Chapter 6 – The Taste of MagicRhemuth Castle
Duchy of Haldane
Baron Jerrill de Tehryn walked with his three children across the castle parklands toward St. Hilary’s Basilica. As the bells for Vespers finished tolling, he had suggested a visit to the church within the outer wards of Rhemuth Castle. Mystified, the triplets had willingly bundled up in cloaks and boots without giving much thought to the reason. In these last few days before the baron and his daughter left court to return to Tehryn, the boys, like many of the other younger pages, were allowed to spend the evenings with their families.
The evening was not too cold for this time of year, and the children walked a few paces ahead of their father, hoods thrown back in spite of the lightly falling snow. The new royal pages had had their hair cut that morning into the traditional page’s style, and Justin pushed the auburn bangs back from his forehead, only to have them immediately fall neatly back into place. Jared did his best to ignore the change, even though it felt strange and the back of his neck was cold.
Jäna stopped and leaned her head back, looking upward at the grey clouds and falling snow. She stuck out her tongue to catch several snowflakes.
“What do they taste like, Kitten?” her father asked.
After a short moment, she replied, “They taste like magic!”
“They don’t have any taste at all,” Jared quickly objected, “and they certainly can’t taste like magic!”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know!”
“They can taste like whatever Jäna wants them to taste like,” Jerrill said mildly, glancing around to see if anyone else had overheard. Magic might not be the death sentence it once was, but it was still better not to be too open about it. There were a few others out after Vespers, intent on their own business and not paying attention to the small family making their way through the snow. Jerrill noted only one man close enough to have heard, but he sensed no hostility aimed in their direction.
“Jäna should have them taste like sweet cakes then, or maybe candied ginger,” Justin declared. “That would be much better.”
They were now at the Basilica steps, and Jerrill reminded them to keep their voices respectful as they climbed up to the door. They paused under the porch long enough to stamp the snow from their boots and shake out their cloaks before the old baron opened the heavy door and ushered the children inside.
The candles burning in the many wall sconces threw flickering shadows on the statues of saints set into niches along the walls as the family proceeded down the north aisle. Jäna thought it made them seem alive and reached up to grasp her father’s hand. Just before the transept, Jerrill steered them though an arched door and let them pause to view the chapel inside.
It was impressive in its simplicity. Here the candles threw shadows against pale grey marble walls devoid of statues. The vaulted dome was far above their heads, and the labyrinth pattern in the tessellated floor drew the children farther inside. They stopped before they reached the center of the chapel, to gaze wide-eyed at the mosaic on the wall above the altar.
“That is Saint Camber,” said a familiar voice, “crowning King Cinhil Haldane to start the Restoration.”
“Bishop Duncan,” Jäna said and curtseyed. Her brothers, standing one on each side, bowed respectfully. Jerrill stopped just behind them, bowing in his turn.
“Just in front of you,” Duncan McLain continued, motioning to golden tiles set in the center of the floor, “is the seal of Saint Camber. I think this will be the perfect spot for our little ceremony.”
“Ceremony?” Justin asked, turning to look at his father.
His father smiled down at him, but there was a look of wistfulness in his blue eyes. “I have a gift for the three of you. Something to start this next journey in your lives.” He pulled a small velvet packet from his belt pouch and handed it to the bishop.
“Lord Jerrill, if you would bring the two kneelers along the wall over to the seal, I think we can easily fit all three together on them.” Bishop Duncan took the packet and moved to the altar to make his preparations.
Mystified, the children stepped to one side while their father placed the two kneelers on the seal. Bishop Duncan returned, holding the opened velvet cloth and a silver stoppered vial. He handed the vial to Jerrill and then held out the cloth so the children could see what he had carefully arranged on it.
Three silver medals were laid side by side, each on a silver chain. The children recognized the hooded figure of Saint Camber, and while still in the early stages of learning Latin, they understood the words Sanctus Camberus, Defensor Hominum
inscribed below the figure. To the ring at the top of each medal through which the chain passed a second ring had been attached, from which hung a small, tear-drop shaped yellow crystal.
“Papa,” Jäna whispered, “are those shiral
crystals like the one Lady Amah wears?”
“Yes, Kitten. The medals were forged from the silver of Tehryn mines, and the shirals
came from a river not far from there.”
“If the three of you will now kneel,” Duncan motioned toward the kneelers, “your father has asked me to bless these here in Saint Camber’s Chapel.
The triplets knelt as they were bidden, looking like three auburn-haired angels in the flickering light. Jerrill knew that image wouldn’t last long, but it would remain etched in his mind till the end of his days.“Kyrie eleison,”
the bishop began, his voice strong but reverent in the quiet chapel. “O Lord our King….”
He continued through the liturgy, the children and their father attentive to every word. At the appropriate time, he took the vial from the baron and sprinkled holy water on each of the medals. After he concluded the blessing, he slipped the silver chain of the first medal over Jared’s head, the second over Justin’s, and finally the third over Jäna’s, following their birth order. He then blessed each child in turn and did not pause to wonder as the shiral
crystal beside each medal glowed briefly as each child was blessed. But Jerrill de Tehryn, standing off to the side, paused and caught his breath at the site of another figure that materialized above Bishop Duncan. The cowled figure bowed his head, spread his hands in benediction over the three small children and then dissolved into nothing.
The ceremony was finished, but for a long moment they stood and kneeled in silence, loath to disturb the feeling of peace within the chapel. Then normalcy returned, with Baron Jerrill thanking the bishop for his indulgence and the children standing to look at their medals more closely, comparing them to confirm they were indeed identical.
“I would advise you keep them tucked inside your tunics,” Bishop Duncan said. “And gown,” he added quickly with a smile at Jäna.
“Yes,” Jerrill added to reinforce the idea. “Best not to encourage unnecessary questions. Thank you again, Your Excellency.”
“The honour was mine, Lord Jerrill. I believe this was the first blessing of medals within Saint Camber’s Chapel. I hope there will be more to come.”
“God grant us the peace for it to be so,” Jerrill replied. “But now we should leave you in peace, before my angels turn back into children.”
Bishop Duncan chuckled as he acknowledged bows and curtsey. “I doubt that will take long.”
Jerrill de Tehryn led his children back through the basilica and out into the courtyard. It had grown colder and the snow was falling harder. He paused to make sure Jäna’s cloak was securely fastened and her hood drawn forward. He grasped her hand in his, Justin’s on his other side, and started across the courtyard. Jared stayed behind for a moment, tilted his head back and tried to catch a snowflake on his tongue. Successful, he darted after them, keeping the taste of magic to himself.