires begin their cadence, but composes himself and lifts his voice again: "Your Grace, the armsman Santiago Sangre Mano Roja has presented himself per your request." He casts a slightly peevish glance at the Dervish.

Santiago fixes eyes that don't really seem to be focussed upon the end of the line of men and the seat of the Ducal throne, one footstep following another at a rate of roughly one pace to every three halberd-beats. By the time he's passed the first couple of men sweat has replaced water upon his brow, at seven or eight men there's a faint spatter of crimson droplets from his right sleeve... But even so, the distance is crossed despite the almost tangible wall of sound and presence before him, until at last he can drop to his knees at the foot of the throne, nothing of grace or control in the descent. The pain of striking the floor seems to bring his head up for a moment, enough at least to mouth a greeting lost in the peel of trumpets even if it was intelligible to begin with.

[Santiago tests his Endurance + Stoicbody,
rolling 20 against a goal of 8.]
[Critical Failure!]

As the trumpets sound, the legionnaires' pole-arms return to stillness. Once the last note of the horns fades from the hall, Alvaro eyes the wavering armsman with growing concern. Perhaps this idea was a little premature after all. However, it's too late to go back now, with the eyes of Vargo's most important inhabitants watching so closely. "Santiago Sangre Mano Roja," the Duke intones, his voice resounding across the hall. "You are here today to answer for your actions. Time and again, you have assumed duties and responsibilities rightfully belonging to the nobility..." He hesitates a mere moment as he watches Santiago sway. "We of noble blood, as voluntary martyrs, place our bodies and souls at risk for the safety of the Pancreator's children, placed under our care according to His will. As you have seen fit to presume yourself worthy of this privilege, and the responsibilities it entails, I have no choice but to correct this untenable situation."

Where Isabel was clasping both hands in front of her, they soon slide up to folding both arms against herself in what might pass for a hug. Nevertheless, it's a simple fold as a very apparent frown crosses her features as she watches the armsman's approach towards the front. For a few moments, she's actively listening to the proclamation before her brown eyes slide towards Arie. Just to gauge her reactions and possible impulses. She can already imagine what's going through the young woman's mind.

Arie is... standing there yes, her attention locked on Santiago, and looking absolutely horrified and appalled, the fiddling of her fingers stopped, as she seems almost frozen in place.

Micheal is standing at a form of parade rest, watching the proceeding, hopoing that Santiago will not faint before it is over.

Pascual has nothing more to say--yet. He will have plenty to do soon enough (assuming Santiago survives the next few minutes). For now, the herald simply regards the swaying Dervish with a vaguely disdainful expression. As Santiago leans forward even further, the herald likewise leans forward, a hint of eagerness in his expression. Perhaps the armsman will indeed faint, and bring an end to this charade that so insults the herald's sensibilities.

Santiago seems to dwell in the depths of a distant room, the events unfolding about him seeming almost like the fever-dreams that he's so far been fortunate to avoid. In retrospect, it was all predictable from the moment he was ordered to return as soon as he could stand for any length of time, that he would push and push and push, only to fall with a look of pained surprise when flesh failed to follow where will and faith led. He sways back a little, struggling to find a point of focus other than the dancing of reflections on the finery about him, splendour still naught but a pale shadow of the light that greeted him before he turned back from death... light that's so /close/ now, it seems... so easy to reach out to... and touch. And then it's snatched away as a second price makes its demand upon him for absolution granted as a night spent on cold riverbanks or kneeling in the icy stone of the chapel exacts due payment in the form of body-wracking pneumonic coughs that bring no relief, only an agonized collapse to the side as his jacket starts to darken about his right shoulder... Yes... almost certainly too soon.

Alvaro's features draw taut, concern writ large upon his visage. This isn't really unfolding according to plan. No, not at all. Lips pursed, he glances at the herald, who can only offer a helpless shrug, as if to say 'what more can you expect of a baseborn armsman?'. Turning back to the spectacle on the floor before him, Alvaro waves over an Amalthean who is lurking in the back row. As the healer comes forward, hesitation evident in her stride, the Duke signals the two legionnaires at the head of the line. They exchange a dubious glance, then pass their halberds along to their fellows and step forward. Leaning down, the two soldiers gently lift the Dervish back to a kneeling position so the Prthivi can have a look at him. Alvaro folds his arms across his chest and waits to see the result of her ministrations. After all, Santiago must be at least semi-conscious for this ceremony.

Isabel's frown hasn't left from the moment it appeared on seeing Santiago's appearance at the beginning of the event. Though, her eyes are more focused on Arie, almost expecting her to move towards the Dervish at some point. No matter what. Perhaps, that's why she glances to the nobles beside her before stepping back and silently making her way towards the Xanthippe Colonel. Only a light touch on the other's arm might indicate her presence, once and if she's able to get there first.

[Arie tests her Calm + Etiquette,
rolling 13 against a goal of 7.]

Micheal watches patiently. What will be, will be. Interference by him or anyone else would be wrong and would shame Santiago. Although, that swarmy herald might just be up for a visit by some of his armsmen after this, from the looks he has been giving to Santiago.

