Author's notes: Hey, everyone! Welcome to my story for Day Three of Poker Pair Week 2020! The prompt I chose for this was "Faith" from "Marguerite", though this could also fulfill "Secret love" or "A love affair attracting disapproval".
Since my first two stories for Poker Pair Week have been very long, I decided to try and keep the total word count (which includes these notes) under 5,000 words. Which will help me reach my seven story goal, but might make what I put out seem rushed. Oh, dear…
Warnings: PokerPair; Fem!Allen; Aged-up characters (Ellen is twenty here); 17th century setting; Depictions of period-typical attitudes; Secret relationship;Maybe some historical inaccuracies (the Internet is not always right, folks); A dash of drama (or melodrama; either one); Sister!Ellen; Might offend Catholics (at least those who would find offense at a sister having a secret relationship); Probable OOC-ness
Disclaimer: D. Gray – Man is the rightful property of Katsura Hoshino.
What Are Customs and Rules to Love?
- xXx -
A young sister sighed as she entered her cell in the Black Order convent. Today had been another long day of prayer, chores and charity that left her tired to her bones. Still, it wasn't all bad. She had a safe place to live and food to eat. What's more, unlike other convents that kept nuns and sisters alike cloistered behind thick walls, the Black Order allowed both to venture into town to aid the local poor. So at least she could feel useful instead of bored while studying Scripture. And given other options available to poor women with no family or status…
The young sister set her lit candle upon the rough-hewn writing desk beside her bed and efficiently stripped off her habit until she was only wearing her shift. Slightly shivering from the cold, she ran her fingers through her hair and started to put her discarded clothing away. As she put the last item in a drawer, she caught her reflection in the small mirror resting on top and tried not to grimace.
It wasn't a pretty picture, in her own opinion: bone-white hair, a strangely discolored arm from birth, and a wicked scar given to her by grave robbers trying to steal her father Mana's recently deceased body for money. Before she had joined the convent, she had often wondered why God had seen fit to impose those features and ill luck upon her. Why make most people she encountered, outside the sisters and nuns of the Black Order, flinch away when they first catch sight of her looks?
Why allow her a few brief years of parental love from Mana only to suddenly and cruelly take him away?
Why leave her stranded in another country without a decent way to earn money for passage on a ship?
Those questions had died down after she became a sister, made new friends, and started doing charity work. And for a while, she was completely content.
But then, two years ago, a certain event happened that permanently changed her life. Said event had brought her great hidden joy, but also inner conflict. And it provoked a new question to ask God why he chose to introduce into her life.
Why offer a false choice to completely devote herself to her faith or leave to start a family, a concept that all the priests she encountered claim was one of humanity's core goals, by making her so poor a marital prospect for-?
'Stop it, Ellen,' she shook her head as she chided herself, 'vanity, greed and envy are deadly sins for everyone. But are most abhorrent for those who've taken religious vows. Don't dwell on the past.Be grateful for the blessings you currently have.'
Ellen then retrieved her rosary beads and prayer book while walking over to her simple bed, resolving to ask God for forgiveness for her lapse after finishing her bedtime prayers. But no sooner had she sat down on the bed and opened her book, the young sister softly gasped as she felt something wrapping around her right ankle.
She quickly looked at the floor and saw a hand grabbing her ankle.
A very familiar hand.
'Really? Here? And at this time of night?'
The young sister shook her head and slowly bent over to get closer to the hand. Then she jabbed it with a pointed corner of her prayer book, forcing the appendage to release her.
Ellen ignored the muttered curses coming from under her bed, instead grabbing her blanket around herself. Once her form was covered by the blanket, she sat back down and waited for her unforeseen guest to come out.
Soon enough, a man in fine clothing crawled out from under her bed and stood next to it. He rubbed the spot of his hand her book had jabbed into, and quietly complained, "Was that really necessary, menina?"
Ellen shot him a droll look. "Considering that you, a man, have been hiding under my bed, which is in a nunnery, for who knows how long – yes, yes it was."
Lord Tyki Mikk sighed as he sat down next to her. "You barely leave this place unless for nursing at the hospital and delivering food to the poor. How else am I able to talk to you?"
