Maximus is found in a Private courtyard, rarely used by those the frequent the Palace. In truth only Palace guards ever use this place, and only then to train and spar. That is his intent the early dawn, with the sun just peeking above the horizon. He shifts through the Cassiline dance, flashing his twin daggers in the air in sequence. Its odd to witness, someone other than a Monk go through the movements. The Kusheline is anything but a member of the brotherhood. Where they wear grey, he dons black. Their short vambraces are replaced by his shoulder-to-wrist armor, and the Gladius is a far cry from a longsword. His daggers however are similar.
Phillipe had quietly slipped in and leaned against the dias of one of the statue to some forgotten hero of d'Ange. His cool blue eyes watch as you move through your Kata with interest. Once completed the Noble's voice fills the area, "It almost seems like a meditation Sir Corvinus. Your attention sharpened, your breathing relaxed, and the control of movement... That was a sight to behold." He doesn't move from the statue and you can see the slight smirk upon his handsome features, "Perhaps you can give me lessons, no?"
"The tip of the blade is the tip of the blade in any state of mind, Comte." Had he seen you? Had he noticed and just ignored the interruption to his morning exercises? The last few maneuvers are moved through, ending in the terminus. The terminus! Is it possible for a non-Cassiline to even know it? "I know you didn't wake from your exploits this early to inflate my ego," Maximus says sheathing his daggers in unison. You came to speak with me about my ward, the Lady Elaine de Lerond." He turns around, his dark eyes sober and focused.
The noble shrugs, "There is that." Phillipe watches you in your motions with renewed interest as you finish the exercise. Whether you saw him enter or not doesn't seem to bother him one way or another. Perhaps when he's not trying to be the Comte he naturally moves that quietly and when in character he has to make noise, to seem like the rest of the shallow self-absorbed nobles, "I figured that the honorable thing to do would be to speak with you myself and in person. What is your mind on the matter?"
The Kusheline watches you, with the astute practice of a veteran Knight. He flashes you his teeth. "That would depend entirely on your intentions." His smile is dangerous, as is the step he takes, back into the cobblestone ring where the King's men train. He levels that wolf's gaze at you, dark and mysterious eyes, hollow, yet filled with a thousand secrets. A fluid motion brings the Gladius over his shoulder and free from the sheath. He points it directly at you, its tip gleaming and sharp. The Knight draws further back into the ring, and then motions with the blade, bidding you join him.
There is a debate as he watches you brandish your Gladius and for a moment his face is readable. You see excitement at the prospect of crossing blades with you. With a fluid motion he is walking to the circle, his cloak billowing in the winter wind. Before he arrives he draws his long sword, "My intentions? I doubt that you would believe me if I said they were noble, but to be honest I doubt you would believe me if I said the sky was blue." Phillipe doesn't raise his sword, but instead, points it down towards the ground I something of a salute and steps forward into the circle. His cloak wrapping around him, concealing his body and blade...
"So, you plan to raise her to the position of Comtesse of Siovale?" He stops, center ring. His blade flick out right and up vertical, the hilt level with his eyes. Tip, skyward. A formal salute, given in D'Angeline manner. "That would end the goal she's intended for. The Queen doesn't have married Ladies-in-waiting." The Gladius arcs out, swishing in the air with fluid precision. It stops level across Maximus' frame, and his grip is two-handed.
Having already giving his salute he just stands there with his cloak concealing his body and the hood up. The blade of his long sword somewhere under to folds of his cloak. His sapphire eyes watching each of your movements with a dark smile upon his face, "I hadn't thought that far ahead. So far it has been the only unplanned event." There seems to be movement under the cloak but it hides its secrets well, "Does she not have a choice of her own in this matter. Or is she like a pawn to be moved across a chess board at your leisure?"
She has her duty to the Crown, as do I." His left foot moves back, turning him at an angle to Phillipe, in the same moment his upper body twists hard. The Gladius slices through the air at chest level. It moves with violent, speed and power, the Kusheline's whole body weight behind its keen edge. In mid swing, the pushes himself forward on the rooted foot, closing the distance between himself and the Comte. The maneuver is blatantly obvious. Any number of skilled men could parry it, but the raw strength behind it is the point. Its a heavy blow, with the viciousness that breaks lesser blades.