A light touch on the arm perhaps, but there is no evidence that Arie actually notices it, she murmurs a quiet, horrified. "... Santiago?" Then as he is propped up, rather more loudly, and in a very certain and murderous tone of voice. "That. Doctor. Is. Going. To. Die." Her hand reaching for the hilt of her sword to grip it tightly, even if said doctor is not present at all.

An aggrieved sigh escapes Pascual's lips, accompanied by a little roll of his eyes. He glances curiously at Arie and frowns slightly at her words, possibly pondering the bad influence this armsman seems to have on the behavior of others around him. He looks away, shaking his head. She's just a member of a minor house, after all, and Pascual is a herald to the mighty Hazat. Hah! Hm... perhaps he does deserve to have a little air let of his ego at that.

Santiago is largely unawares of all the fuss he's causing just at this point... His world has concentrated itself down to a little narrow world mostly consisting of ground glass, which seems to have inexplicably worked its way into his lungs... The Amalthean priestess adjusts her robes as she kneels alongside the propped-up Dervish, beginning with a hand upon his brow and a singularly worried expression, then working up to guiding one of the Halberdiers to do a little creative tailoring with his dress knife to expose the red-soaked bandage on Santiago' shoulder. In the manner of a car mechanic presented by a woman driver with a dodgy big end, she sucks air in through her teeth, though with rather more justification. an uncertain look is offered to the duke, as though trying to divine whether healing or last rites are more appropriate, before she receives a field first-aid kit from the belt of one of the other Hazat, and starts to arrange the best patch-up she can out of a combination of heartfelt prayers and sticky sutures... Several minutes pass, during which time she gradually grows more confident, muttering things like 'no sense, no feeling' and other charming expressions of irritate compassion.

Alvaro lifts his chin, trying to peer over the Amalthean's shoulder to observe what she is doing to this tortured wretch that was once a proud Dervish. Having led troops into battle, he has no doubt seem countless applications of first aid, as field dressings are applied to soldiers who were unfortunate enough to get in the way of bullet or blade. To witness such ministrations under these particular circumstances is something of a novelty, however.

Once the healer has done what she can (little that it is, considering), she touches the Dervish's cheek, then glances up at the Duke with a brow raised in question. He frowns, then nods once. Shaking her head and muttering under her breath in Latin, the priestess breaks out a capsule of smelling salts, and waves it below the armsman's nose to bring him around.

"Santiago Sangre Mano Roja," Alvaro calls out in a firm voice, as if to waken a sleeping child. "Are you prepared to accept the consequences of your actions, and submit to my justice?"

The hand that rests on Arie's arm carefully tightens ever so slightly as Isabel takes note of the woman's profile and the words murmured, only to be countered by her own. Speaking softly so that only the Colonel and maybe a few near them might hear, "Not. Now, Arie. Nothing will be gained by making such comments. He will be fine." She hopes. Those injuries were severe when she saw them earlier. Even though they were partially healed presently, that doesn't change the fact she's watching the Amalthean at work.

However, the last thing that Isabel has time for is the sigh all too easily heard from the herald. Even as her eyes take note of Pascual, there's no indication as to what might be lingering behind her dark gaze. In her mind, if Santiago's here for a ceremony, then he's earned it. Not to mention, he is the Duke's armsman. That practically makes him a member of the Hazat as well. But she does show restraint, when compared to Arie, still watching the group around Santiago.

Arie does quieten now, but she is fuming and deeply upset, remaining standing where she is and not moving forwards only by a hairs breadth and her fingers remaining clamped about the hilt of her sabre as her gaze continues to be fixed on the scene around the armsman.

A grim smile breaks out on Michael's face as Santiago is brought back to consciousness. This one he will have to gut out. The opportunity may never come again.

Pascual clutches the scroll in his hand a little tighter, his attention fixed wholly on Santiago (such that he is blissfuly oblivious to the enmity he is earning from the man's friends). He watches the Dervish closely, waiting to see whether the man will answer the Duke, or keel over once and for all. How exciting! Who would have foreseen that this day would hold so much drama?

Santiago hasn't noticeably improved in colour over the intervening moments, but the introduction of a few painkillers and the careful injection of something that contains a certain amount of false energy for which the ever-popular biological debt fairy (who's taken to following Santiago around with a nailgun, having gotten R.S.I. in her spikey club hand) will be visiting him for later. With the breaking of the capsule, he breathes in the fumes, another round of coughing nearly tearing his uninjured lung up to match the other, but certainly bringing him back to the land of the living in time to catch the Ducal speech... "'Always... 'to face... 'duty..." - words fail for a moment, and he wets his lips... "I 'am 'r... 'ready... 'Excel... ency."

The Ducal lips draw into a hard line for a moment, but he nods in acceptance. Apparently this answer is satisfactory. At least, enough that things can move forward, before the Dervish succumbs to his injuries. Turning his head toward the herald, he inquires, "Has the candidate completed his vigil, setting his conscience at peace before the Pancreator?"

Pascual unrolls his parchment, and with unctuous formality, consults whatever is written there. "Yes, Your Grace. The candidate's confessor attests that this is so." He rolls up the document again and adopts an expectant posture.