"You just listed two places where you can talk to me, Lord Mikk," the young sister pointed out with an exasperated huff. "And before you try to claim that you'll stick out too much, might I remind you of how many times I've come across you dressed as a laborer?"
"Yes, but that doesn't mean I can have a private discussion with you at either of those locations," he responded while wrapping an arm around her blanket-enclosed body. "Not only are the other nuns and sisters present, you constantly flit about while accomplishing tasks. I find that conversation works best when both people are standing near each other, menina."
"I'm not there for social visits, Tyki," she countered. "The reason I joined the Black Order was to help the unfortunate. There are so many people who are overlooked by the rest of society due to their poverty. The Black Order doesn't have the resources to help everyone, but it doesn't mean the aid they do provide is less than genuine. After all, I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for them."
Tyki smiled and rested his head on top of hers. "And I'm thankful for that last fact every day."
Ellen blushed and looked down in embarrassment, deciding it would be best to change the topic. "Well, anyway, what's the reason that you had to sneak into my room to see me?"
The young sister blinked in confusion as she felt his body tense in reaction to her question. She pulled away to look at his face and was surprised by the very irritated expression she saw.
"Tyki? What's wrong?" she asked as a hand escaped the confines of her blanket to lay upon his.
The nobleman heaved a heavy sigh and pulled her closer towards him, their final position being chest-to-chest. "My brother," he stated, as if that two word sentence explained everything.
And for Ellen, it did. Because she has had known Tyki ever since he asked her to secretly treat wounds earned from an illegal duel, she was privy to many aspects of his life. That included his older half-brother, Foreign Minister Sheril Kamelot.
"Don't tell me; he tried to have you sit down for another painting he can show off alongside those of his daughter? Or has been constantly sending you letters complaining that you don't visit him often enough?"
But instead of her half-joking queries getting him to relax and laugh, the nobleman gritted his teeth and tightened his grip on her. "No," he said after a few moments of worrying silence, "he's trying to get me to propose to Lulu Bell."
The young sister's eyes widened with shock. She felt as though she had just been shoved into an ice-cold lake during winter by his words. It took her a while to recover enough of her senses to ask, "What? Why would he do that?"
Tyki sighed and eased his grip, though still kept her close. "He's noticed that I've been staying at her chateau whenever I come to France to secretly meet you. Since both of us are unmarried nobles, and I never pay the young ladies he sends my way anything else than polite attention, he assumed that I was actually courting Lulu Bell privately and is now pressing me to marry her."
"Surely you told him you had no such interest," Ellen reasoned, feeling guilty that she had indirectly caused his current dilemma.
"I tried, believe me. But once Sheril has decided a course of action, he can't be persuaded otherwise. Especially if it's connected to his obsession with having me married off. And that's not the only obstacle…"
Seeing the serious look on his face, she paused before asking, "Then what is it?"
"He got the Earl involved."
The young sister was confused at that cryptic statement. "Why is that a problem? Didn't he help you avoid a betrothal with some noblewoman you danced with months ago?"
He sighed and said, "The problem is that this time the woman Sheril's matchmaking me with isn't a young lady from just another aristocratic house. It's Lulu Bell, a cousin. Family. And since the Earl always stresses that we stick together, such a marriage will appeal to him."
Ellen felt her heart slowly sink with every word she heard. "But what about the manner of consent? You certainly won't give it. And while I don't know Lulu Bell enough to speak for her, what you've told me makes it unlikely for the noblewoman to give her own for this," she pointed out, her concerned silver-gray eyes locked with his blue.
Tyki's gazed softened before he tenderly cupped her left cheek. Ellen shivered with pleasure as she felt his thumb caress the portion of her scar underneath her eye.
But that warmth was swiftly banished by him saying, "She greatly respects and admires the Earl, menina. If he tells her it would make him happy to see us wed, then she'll do it regardless of her own feelings."
The young sister's face fell and her heart broke. She had no idea what to say in response. What could she tell Tyki? Obviously she didn't want him to marry Lulu Bell, but neither did she want to cause strained relations with his brother and the Earl by refusing the marriage. That left the only option left: she had to let him go.