A sudden movement and Phillipe isn't there. His speed unreal as he spins to your right and is now just to your side where your back is exposed from your blow. His cloak moves as if it has a life of its own sweeping out in a wide arc. The realization dawns on you that the blade of the long sword can be anywhere underneath striking at any moment concealed by the cloak as it fans out. You catch a glimpse of sapphire eyes from under the hood of the cloak. There is raw desire in them that would match any look a courtesan could give, but this isn't for the love of sex. It is the challenge of this encounter that has the man moving with such purpose and joy...
Etienne was in the stables when one of the Raven stuck his head in to tell the young squire that Sir Maximus seemed about to cross blades with the Siovale Comte. The young 'man' seems to have run about as fast as he can to get here, but caution slows him before he is in sight or earshot. When he slips to within hearing and seeing distance, it is with the stealth that Maximus taught him. He finds a spot where he can crouch and watch without being observed, brow creased with concern.
Knight's train to fight large scale battles. Forays of thousands with blood and gore all around. Maximus can do this because he's done it for years. However, he was taught to fight, the motions engrained into to him, by a Cassaline Brother. The Perfect Companions. They are the bodyguards of the elite. They fight in close quarters. The grip on the hilt changes as it cuts its path behind Phillipe. One handed, it turns pommel-out, blade running the inside length of his left arm, where the tip glistens behind his shoulder. His other hand has balled into a stone fist, which he continues spinning towards the Comte. He appears to be a black storm to movement. Aristide, Etienne, neither are seen. Only the Comte and battlefield hold his attention.
Phillipe is like quicksilver as his form flow around that of the Knight. His motions are as graceful as any dancer from House Eglantine. The black of there outfits seem to merge as just a flicker of silver is seen from Phillipe's long sword. A sound of metal scraping metal can be heard as his blade meets the Gladius, but instead of trying to block the force head on it is merely guided to one side missing the Noble by inches and leaving him unharmed. With his speed he is making the Knight's blows come at his from odd angles, but Maximus' obvious skill make this just a minor annoyance. Whereas the Knight's movements take on a violent effient form the Comte's is almost like art in the intricacies of his movements...
Etienne reaches a leather-clad hand to pull the hood of her grey cloak up and over her face. This might be a disguise that has fooled many for four years, and the girl may be out of plain sight, but she isn't taking any chances on Phillipe getting a good look at the squire. She bites at her lower lip as she watches, her attention more on the Comte than on Maximus. She knows how he fights... the Comte is less of an open book, but one of current great interest to her.
The grip changes again, and the Knight's Gladius comes up erect, tip skyward. The first pass leaves both men a measure of the other. For his part, the Kusheline has lowered, and slowly joins the Comte in circling. His keen blade bobs lightly in one hand, his other is open, fingers wiggling independently. the steps are slow, side over side and meticulous. Any break in the rhythm would be disastrous. "I wasn't aware they were so good at running from an adversary in Caerdicca Unitas. Were you taught to cross steel, or just avoid it, Comte?" His tone is low, obviously Aristide can't hear him, and likely Etienne can't either. Be sure though, Phillipe can.
The noble chuckles as he matches the Knight's steps. A silver gleam and be seen as the tip of his long sword just bobs out from underneath his cloak, "Oh I haven't tried to avoid anything yet, Knight. Perhaps you just need a bit more practice before you can hit a real opponent." His eyes playful as he watches Maximus move. His mind cataloging not just how, but why. The knight thrusted with an obvious opening to gage Phillipe's response and how the noble dealt with a change with an unorthodox attack. Phillipe digested this appreciating the Knight intelligence while he fought. A smirk graces his fine feature as he answers the Knight, "Shall I lead or would you like to continue the exercise in futility?"
Etienne doesn't hear the words of the knight she serves, no, but she can see clearly from where she crouches low in the shadows, her dark grey cloak helping her blend in with them far better than pure black ever could. She is frowning, half in concern and half in sheer concentration as her gaze flicks from man to man, seeming to note every movement they each make.