Alvaro's gaze swings out over the crowd of spectators, his dark eyes seeking certain faces he knows to be present among them. "Does any Knight of the realm stand in support of this candidate's knighthood? Come forward now and be known."

Isabel lowers her hand from Arie's arm finally when it seems that she's not going to move anywhere, forwards or backwards. Instead, feeling more than a touch relieved that Santiago's stirring to partial, if not full consciousness, she refrains from a sideways glance to the Colonel beside her. All the more important as she meets the gaze, however brief that detects her presence in the crowd. She may not be a Knight, but she was not too long ago. In some ways, she still considers herself one regardless of her current noble status. Stepping forward, she's no longer folding her arms in front of her. Instead, there's a brief glance towards the armsman with the faintest of smiles before looking back to Alvaro. "I support this candidate and that he is worthy of becoming a Knight of the realm."

Micheal steps forth. "I am Sir Michael Dominic Hawkwood, Viscount Southern Reaches. I speak today in support of the knighthood of this candidate. In the time I have known him, I have seen great feats of valor and skill, equaling those of the Hazat knights of legend and fame. His bearing is one which brings credit upon the House of Hazat and upon yourself, his liege. He has gifted your realm with his courage, his skill and his service, proving himself worthy of the accolade of knighthood. I am pleased this day to speak for the purity of spirit, the skill at arms, the proven service and the keeping of the Hazat honor and ask you to elevate Santiago Sangre Mano Roja to the station of Knight and peer of the realm.

Arie does move from her frozen position now, taking a step forwards before proclaiming in a still very tense voice. "I too support the elevation of this armsman to knighthood. He has demonstrated faultless courage on more occasions than I can name, and never hesitated in his duty."

Pascual unrolls his parchment again, and consults the document. "Your Grace, Sir Pyotr Borisov Markovljevich, of House Decados, has asked that the following be read into the record on his behalf: 'Santiago is a man for whom honor is not just a word or even a way of life. From what I have seen of Santiago, he is a walking embodiment of the word. I have traveled with him several times, fought on his side several more, and would most likely be dead were it not for his skill and kindness. In some of my bleakest moments, Santiago has been there, a friend in which I could confide. At times he is more stubborn than a mule that hasn't been fed, but that is one of his more endearing qualities...'"

The herald's lips twitch for a moment, as if stifling some untoward impulse, before he reads on: "'Santiago deserves everything that might ever be offered him, and he also deserves to find happiness, true happiness and contentment with the one he loves. My next words are words that will cause a great deal of trouble for myself, but I have this servant speak them as I mean them with all my heart. I would be willing to give up any title I have, or will ever receive, to help this man become a knight. I owe it to him despite what he may say to the contrary, and I believe this planet owes the same debt to this walking embodiment of Honor and Goodness.'" On that note, Pascual sniffs softly, and rolls up the parchment.

Santiago could usually be counted on to blush at this point, but sadly for his expressiveness more than his fair share of blood is currently soaked into the stones of Vargo's city streets, staining the carpets of the Municipal Palace or pounding behind his ears as whatever was in that hypodermic rushes merrily around his body, giving it a bit of a kicking in order to make it more comfortable, like a misshapen bean-bag... He would usually be relied upon to protest, to proclaim loudly and at length that Knighthood, that Nobility itself is an honour, a calling that cannot be earned by mere courage alone, but is a clear and unequivocal mark of the Pancreator's favour upon those he has chosen to protect the bodies of his flock as the priesthood protects their souls. But it seems that a well-aimed broadsword's put the ability t do so beyond his reach... In fact, looked at it from a certain point of view - this is almost perfect... how many times, after all have various people actively threatened to beat him within an inch of his life in order to get him to accept any kind of recognition or reward whatsoever? "I... 'unworth..." he grates out, eyes going wide as the /genuine/ meaning of all that he was asked to do sinks through to him...

A faint smile tugs at Alvaro's lips as he hears these words of praise for his faithful retainer, threatening to shatter the solemn mien the occasion requires. The croaking sound that emanates from Santiago's lips draws a fleeting glance, but the Duke offers no answer to the Dervish's protestation of unworthiness. Instead, he calls out to the crowd again. "Does any Knight of the realm stand opposed? Come forward now, or forever keep your counsel to yourself." His eyes sweep over the assembly, almost in challenge, and when no one steps forward he turns to Pascual. "Is the candidate free to take the oath and accept the responsibilities of Knighthood?" he intones, a hint of hardness in his gaze brooking no further improprieties on the part of the herald.

Isabel doesn't seem to nor does she want to have anything to say at this point. Not after everything that has been said in Santiago's favor. So, for her part, she remains where she is. Except for the glance towards the Dervish on hearing what sounded almost like a protest. Perhaps that is why her head almost tilts to one side before dismissing the gesture with a thought.

Arie drops silent as well now, turning a very worried but proud attention back entirely onto Santiago as she fights desire to rush across with the apparently stronger wish to watch this be carried through to its proper conclusion.

Micheal stands silent, looking to see if any fool has protested.

