Chapter 4 – The Magnificent BannerRhemuth Castle
Duchy of Haldane
Jäna de Tehryn stood not quite in the centre of Rhemuth Castle’s great hall, the hood of her little brown travel cloak thrown back, oblivious to everything but the magnificent tapestry that hung above the main fireplace. She had arrived with her father and brothers early in the afternoon and as usual, she wanted to see everything all at once. Baron Jerrill had stopped in front of the main fireplace, knowing that her attention would immediately be drawn to the scarlet tapestry. Baron Jerrill had indulged her fascination for a short while and then had directed that they should move on. Recognizing an old friend, he had quickly moved off to exchange greetings, not realizing that Jäna had not followed him. And Jäna had not yet noticed that he was no longer there.
Instead she stood enraptured by the tapestry before her. The Golden Lion of Gwynedd, glittering with gold and jewels in the afternoon sunlight, almost seemed alive against the scarlet velvet background. She didn’t notice the glances, some amused and some annoyed, as people stepped aside to avoid her.
Lord Alaric Morgan, Duke of Corwyn, stood watching from a short distance away. Still in his black riding leathers after a late morning ride with the king, he was in no great hurry to return to his rooms in the castle, content for the moment to observe the bustle in the great hall. He recognized the small, auburn-haired girl, remembering her from an encounter in a carver’s shop in Rhemuth a few years previously. He had been shopping for a Twelfth Night gift for his son, and she had been searching for her own birthday present.
His eyes followed her gaze to the tapestry. He remembered the impression the great banner of Gwynedd had made on him when he first came to Court to be a royal page. Whenever he returned to Rhemuth after a long absence, he still took a moment to admire the tapestry that dominated the great hall. Nevertheless, the crowd was growing as more of Gwynedd’s nobility arrived for Kelson’s Twelfth Night Court, and it looked to be a good time to rescue the fair maiden before she could be trampled under someone’s hasty foot.
Morgan casually walked over beside her, and said quietly, “It’s magnificent, isn’t it?”
Startled, Jäna looked up at the tall, blond man beside her in his black attire. She turned, made a graceful curtsey and replied, “Yes, Your Grace. It must have taken forever to weave.” She remembered who he was; even at her young age, one did not forget the Duke of Corwyn.
“Eight years, if I remember correctly. It was crafted by many Kheldish weavers and Concaradine artisans.” Morgan bent a little closer and asked, “Are you lost, Lady Jäna?”
“Oh no, Your Grace,” Jäna replied with a little shake of her head. “I’m right here.”
“So you are.” Morgan tried not to smile too broadly. “Is your father lost?”
Jäna turned to look around her, suddenly realizing her father was not in sight in the huge hall. Jäna looked thoughtful for a moment, then confidently replied, “Oh no, Your Grace. Papa always knows exactly where he is.”
Morgan chuckled. “I expect he does. Shall we go find him?”
“I think we should, Your Grace,” she said, concern spreading across her face. “He’ll be very worried if he thinks he has lost me somewhere.”
“I’m sure he will be, but he probably hasn’t gone too far….”
Morgan stopped mid-sentence as a young woman hurried towards them. She was of average height and average comeliness, with brown hair caught in a single braid behind her and travel clothes similar to Jäna’s. She careened to a stop and curtseyed deeply, catching her breath before saying, “Beg pardon, Your Grace. I am so sorry Jäna has been disturbing you.”
“I am not the least bit disturbed,” the Duke of Corwyn responded dryly. “We were admiring the banner of Gwynedd.” He noticed a slight wrinkling of Jäna’s nose at the woman’s arrival.
Lady Livia Gaston had accompanied the de Tehryn family to Gwynedd as a female companion to Jäna in place of Lady Amah, who had not felt well enough to make the winter journey. She was the granddaughter of one of Baron Jerrill’s knights, just turned sixteen and more interested in the coming court festivities and potential suitors than looking after the baron’s daughter. She had been so anxious to change from her travel gown into something more suitable that she had neglected to notice that her charge was missing. Baron Jerrill’s sharp command to “find her NOW!” had sent her scurrying back through the great hall in near panic.
“Jäna, you will come with me right now!” She grabbed the small girl’s hand and all but forced her into a second curtsey beside her as she again apologized for the interruption of Morgan’s day and all but dragged Jäna away. “Your father was furious when he realized you weren’t with your brothers!”
Alaric Morgan’s brow furrowed as he watched the young woman lead the girl away. Normally he would not interfere with the running of another man’s household, but he was not comfortable with what he was seeing. He was saved from further deliberation when Baron Jerrill appeared, scooped his small daughter into his arms and hugged her tightly. She said something to him, and he turned in Morgan’s direction with a slight bow of gratitude. Morgan nodded in acknowledgment and noted that when de Tehryn set her back down, he ensured his daughter had a brother on either side as they again left the great hall, leaving the young maiden to follow behind. All seemed to be in order, but he made a mental note to mention the incident to Richenda, who would likely pass it along to Duchess Meraude.