"By all means Comte, show me what you have," Maximus says easily. Phillipe' jibe at his pride is brushed away as easily as the clever Peer formed the words. He's heard better. "Otherwise I'll be forced to go back to my morning exercises if I'm ever to get a really workout. This dancing is for a fete. Not this cobblestone circle." He continues as he has been, Gladius light in his grasp. The only change is his arching the blade across his body defensively.
Phillipe smiles and give a small bow. There is a sudden rush of motion as the noble's cloak flares up. The steel of Phillipe's long sword suddenly appears from it's black depths as it thrusts at the Knight's chest, but as the sword travels on it's path the noble makes a subtle twist of his wrist and the blade veers away from the feint of the chest and arcs to the Knights exposed thigh with lightning speed. The use of the cloak give the Knight scarce little time to react and the sudden change of the attack even less...
Etienne shifts, slowly and carefully, out of her crouch and into a kneeling position, one that she can more easily maintain in perfect stillness for a protracted period of time. Her eyes widen slightly at Phillipe's lightning fast move, but she makes no sound of alarm. Then again, she knows Maximus... she probably isn't alarmed.
Maximus doesn't trust the silver-tongued Comte. Thus far, he's done nothing to earn it. So it is here that being a scion of Kushiel comes in handy. Pain only focuses the true warrior. The Raven all such men, is it odd to think their leader anything less? The Knight reads the feint for what it is. Phillipe's agility is impressive to say the least. Obviously his lack of bulk makes him the quicker. There is time only for one thing, the Kusheline turn his lower body, allowing the razor edge of the noble’s blade the run a line down his outer thigh. The Gladius turns down, but can do little more than keep the cut shallow. Its enough. Phillipe has left him unable to attack, so he uses that. His free hand tangles in the liquid hem of his opponents cloak and he pulls with every ounce of his considerable strength.
The jerk from the Knight's powerful arm pulls the Comte by the neck causing him to lift off his feet. This isn't the first time an opponent has saw fit to do such a thing but this is the first time one with such strength has! As Phillipe feels the pull he pushes into it making the feat of strength look herculean by the untrained eye. His free hand unclasping the cloak as it is pulled free. The noble sailing thru the air twists like a cat as he lands upon his two feet and left hand crouched close to the ground. His legs spread in a wide base with his left hand on the earth in front of him, long sword in the right up and away raised at an angle behind him. The force of the throw causes him to continue sliding on the earth a good foot before coming to a stop...
Okay... now that brings a gasp from off in the shadows, one that may or may not be overheard by the combatants, though given their own focus... perhaps not. Not a sound of alarm, but, in all honesty, the sort of sound you make when impressed. That was definitely an impressive move of the Comte, after all.
Blood, though bright red, can only be seen as a slow spreading wet spot in the torn thigh of Maximus' breeches. He whips the cloak around indicating it, until it hangs lifeless from his hand. "This is clever," he divulges through clinched teeth. Dark eyes narrowed on the Comte. The hand that bare his Gladius lower to his wound, which he lightly touches. His fingers are stained with D'Angeline blood when he moves them away. "Your decent with a blade," he comments quietly. With a flick of his wrist the cloak trails silently through the air to Phillipe. Behind it, the Knight explodes into motion. His weapon spins in his palm, the cruel edge running up the back side of his arm. He charges behind the blinding net-of-fabric, dipping low at the last second and balling his free-hand fist until his knuckles turn white. He heaves an uppercut blow with all the might his stocky frame allow him, going from a sliding crouch to a fully extended leap in one fluid motion.
Phillipe swipes at the cloak with his long sword, batting it out of the air while he rises to a ready position expecting the Knight to charge with his Gladius. The Knight powerful form moves with great speed but it is not with his weapon. Phillipe's long sword twitches for a second to respond, but he stays his hand as to not bare his weapon upon anymore of the Knight's flesh. In a combat of this caliber one moment of hesitation is all it takes for Maximus to take advantage and land a solid blow upon the Nobles chin sending him in the air and out of the circle. There is no graceful catlike landing this time. He hits the ground and bounces to a roll. He does roll to his feet with a trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth, but it is far from graceful. His sword still in his hand as his knuckles turns white against the hilt. As he stands he notices where it is he landed. A smirk tries to grace his face but it contorts with pain. He then opens his mouth and moves his jaw around feeling the looseness of it. Once Phillipe ascertains that nothing it broken he looks to the Knight is a respectful small smile. Elaine would know this smile as his true smile, "It seems I have been forced from the circle Sir Corvinus. The match is yours." He gives the Knight a respectful bow before rising with a more Comte-like smirk, "But we didn't set the terms before we fought. If it was first blood the match would have been mine."