Pascual seems unruffled by the Duke's glare (although, is that a bead of sweat on the herald's brow? Perhaps he did notice the dirty looks he has been receiving after all). He carefully unrolls the parchment and consults it. "Yes, Your Grace. The candidate is under no judicial bans or prior oaths that would obstruct his taking the estate of Knighthood at this time." He rolls up the document again, and fixes his gaze on the far wall.

Santiago takes the energy, false though it might be, granted him by the trickery of technological wonderworking, and tries to use it to rally his objections, Turning his head (because not much else is available to him right at the moment, propped up as he is) to take in the crowd of misguided but well-meaning souls behind him... And falling across Arie. He's angry with her, of course... not about nearly killing him, he's rather gotten used to that, but certainly in the matter of trying to manipulate the Duke over his old oaths. And yet... and yet... it's only possible for that anger to bite as it does because it rides upon the back of love, a love that further, once prompted him to make a rash promise that it seemed would never come to pass... Slowly, his eyes close and he steels himself once more, to turn back to his Leige-lord... and to bow his head.

Alvaro nods in satisfaction at the herald's reply, his dark gaze inscrutable as he regards the wounded Dervish. He glances over his shoulder, "Then let the Spurs be brought forward," he calls out. A page appears from behind the throne, bearing a silk pillow upon which resides a pair of gleaming spurs. The lad pauses at the sight of the ravaged armsman, his own young face paling a bit as he takes in the man's gory appearance. Then, swallowing nervously, the page moves around behind the legionnaires supporting Santiago and kneels to affix the spurs to his heels. Hopefully, Santiago won't keel over and impale himself on them.

Is that a smile across Isabel's lips? It's still somewhat faint, but it does seem to be a little more apparent. From time to time. Though, she's happy for a number of reasons. Santiago seems to be a little more alert than he was earlier and knows what's happening around him. That's more than enough for a person to be pleased about, still keeping her arms at a fold but it's a loose one as the page carries out his duties.

Arie's expression now is unreadable, her attention is rapt and fixed upon Santiago and the ceremony that is taking place around his recumbent self, but whatever she is feeling about it must be.. complex to say the least, she is not moving apart from to breath.

Micheal is now openly smiling, pleased that his friend is getting the recognition he deserves and for his friend, Arie, who gets one of her wishes to come true.

Pascual glances over at the Dervish with an impassive expression, and observes the page's progress with apparent disinterest. "The Spurs represent the right of a Knight to ride unhindered throughout the land," he says tonelessly, per formula, "dispensing justice tempered with mercy, protecting the weak, defending the defenseless, and helping the needy."

Santiago is breathing steadily, slowly... something that prompts the hovering Amalthean to give him a cursory look-over until she notices the pulse in his throat bopping away like a breakdancer on speed... "I... 'understand..." he croaks out, as first one - then the other symbolic fixture is snapped into place on boots designed to receive their mundane counterpart...

Once the spurs have been secured, Alvaro nods to the page, who bows and moves away. "Let the Belt be brought forward," the Duke calls out in the same firm tone, summoning another page from the area behind the throne. This lad carries a wide, white leather belt upon his pillow, adorned with a broad buckle in the shape of the Iron Talon of the Hazat. The boy approaches the Dervish cautiously, eyeing the blood and sundered clothing. The Amalthean smiles at the page, then leans closer to help him place the belt around Santiago's middle--carefully, so as not to jar his injuries.

Arie continues to.. Well, watch, still looking while delighted, also apparently nervous about something, her eyes tracking the progress of what belt as it is brought across and then affixed around Santiago's waist.

The herald draws an impatient breath, keeping his eyes focused on the wall. "The Belt symbolizes discipline," he intones, "that a Knight must rein in his body steadfastly, overcoming the weaknesses to which the flesh is prone, committing himself fully to duty in the face of worldly distractions that might deter him from a chaste and pure life." He yields to an impulse to glance briefly at Santiago, then looks away with a sly gleam in his eyes. If rumors are to be believed, the knight-to-be might need to work on that one a bit.

Santiago would, at any other point in time lightly feel the sting of that comment for the reason the Herald himself is thinking upon... But last night, and all through the hours of darkness he lay in the arms of Mother Church, burning away in prayer that was almost of hallucinatory strength, those sins which might have rendered him vulnerable. Of course, he's not a very good example of how to avoid weaknesses of the flesh right now, but there's only one person in the room who'd /obviously/ hold him to account over it and it happens to be him... "I... 'understand..." he affirms once more.

Having secured the belt, the page rises and looks to the Duke. Alvaro dismisses him with a nod, then says, "Let the Sword be brought forward." A third page emerges from behind the throne (my, there must have been quite a little gathering back there), a sheathed sabre resting on the pillow in his hands. This is no new weapon: although in superb condition, it bears the faint scars and imperfections left by service on the battlefield. In fact, it is the very sabre the Duke wielded in battle on Hira, as those who know him might recognize.

As the page kneels to gird the sabre on Santiago, the Duke leans forward a little and murmurs, "As I recall, you lost a sabre recently, and are in need of a replacement."

Has Isabel stopped smiling? No, it doesn't seem so. Even in light of herald's words, which are noted, she doesn't react. Why? Because there is a time and place for everything and her upbringing keeps her from doing something outright. Instead, she continues to watch the bestowal of the gifts that befit his new rank within the nobility with only a sideways glance to gauge reactions. And mostly to ensure that Arie is still standing and hasn't run off anywhere.