'God, is this my punishment for ignoring my vows and falling in love with Tyki?' Ellen morosely wondered as she buried her face into his chest. 'Having to stand aside while he marries another?'
'Or maybe… the inevitable end of our relationship has just arrived?'
There were other reasons why they couldn't stay together besides her being a sister. Even if she renounced her vows and left the Black Order, she would simply return to her former self: Ellen Walker, daughter of a traveling performer. Hardly a status that allowed her to marry a noble such as Tyki. And while she wouldn't object to being his mistress, she knew from the stories he had shared about how his own mother – the longtime mistress of his and Sheril's father – was treated by the nobility that he didn't want to subject her to that lifestyle.
She heaved a heavy sigh and looked up at him, silver-gray eyes filled with a sad resolve as she whispered out, "Did you come here to say goodbye, Tyki? If so, I won't stop you. Just… let me keep you in my daily prayers from now on."
The nobleman was momentarily shocked by Ellen's words, but then frowned and took hold of her face to bring the young woman into a crushing kiss that elicited some rather high-pitched whimpers of pleasure from her. For an instance she worried about being too loud and alerting the others to Tyki's presence, but luckily no one showed up to her cell door.
"Don't think for a second that I'll ever abandon you, menina," he hissed out between their lips after moving back to allow her to breath. "I meant it when I promised you my love ages ago. I am yours, and you are mine."
Ellen felt elated at his words, but cruel reality plunged her back into melancholy. "What other choice do you have?" she murmured, a few tears falling from her eyes. Then feeling ashamed by that display, she hastily wiped them away with the sleeve of her shift before continuing, "Both your brother and the Earl want you to marry Lulu Bell. If you refuse, it would cause unnecessary divisions within your family."
"It's not really about Lulu Bell," Tyki corrected the other as he gathered her back into his arms. "What Sheril – and the Earl, to an extent – truly want is for me to get married."
The young sister let out a short sob and returned his hug. "Well, then," she brokenly laughed without any humor behind it, "I guess that they're getting their wish now."
For a few moments the nobleman said nothing, just rubbing her back to comfort her. Then he gently took hold of her left hand before dipping his head to whisper into her ear.
"But not in the way they planned."
Ellen blinked as she felt something being pressed into her palm. She brought it up to her face and opened it to see what Tyki gave her. And then she gasped once it was revealed.
There, glinting in the candlelight, was one part of a gimmal ring. The silver hoop featured a small hand positioned as if cradling an invisible object, and was studded with an emerald, moonstone and amethyst. Inscribed on the flat inner side was one word in Latin: 'Memento'.
The young sister's head snapped up to send a thoroughly confused look of disbelief. "Tyki, wha…"
"Your final year of temporary vows is almost up," he started to explain with a half-smile. Then he took off the glove on his right hand to show her the golden hand-bearing ring that paired with hers, albeit with different gemstones – topaz, onyx and turquoise – and the words 'Mori'. "I was originally going to give it to you once that day arrived, but this new situation with Sheril made me realize that I can't put it off until then."
Forcing down the rush of happiness that threatened to overflow and consume her, Ellen shook her head and tried to be the practical voice of reason. "Even so, I don't have-"
"Money? Land? A title? Lineage?" the nobleman interrupted the young sister and made her look at him once more. "I already have those things, menina, and I'm not looking to acquire more by marrying some boring noblewoman. And why should I, when I have the key to lifelong happiness here in my arms?"
He then sweetly kissed her forehead and gave her a dazzling, charming… genuine smile. "Eu te amo (I love you), Ellen. Will you marry me?"
The tears that fell from her eyes this time were from pure joy. "Yes," she choked out as she clenched the ring in her hand and held it close. "Yes, I'll marry you, Tyki."
Ellen then suddenly wrapped her arms around his neck and brought the very willing man into a long kiss. Eventually their lips had to separate, but they themselves still clung to each other. She heard him chuckle as she rested her head on his chest, and sighed at the feeling of his right hand soothingly running through her hair. Thankfully the gimmal ring was well-designed and crafted, for not a single strand caught against it.
But as her mood started to descend from its previous position amid the heavens, she realized that there were two small details she had overlooked earlier when she accepted his proposal.
