Chapter 3 – The Peace OfferingTehryn Keep
Barony of Tehryn
Baron Jerrill de Tehryn looked around the table at his family and sighed. He had planned that they would dine quietly, this last night before they left for Rhemuth, in the solar. A perfect chance to reminisce. His blue eyes, as clear and sharp as ever even though he was well into his sixties, were not twinkling with their usual good humour. The fire burning in the hearth provided welcome warmth and the sideboard was set with many of the triplets’ favourite foods, waiting to be served by his manservant. Amah sat across from him at the other end of the table, gowned in her usual black, quietly serene. The boys sat along the left side of the table, freshly scrubbed from their training and other duties Jerrill had laid out to keep them occupied. The right side of the table, where his daughter normally sat to avoid any right-hand versus left-hand conflicts with her brothers, was empty.
“I really don’t think it was necessary to exclude Jäna,” he said, his full, iron-grey beard bristling as he spoke.
“My lord,” Lady Amah replied with unusual formality, “Jäna needs to understand that actions have consequences. It is better she learns the lesson sooner than later.”
“Later would have suited me just fine. Master Cooke worked hard to fix the pheasant just the way she likes it.”
“Jerrill,” Amah replied shaking her head. “I don’t intend that Jäna should starve. She’ll have the same food, but by herself in her room.”
“I intended this to be a nice family meal. With ALL of the family!”
Lady Amah remained silent, wisely saying nothing more. The boys fidgeted on their bench. Meals were always a jolly affair, unless someone was ill. Baron Jerrill always insisted that no battles were to be fought during meals. He looked ready to start one now, though.
“Papa,” Justin said, sitting up straighter with sudden inspiration. “Pages are trained to serve at table, are they not?”
Jerrill turned to look at his son. “Yes, they are.”
“Then we should start now, Papa. Jared and I could serve Jäna her food in her room.”
“I don’t think…,” Amah began.
“That’s an excellent idea! Wallace,” the baron looked to his manservant standing ready by the sideboard, “will give you a hand. As you stated, Amah, learning is better sooner than later!”
Before Amah could voice further protest, the boys were up and accepting washbasin, towel and trencher as Wallace wisely followed with the goblet and wine flask.
It wasn’t long before they returned empty-handed. Wallace gave each boy a serving dish and again followed, this time with the carefully prepared pheasant. Jared returned for the plate of mince tarts and again withdrew.
Lady Amah gave Jerrill a sharp look. “They are bringing the food back, I hope?”
“Of course they are, but perhaps I should check. Maybe they spilled something.” Baron Jerrill pushed back his chair and quickly left the solar.
Lady Amah sat quietly in her chair, alone in the room. At least the washbasin should have been returned by now. Jerrill had jumped a little too readily at Justin’s suggestion. This would not be the first time she had been out-manoeuvred. Pursing her lips tighter, she rose to follow where the others had gone. Part way there, she met Wallace returning, again empty handed.
The door to Jäna’s room stood wide open; Amah stopped just inside and folded her arms across her chest, not quite glaring, but certainly not pleased. She should have known.
A blanket had been spread over the floor. Jäna sat cross legged beside it, her trencher and goblet set before her. Jerrill sat across from her, lifting his hands from the washbasin Justin held and accepting the towel Jared offered him. Jäna hesitated for a moment, then rose and offered a graceful curtsey. The boys bowed.
“Amah, good of you to join us,” Baron Jerrill said with a smile. “I’ve sent Wallace to fetch the rest of the trenchers.”
“I believe I suggested Jäna should eat alone in her room,” Amah stated, avoiding a direct assault.
“True, but by the time the food had been returned, and we were all settled again, the pheasant would have been cold,” Jerrill replied, trying a logistical manoeuvre.
“I am sorry, Amah. I have been behaving badly.” Jäna, still standing, looked contrite. Her eyes were still red from crying. The perfect peace offering, brilliantly played.
Jared brought over a cushion from the bench at the end of Jäna’s bed and placed it at the edge of the blanket, beside his father. “If it please you, my lady, will you join us at table?” he asked with a formal bow and then offered his hand to assist her to sit.
Lady Amah looked for a moment at Jerrill and then accepted the boy’s hand to sit. Justin brought over the washbasin and Amah carefully rinsed her hands while Jared stood ready with the towel.
The good humour had returned to Baron Jerrill’s eyes as the boys, assisted by Wallace, served the meal. No battles at dinner was his rule, but the occasional skirmish was another matter. He sliced the finest pieces of the pheasant and nudged them to Amah’s side of the shared trencher. A little additional good will never hurt.
“Did I ever tell you about the time Jayce tried to ride my warhorse?” Jerrill began as he reached for a glazed carrot.
“Do you mean old Goliath that you rode in the Mearan campaign?”
“No Papa, you never told us that story!”
“Well,” the baron smiled as he settled in to his meal and his story. “It was a fine spring day….”