It is with effort that the herald refrains from rolling his eyes again, but perhaps his sense of self-preservation is overcoming his innate unctuousness. "The Sword provides a keen edge to cut to the truth of any dispute," he declares in a bored voice, "that justice may be administered in due course, and a scabbard to counsel mercy and temperance, when compassion dictates that the blade be sheathed."

Arie is indeed still standing, apparently rooted to the spot and utterly focused on what is happening in a rather uncharacteristic manner.

Santiago wants little more than to turn his head and meet that gaze, the eyes of the small, vital... and violent young woman who's done her level best to rearrange large chunks of his life to suit herself over the past months, only to find herself falling prey to the same trap as the armsman. But this is a ritual he knows well, even though he never dared to hope it would one day be his side upon which the blade would be buckled, nor that it would have such provenance (not that, as yet he knows the truth of it). "I 'understand..." he repeats for the third time, repetition granting him strength.

With the sabre in place, Alvaro sends the third page on his way, and then extends his hand to one side. A chamberlain steps forward obediently, bearing the sword of state: a bejeweled work of art, this weapon was never intended for the battlefield. The Duke draws it from its sheath, and steps closer to hold it by the hilt before Santiago. "Place your hands upon the blade that I may administer the oath," he instructs the Dervish.

Pascual, his role complete, steps back at a nod from the Duke to allow the ceremony to reach its conclusion.

Arie is.. yes, obviously very happy at the fact Santiago is being knighted, but there is an undercurrent of something else there, worry, or indecision, she is definitely not altogether sure about something.

Micheal is smiling and happy, enjoying the moment. Any undercurrents pass him by without notice.

Santiago looks up at the Duke for a moment... and then to the Amalthean, whose gaze he holds for several long seconds, something seeming to pass between them in those moments, as she narrows her eyes and shakes her head a fraction... only to be given a look of entreaty that results in a breathlessly quite mutter and a nod. Santiago moves his left hand slowly, drawing a small tool-knife from the remains of his jacket, and plying it against the strapping that holds his dead right arm to his side... A few clumsy nicks later, he has it free to hang lifelessly beside him. And taking his right hand in his left, he maneuvers them both to the bright-edged steel.

Alvaro observes the little ritual with the knife, a flicker of anguish crossing his features as he realizes the pain it must have caused Santiago to free his arm thus. He fixes his dark eyes on Santiago, his gaze probing the Dervish's face as if seeking to pierce to the soul within, and read the man's heart like an open book. "Repeat after me," he says to the kneeling warrior. "I do hereby swear, by heart and hand..."

Santiago is certainly going to suffer for doing it later - though right /now/ there are happy dancing chemicals in his blood that are performing the equivalent of distracting the pain by setting up a barber shop somewhere in his shoulder - later there will be a chase involving a lot of doors as various things ache that aren't technically wounded, and at the end there will be an unmasking and he'll fall over... but now... "I... 'do 'earby swear... 'by 'eart... and 'and..." - where his unfeeling right hand grips the blade is a trickle of blood... the left mirrors it, no oath not sworn so seeming a pale thing somehow, when life and honour are at stake.

The Duke nods approvingly, and continues the oath. Discipline is the first virtue of knighthood, without which the others are meaningless. "To be a good and worthy Knight..." he intones.

"To be... 'a good 'and worthy 'Knight..." comes the reply, faltering in tone here and there, but as before, slowly gaining in strength throughout through the curious alchemy that can turn a long-lingering fear into a source of strength, or parlay humility into the sort of pride that makes more of men than they believed was in them.

Devotion to an ideal is another hallmark of the virtuous knight, and thus the next portion of the oath that Alvaro speaks: "To be a beacon of chivalry..."

Netter enters from the corridor.

Santiago kneels almost brokenly upon the floor before the Ducal throne, supported by a Legionaire upon each side, his clothing torn and blood spattering the chamber about him... Just deserts, it seems have come to the duplicitous Dervishi at last... "'To... 'be a beacon 'of chivalry..." he answers softly, that one part of the oath seeming to be the one that troubles him more than any other... which is of course the only way it can be fulfilled.

"To dispense justice to the wicked..." Alvaro says next, still watching the Dervish with an intense gaze. Indeed, a knight should be just, yet also the instrument of retribution.

Santiago is, as a second impression will reveal (since the first upon of any normal person gazing at this scene is likely to be one hundred eighty degrees from the truth) taking a potent and heavy series of oaths, sanctified by blood and steel... "'To dispense... 'justice... 'to the wicked..." - justice... it's so difficult to know what that is sometimes... not that Santiagos ever let that stop him.

Yet vengeance, however righteous, should be tempered with compassion--for a knight serves a cause higher than himself. And thus the next part of the oath that Alvaro recites: "To show mercy to the innocent..."

Santiago has been shown so much mercy over the years... creating a weight of obligation that some days it seemed as though he would never labour free of it - and yet that missed the point, in a way he is only slowly coming to realise... the obligation of virtue is only that it be continued, that it inspire its like in others... "To show 'mercy... 'to the innocent."