The first was, of course, that she had to renounce her vows. But seeing that she hadn't taken solemn vows yet, and Mother Superior Hevlaska was a very nice and understanding woman, it wouldn't take too long to sort that out. The other…
"Yes, querida (darling)?" he answered, pressing another kiss to her head.
"What did you do with the third ring? The one that's supposed to have a heart?"
The nobleman stilled at her questions, then pulled away. "Merda, eu quase esqueci (Shit, I nearly forgot)," he cursed before getting off of the bed and reaching underneath it in search of something, to Ellen's bemusement. "It's with the priest."
Sadly that explanation wasn't the most enlightening. "Wait, what priest?"
Tyki sighed as he pulled out a bundle and handed it over to her. "Remember I said that Sheril is pressuring me to marry Lulu Bell?" At her confirming nod, he continued, "Well, I just received a letter from him saying that the Earl was on his way to talk to us about it. And given what I said about her wanting to please him…"
Ellen felt a growing sense of trepidation as she asked, "When is he supposed to arrive?"
"Based on Sheril's letter and how long it took to reach me, tomorrow evening."
Her breath hitched in response. "But that means…"
Tyki's hands reached out and undid the bundle for her, revealing a black bodice, petticoat, overskirt, women's shoes, white gloves and a traveling cloak.
His blue eyes glinted as he stated, "It means that we need to leave. Right now."
- x -
"I hope that letter was enough of an explanation for Mother Superior…"
"Even if it wasn't, your friends will certainly help fill in the blanks."
"Honestly, I'm still rather shocked that Lenalee and Miranda were the ones who let you in tonight."
"How else was I supposed to get in? Walk through the walls?"
Ellen rolled her eyes in response to her fiancé's jest. She was following him as he led them from the Black Order into the woods behind it, holding onto his arm so as not to get lost. "As much as I like your humor, let us save it for later," she told him with a slightly wry tone.
"Alright, querida. I'll stop for now," he chuckled while patting the hand on his arm.
"Thank you. So, where exactly did you leave your horse, again?"
"He should be right… there!"
Tyki lifted his free hand to his lips and whistled out three sharp notes. "Come out, Teez!" he called out into the moon-carved shadows.
They heard a soft nicker answer the command… followed by a few barks.
Looks of confusion settled on both of their faces. "A stray dog?" Tyki wondered. "Why would it be out here in the woods?"
That was answered, in a sense, by the dog in question running out of a nearby bush and walking up straight to Ellen, sniffing at her skirt before sitting down in front of her. A black horse with white markings emerged as well, albeit from a different direction and at a more relaxed gait.
"Timcanpy!" she happily exclaimed once she recognized the golden-furred dog. He was one of the local strays who had taken a shine to the now-former sister, normally trailing after her whenever she left the Black Order. At the current moment she scooped him up into her arms and cooed, "Where have you been? I didn't see you at all today." Timcanpy answered with a few soft woofs before licking the young woman's cheek, earning a few giggles from her.
"He was probably busy with biting some poor fool," a now disgruntled and somewhat jealous Tyki muttered to himself as he patted Teez's nose and checked his reins and saddle.
Ellen gave him an exasperated, yet slightly amused look. "Are you still holding that grudge against him? It's been two years since he's done it."
"I'll give it up once the scars fade," the older man countered. "And why bite me in the first place? I didn't do anything to him!"
"No, but you did sneak a kiss from me during the town's Christmas celebrations. Which, given that I was still under my vow of chastity then, was incredibly risky to perform with all the older nuns and priests attending."
A rather salacious smirk spread across his face as he tugged on the girth to check its fit. "And I'll repeat what I said after the kiss, querida: it was worth it to see your cute little blush."
Ellen felt that aforementioned blush settle onto her cheeks and briefly considered the benefits of burying her face into Tim's fur to hide it. Instead she looked away and asked, "So, are we ready to go?"
Tyki laughed and patted the side of Teez's head. "Yeah, everything's good to go," he confirmed as he held out a hand for her in order to help her into the saddle.
She smiled and took a step in Tyki's direction. But then she noticed that there was a saddlebag hanging off the side of the saddle facing her.