Etienne cringes a bit as she sees the move that Maximus is making. She's seen it... hell, she's been on the receiving end of it during training sessions, though likely never aimed anywhere vital or likely to truly injure, just places that hurt enough to teach. She twitches as she sees Phillipe straighten in completely the wrong position, but manages to stay quiet this time as the blow lands and sends the man flying from the circle. She shakes her head just a bit and leans forward to see how the Comte reacts, smiling at his words, and also at the familiar, genuine smile she notices.
"If it was to the first blood, someone would be dead," Maximus says flatly. He doesn't smile, he doesn't seem amused. If anything his words ring with a hint of begrudged respect. He sheathes his blade over his shoulder, and then lowers to a knee to more closely inspect his wound. It's good that he turned the worst of it away. Phillipe' blade has a keen edge. "Why," he asks ripping the hem of his dark tunic into a long strand. "Why does Elaine enamor you?" He begins wrapping his thigh, tightly to stem the flow of blood until he can stitch it. "I've seen you among much more esteemed women and Courtesans of repute. What does a minor peer, with no wealth or power to speak of interest you, Comte de Molay?"
With a flick of his blade the blood slides off. Phillipe sheaths it as he steps forward, a little uneasy at first still recovering from the blow. He comes to stand a respectful distance from Maximus as he answers, "I plan everything. From what I eat in the morning to the words I say. It is what has kept me alive." His sapphire eyes soften as he glances off in the distance, "I did not plan for her. She saw what I was in one moment and she didn't run. She stood there in the snow and accepted it for what it was. I know she was scared but there was strength and courage in her as well." He looks back to Maximus and bends down to look at the wound himself while he speaks, "I suppose that would be attributed to your influence? The wound is but a scratch you might limp for a day or two, but I will not be eating steak for a week. I believe you got the better end of the exchange."
Etienne actually stops breathing as she hears the knight she serves ask one of the questions that has been weighing heavily on her own mind of late. From her hiding place, which she is so not leaving anytime soon, the young lady turns her gaze to Phillipe, watching from beneath the concealing hood. She shouldn't be hearing this, but since she heard the question, and can't easily sneak away, she might as well hear the answer too. That answer seems to surprise her, if anyone could see it, and also causes her to blush. She shuts her eyes to the scene before her and shrinks down a little in the shadows.
"I'll not limp," Maximus states without looking up from his work. He wraps the wound impossibly tight, pulling the knot to a point where the fabric threatens to rip. Its then that his eyes, dark and alert, flicker up to the Comte. "Remember, this never happened. We were never here." He rises up to his full height, placing unneeded weight on the injured leg and testing his balance, and perhaps his resolve. He doesn't flinch. "Elaine de Lerond, is old enough to decide where to place her trust. If she hasn't in you yet, then blame that on my influence. We do not trust lightly, and are bound by the Crown in ways you cannot fathom, Comte."
Phillipe nods at the Knight's words, "If lack of trust is an affliction then I too possess it, but it does not mean that there cannot be an accord in matters concerning the Crown. I am a patriot and will not put the King in danger with my actions. When I meet with the King I will let him take his measure of me." He smiles darkly as he massages his chin, "As we have." He walks over and picks up his cloak, dusting it off, "You're quite right. This did not happen. We were not here." With and quick motion he puts his cloak on and begins to make his exit...
Maximus watches the Comte go in silence. He remains in the cobblestone ring for a while after the Nobleman vanishes to nurse his sore jaw or whatnot. After, he leaves through another exit. One less traveled. It wouldn't do someone to see him bleeding.
Etienne does not budge until well after both men have departed left the training ground quite deserted, listening to their footsteps recede and fade into silence. It is only when she is absolutely sure that they are well and truly gone that she slowly straightens, looking in one direction, and then another. A soft sigh escapes her, her head shaking slowly, and then she too turns and makes her exit, expression one of deep contemplation.