"To defend the weak..." Alvaro utters evenly. Like Mantius himself, a knight's most precious duty is to lend his sword to the protection of those who cannot defend themselves.

To defend the weak... there is no hesitation in this oath - every scar upon the swordsmans frame attests to his devotion to that ideal... and though the time-worn medallion of the warrior saint he has carried so long now adorns anothers neck, offering that one a guide should she chose to seek it when she grows older, he has never felt as close to the warriors patron as today... "To 'defend the weak."

For all the glory his reputation may accrue, a knight must never forsake the virtue of humility. The Pancreator's will is served as often by a loaf of bread as by a blade of steel. The Duke, though perhaps he could use a lesson in humility himself, says, "To offer succor to the needy..."

Santiago has, despite occasional lapses into a sort of back-door pride about just how damn' humble he is, has lived and breathed humility from his first steps upon Vargo. Dwelling in poverty yet giving everything he has without stinting... Though perhaps it would have been a good idea to save up for an Energy Shield first... "To... 'offer succor, 'to the needy..."

A knight relies upon force of arms, but he must be wise enough to know when to draw his sword, and when to sheath it--and by his example, counsel others to the same. "To cultivate wisdom in myself and others..." Alvaro says in a level voice.

Santiago has a decidedly chequered record in this field... from a couple of notable occasions where he's been stunned by his own allies when demanding the surrender of heretics or criminals at bladepoint... to his recent endeavours to help stave off the risk of war... "To 'cultivate wisdom... 'in myself 'and others."

"To walk always in the Light..." the Duke recites next. Ah, yes. Piety, is that not the duty of all who serve the Pancreator? Especially a knight, who bears arms as a voluntary martyr.

Santiago can answer this charge without thought - he is Dervishi, chosen of the Pancreator to bear gifts unlike those of normal men, burdened with responsibilities to match... destined for service from his first breath, now to the service of many, rather than the service of one... "To 'walk always 'in the Light..."

Since the eyes of so many look to the knight as an example, his doubts become as an plague infecting the hearts of those he is charged to protect. Thus must a knight stand firm in his spirit. "To be steadfast in my Faith..." Alvaro murmurs.

Santiago has long since closed his eyes, the steel between his hands beaded with the blood he's already sprinkled just a little too liberally about the chamber. And yet there's no lacking for strength in his words now, as he affirms a faith only strengthened by recent events, as near-death took him to the edge of a place where light blazed upon all sides... "To 'be steadfast... 'in my faith."

The final virtue of the knight, the one that binds the others together, is loyalty: obedience to that which he has sworn to serve. "And to be true to my duties," the Duke says finally, almost to the end of the oath.

Santiago has, quite literally been prepared on more than one occasion to die to uphold what he sees as his duty - he has even faced down the Duke himself on one or two memorable occasions before taking himself into his service, rather than abrogate them. "'And be true to 'my duties..."

There is no turning back now, for oathbreaking is among the worst of the sins a man of honor can commit. A few final words to seal the oath fall from Alvaro's lips: "So swear I, Santiago Sangre Mano Roja."

Santiago has felt the sting of that sin only once in his life, and was turned back from the brink of it by the word of another... for if honour is life, which it is for a noble... then to live without honour is to forfeit life, as surely as to cease to breath. "'So swear I... 'Santiago... Sangre Mano 'Roja..."

With the words of the oath concluded, Alvaro gently disengages the sword of state from Santiago's bloody grasp and lifts it overhead. The final element of the ceremony is the accolade. "Having fulfilled the requirements of Knighthood," he intones, his voice rising to ring through the chamber, "and been clothed in your vestments, and having taken your Oath, I hereby create you a Knight of the Hazat in the name of Saint Mantius..." He touches the flat of the blade to Santiago's right shoulder. "...Saint Lextius..." The blade dips to his left shoulder. "...and Saint Emanuel." The blade rests briefly upon the crown of the Dervish's head. "Rise, Don Santiago, and let those be the last blows you take unanswered."

Arie now does finally move, her hand coming to a pocket of her jacket, then emerging containing a small object, no larger than a cigarette packet but rather dramatically more valuable. An energy shield generator core. She looks down to it, then waits for Santiago to stand, or try to stand.. Or whatever is about to happen.

Micheal moves up to greet and congratulate Santiago after Arie gets done. Also, to catch him if he passes out, which is a definate possibility.

Netter raises an eyebrow, in the back of the room. He's watched with feigned detached interest since his arrival late in the ceremony.

[Santiago tests his Endurance + Stoicbody,
rolling 4 against a goal of 8.]
[1 Victory Points]

There are a number of people able to catch Santiago should he feel like passing out - not that it wouldn't be uncalled for given his condition. Isabel does have a minor hope that he doesn't, however. Provided that he doesn't, she'll likely be one of those to offer her congratulations. After Arie and Micheal, the latter being a familiar face that she can place a name and title to, finally.