Ellen estimated the size of the bag. Then she looked down at Timcanpy. Then gave Tyki a pleading look.
The nobleman sighed once he realized what she was asking for. "Yes, he can come too," he acquiesced as he rubbed at his temple.
Ellen beamed and gave her fiancé a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, Tyki!" she chirped before walking over to the saddlebag and putting Tim inside, taking care to not tightly fasten the opening flap closed.
Tyki, meanwhile, stood still as his surprised mind came to terms with her unexpected display of affection. Then he laughed and shook his head with amusement.
Once the young woman was assured that Tim was both secure and free to breath, she returned to Tyki's side and gasped as he swept her into his arms.
"Ah, just what am I going to do with you?" he sighed in contentment while locking gazes with her.
"Well, I was under the impression that you'll marry me," she responded with a shy smile.
The nobleman gave her a seductive smirk, filled with sure promises for their wedding night, that sent a shiver down her spine. "That and more, querida. That and more," he murmured after giving her a brief kiss.
His hands then settled on her waist and lifted her up into the saddle. Once his fiancée was settled, he stuck his left foot into the stirrup and swung his right leg over to sit behind her.
Ellen raised her left hand to admire her ring. "What does the heart ring look like?" she idly asked as Tyki wrapped an arm to pull her closer to him.
The older man lightly tapped Teez's sides with his feet, prompting the horse to begin walking out of the woods and towards the road. "It's made of gold, with one half yellow and the other white. And in the center of the heart lies a ruby," he explained.
"Hmm… it sounds very pretty."
"It is. And it'll be gorgeous once it's on your finger, querida."
Ellen laughed and closed her eyes. They still had a way to go, as the priest that promised to marry them was several miles away. But she knew how fast Tyki's horse could go, and she trusted his horsemanship skills to get them there as quickly as possible.
So instead of allowing her mind to worry about the perils ahead, she listened to Tyki's heartbeat. It faithfully moved to its own rhythm, not letting the gallop Teez broke into once his feet had touched the road send it into a fearful frenzy. Any increase in tempo that did occur sounded more like it was releasing its excitement for the journey.
Thus, as they rode off into the horizon, she simply held onto the arm around her and smiled.
- xXx -
Nun vs Sister – While nuns are often called sisters, the two are actually quite different. A nun is a woman who takes solemn vows (obedience, chastity and poverty; she can't retain anything she's inherited from her parents)and lives a contemplative life while staying in a monastery which is usually either semi-cloistered or cloistered (enclosed). A sister is a woman who takes simple vows (obedience, chastity and poverty; she can keep what she's inherited, but she can't use it) and is called "apostolic" because she's out in the world doing good deeds.
Nunneries and unmarried women in the 17th century – According to Wikipedia, about 80,000 young women were educated in convents and lived their until they could get married. And if a young woman did join a convent, the dowry she would pay to it would be less expensive than the one she would need to get married.
Gimmal ring – A form of engagement ring originally comprised of two rings that form a whole. Both bride and groom would wear one ring until the wedding, wherein after the wife wore the complete ring. In the 17th century gimmal rings started to be made with three parts, and the third ring would be given to a witness of the engagement until the wedding. It was very popular in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and has recently been enjoying a revival today.
Memento Mori – Latin phrase for "Remember you must die" that originates from the Middle Ages in Europe. While that's an extremely morbid thought now, in the 17th century it was pretty much a fact of life. And yes, it actually does show up on some engagement rings from the period.
Temporary vows – Before a nun can take her perpetual vows, she needs to take a series of temporary vows for up to nine years. This is to make sure that when she finally becomes a nun, she's very sure of her decision.
Right hand or Left Hand – It depends on which country you live in where the engagement ring goes. For Britain it goes on the left hand. And, according to most of the results of my Google search, in Portugal it goes on the right. Although Wikipedia says that it's the left hand for them as well.
Mother Superior – The head nun of a convent. Think Maggie Smith's character from The Sister Act.
- x -
Well, that's Day Three! And it looks like I managed to keep it under 5,000 words! Hopefully I can keep it up...
Please leave a review if you want! I really want to know what you think!