Santiago looks left, then right... giving a moment of attention to each of the two legionaires who have held him upright throughout this ceremony, then to the thin wounds on each of his palms... His eyes half-close, and he reaches down, looking for something inside him that will allow him to do the only thing left that needs to be done. He cradles his right arm with his left, hooking the unfeeling extremity through a cut-back loop of his shirt, then locks his eyes on those of the Dukes... before slowly, and with effort almost possible to feel, sweat standing out on his brow... He rises first to one knee... then to his feet, chest panting like a bellows, to clench his hand over his heart in Hazat salute.

Arie now steps forwards with the energy shield generator in hand, somewhat cautious, looking horrified at Santiago's state, but managing to muster a smile as she then presents the small item to him. "As gift from your friends.. And to shield you from harm in the future."

Alvaro's eyes shine as he answers the Dervish's salute, his own fist pressed to chest as he bows his head in respect. Respect as one peer to another, now. A lowly armsman, as common as they come, elevated to knighthood? What has the Duke been smoking?! Imagine how the rumor-mongers will have a field day with that! He eyes the gift offered by Arie, and says, "Don Santiago, I have no doubt that you will carry on your duties with the same honor and bravery that you have shown thus far. This knighthood does not make you a better man--it merely affirms to all that you already /are/."

Santiago is a little unsteady as he bows his head... in the same way that Arie is a little destructive, Porter a little abrasive or Netter a little shifty... But nonetheless he keeps his feet for a moment more yet... "I 'will 'try... 'to be worthy... 'Excellency..." he answers, but already turning in his heart (if not his body - that takes another few moments) to face the small woman who steps up to his side and offers him a gift that would have made much of today's stirring farce unnecessary... "'Old 'it for me... 'my love..." he whispers - hopefully at Arie, since the other possibilities in the vicinity are downright alarming.

Micheal extends his hand. "Congratulations, Don Santiago. The honor is well deserved."

Netter turns to go quietly, having lingered in the back of the room long enough. In such company, the penitent is relegated to staying in the shadows and on the periphery anyway.

Netter steps out to the corridor.

Arie retracts the object then to hold it by her side, and remains standing there, seemingly very much on edge, though with an appreciative nod to Micheal as he extends his hand to Santiago.

Alvaro remains silent for a moment, observing the byplay between Arie and Santiago with shrewdly narrowed eyes. Perhaps he has heard the few rumors in circulation regarding this pair. On the other hand, surely the Duke has better things to do than listen to idle gossip. "You will be worthy, Don Santiago--this I know because you would not dare make me regret knighting you!" He offers a wry smile, although concern lurks in his eyes as he notes the new knight's waning energy. "Perhaps, My Lord and Lady," he says to Arie and Michael, "you two would be good enough to see that our new peer gets the rest that he so clearly needs?"

Micheal bows to Alvaro. "Your wish is my command, Your Grace. By your leave, we will get him back to his hospital bed for further care."



Black eyes smolder in a darkly handsome face framed by a mane of curly hair the color of a raven's wings, his chiseled features and smooth, dusky skin marred only by a star-shaped fencing scar high on his right cheek. His lips, full and sensuous, have an unfortunate tendency to curl into a haughty smirk, and when he speaks they caress each word with the rich, mellifluous accents of Aragon. Well-maintained in the legendary Hazat quest for physical perfection, his tall, lithe form tops out at six-foot-four, and moves with the deadly grace of a tiger stalking its prey.

Draped across his shoulders is a long cloak of supple white leather, glittering gold embroidery along the edges, clasped with a gilded Hazat talon and casually flipped up on the right to reveal a lining of golden silk. Bringing to mind the Spanish kings from whom the Hazat claim descent, he wears an exquisite bolero jacket of white satin, tailored to draw the eye to his trim waist and broad shoulders. Light dances across the fabric with every subtle movement, and sparkles on gilded buttons in the shape of a rose. Heavy embroidery in thread-of-gold encrusts the chest and adorns the padded epaulets upon his shoulders. His legs are sheathed in tight breeches of white satin, skin-tight after the provocative fashion of Byzantium Secundus. Adorned with gold piping, they are tucked into polished black riding boots that come up over the knee.

His chest is aglitter with military decorations peculiar to the Hazat, speaking to a long, distinguished career. A silver Saint Lextius medallion hangs from a slender chain at his neck, and there is a sinuous dragon tattooed around his ring finger, as if in emulation of a wedding band. Around his waist is a glittering, metallic gold sash, knotted at his left hip so that the fringed ends trail down his thigh to the knee.
Arie Scavone is really a rather short young woman, coming to not a great deal over five foot in height, and with a thin, wiry build. Her skin is a light shade of coffee brown, with darker eyes of the same colour and jet black hair that has been tightly wound into a mass of thin braids, each ending in a tiny black wooden bead and at about shoulder length, worn back from her face. Thin and sharply defined eyebrows a combined with a fine boned, triangular face to be rather striking in a severe manner, though she does not look like she could be more than twenty. Also noticeable is the plain silver band of a ring on a finger of her right hand.

She is currently wearing a blood red dress uniform, the crimson fabric immaculately pressed and creased. The high collar of the jacket and its cuffs are heavily ornamented with and silver gold thread work, and it bears the insignia of a full colonel upon the epaulets and neck patches. A thick gold lanyard is draped is across the right side of her chest, and a thin black stripe is present down the outside of each razor creased trouser leg. Combat boots polished to a mirror finish are upon her feet, and a black leather belt around her waist supports an exquisite basket hilted sabre that bears the moon and star crest of house Xanthippe along with the sigil of the Scavone family. The sword rests within a black lacquered wood and leather scabbard alongside a burnished steel parrying dagger, and opposite it rests an Alembic blaster pistol in its matching holster.
Isabel Dulcinea de St. Emanuel's appearance, balances her nobility with a clearly Hazat heritage into one. Possessing exceptionally dark hair with an all too obvious wave even when held in a complex upward braided affair with wisps hanging from the sides of her face, the overall result is a nearly black and yet brunette when examined closer. When combined with equally deep and intense brown eyes, the result could be overpowering, if the features were not complimenting. With an olive complexion and oval face to round out and smooth appearances, a delicate blend of feminine and firmly capable are all too easy to see. Slender and fit at a height of five feet and eight inches, there's a slight trace of wiriness about Isabel, further emphasized by the rich alto voice she possesses when speaking.

This gown is by every means elegant in it's simplicity, consisting of two parts: A strapless gown and an elaborate lace overcoat, both of a rich ivory. The former is based as a smooth sleeveless affair as it affords a somewhat square neckline. While not displaying cleavage, there may be the allusion to it in a conservative manner. While the gown fits against her figure, it's at her waist where it flairs outwards to the ground. The 'overcoat', however, employs a great deal of fine embroidery, floral in nature and clustered with stray vines, which made from a blend of lace and a lighter, sheer material which covers her arms and gown. As the sleeves spread outward, they float about her wrists into a 'bell sleeve' which also covers a portion of her hand.

The accessories which accompany this attire are light but noticeable in the form of studded pearl earrings and a 'signet' ring worn on her right ring finger. About her neck lies a necklace with a silver chain but a more notable oval shaped 'pendant' can be seen.
Michael is dressed in a formal dress uniform of Hawkwood styling. A high necked tunic of navy blue, decorated with gold braid on the shoulders and a couple of minor medals on his label. His trousers are blinding white, tucked into boots that have been shined to a high gloss. A dress sword hangs by his side, depended upon a white belt denoting his knightly rank. On his head is a golden viscounty coronet of his rank.
Netter the penitent wears a trim gray uniform, pristinely pressed with no stain or dirt visible anywhere. He's not a tall man, nor a short one, but instead comfortably normal. Normal, in fact, describes much of the man's physical appearance. He is neither over athletic nor obese, neither too thick nor too frail. What little exposed flesh he shows is somewhat pale, suggesting a man who rarely goes out, and his head is crowned by neatly combed short black hair. He is a man who, were it not for his mannerisms, would be easy to overlook.

The uniform he wears is crisp and clean, kept as pristine as any soldier's dress uniform. The seams of the two piece uniform are all laced in black and the only adornment he wears is the penitent badge, a weeping eye within the jumpcross. This badge is proudly displayed upon his chest and is made that much more visible by the blandness of his outfit. His collar is starched and stiff, his pants tucked into his leather boots, and his cuffs perfectly slipped under his black gloves. There is almost something sterile about the man, an aura of cleanliness and order which stifles everything around it.

Netter's head is the only uncovered part of his body. A square jaw and too-high cheekbones prevent him from being attractive by any standards, but it is in his eyes and mouth that his character can be seen. He seems perpetually on the verge of a smile, a smile that has no mirth in it but rather volumes of amusement as though he sees a picture no one else can. His eyes twinkle with condescending laughter, only concealed when in the presence of high Church officials.

There is something about this man...something about how brazenly he wears his Penitent's jumpcross, how he looks at you, how he laughs just behind his eyes. Something frightening about him.
A slender young man in his late teens, with dusky skin and midnight black hair cropped in the style of a page. He wears livery in crimson and white, adorned proudly with the Iron Talon of the Hazat on his breast.
Santiago, is a graceful freeman of slightly above average height and lean build, with a dark olive complexion and a regrettable tendency towards small, villianous moustaches. His hair is a dark enough shade to be almost blue-black, and regularly trimmed short enough to fit under a helm or hood should the need arise, whilst his face is, if a little angular and nicked here or there with fine blade scars, is at least well-formed. He moves with the unconsciously alert stance of the trained swordsman, and behaves with the almost excessive politeness that a mere freeman of that ilk is wisest to display.

Attired today in the best he has available to him, he stands resplendent in the dress uniform of an Hazat armsman, the rich dark colours suiting him surprisingly well, fitting the man to the martial ideal he tries so hard to live up to. Upon his breast hang a number of slim, typically understated ribbons denoting decorations from past service - the medialuna y estrella with a sword, the puno dorado de malla, the alma escarlata with one shimmering silver sword and even the bright gemstone glitter of the al-Malik Emerald Sunwheel - none of which quite succeed in drawing the eye from the small, almost understated sigil that whirls in the grip of the Hazat claw upon his arm... by which Santiago is revealed, for those who know how their military symbolism, as one of the most feared military elite outside of the Brothers Battle - the dreaded Dervish legions of the Great House Hazat.