Chapter 9 – The End of ChildhoodDe Tehryn Apartments
Duchy of Haldane
Baron Jerrill de Tehryn sat in his chair before the hearth, staring into the fire, his booted feet propped up on a carved foot stool and a goblet of port in his hand. It wasn’t a fine Vesaire port, but he doubted he would have appreciated the finer taste, or even have noticed it. His mind continued to replay the night’s events and try to make sense of it all.
With the exception of the falcon badge, they had found nothing of significance among the possessions of the man who had grabbed Jäna. His sword and dagger had been well enough made, but not above ordinary quality. There had been a few coins in his belt pouch and a short string of prayer beads. He also had a flagon of cheap wine strapped to his belt. His tunic had been grey wool as one might expect of someone wearing a de Grey falcon badge. Or who had been wearing one before it was removed, to be more precise.
Jerrill did not presume that the Duke of Corwyn had shared everything he might have gleaned from his Death-Reading of the man, but he knew some of it. Jerrill had been directed to join the debriefing in the king’s withdrawing room once the initial investigation of the scene had been completed. Assured that his daughter was safely in the care of Duchess Meraude, he had provided what information he could, precious little that it was, and had been allowed to remain while Morgan gave his initial report. Morgan had revealed that the man had been in the service of Warin during the uprisings in Coroth, had left it when much of Warin’s following had disbanded after the defeat of King Wencit, and then had been recruited into service as a messenger by Gareth de Grey, a nephew of Warin, roughly two years ago.
At this point the memories had begun to fade more rapidly than Morgan had expected, and he had focused on why the man had tried to abduct Jäna. Jäna had not been his specific target; he had been told to bring “a likely prospect that would serve as a suitable message to the king” to a specific tavern in Rhemuth. Morgan suspected the plan had been to encourage someone willing to drink enough of the cheap wine to accompany him, but a little girl seemingly alone in the hallway who could be carried out concealed in his cloak had looked easier. The man had also suspected that the girl might be Deryni, which was even better. That piece of information had troubled them all.
It certainly troubled Jerrill, as he sat musing before the fire. The progress King Kelson had made in restoring Deryni rights had emboldened Jerrill to present his triplets with their Saint Camber medals. Unfortunately, the dead man had seen them going to St. Hilary’s Basilica, had overheard his daughter’s innocent mention of magic, and had decided she might be Deryni. That made her an even better “message for the king” in the man’s mind. What that message was to be, they still did not know. Jerrill worried that perhaps his gifts to his children had been a mistake.
King Kelson, of course, was now fully aware they were Deryni. What impact that would have would remain to be seen. Jerrill would now not be leaving with Jäna for Tehryn at first light as he had intended. Kelson had questions he wanted to ask her before they left. His Majesty had decided they could wait until morning and would be asked in the presence of her father and Duchess Meraude, so the young girl would not be overwhelmed by the royal attention. Jerrill also suspected that Kelson wanted to review the situation with Morgan beforehand.
A noise from the doorway to the bed chamber Jäna was sharing with Lady Livia broke the old baron’s reverie. Jäna stood in the doorway, her disheveled braids attesting to a restless night. Duchess Meraude had seen to her comfort earlier in the evening, and by the time Jerrill had retrieved his daughter from her care, she had had a warm bath and was enjoying a hot posset of milk with honey beside Princess Eirian. Lady Livia had been escorted back to the deTehryn apartments much earlier; Jerrill had decided to leave the discipline required to Amah Furstán d’Arjenol. He would deal with young Duncoate.
“Not able to sleep, Kitten?” Jerrill asked, and Jäna shook her head. “Bad dreams?”
“Yes, Papa. There was a man standing behind the door, and I kept seeing all that blood.”
“Come and sit with me.” Jerrill moved to one side of the chair and lifted his arm so his daughter could snuggle beside him. She immediately joined him, settling her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her. “You are safe now, right here with me.”
“You came when I called, Papa. You found me.”
“I will always find you, Jäna, as long as I still have breath left to me.” Jerrill gave her a hug and a kiss on the top of her head.
For a moment Jäna studied the fire and then said quietly, “I was mean to Lady Amah before we left Tehryn.”
“Well yes, I suppose you were. It was a difficult time for all of us, and I think Amah understood how upset you were.”
Jäna chewed on her lower lip and then looked abruptly up at her father. “Is that why the man tried to take me away?”
Startled, Jerrill saw how very serious she was. “Sweet Jésu, child! Of course not. Whatever gave you that idea?”
“It was the only reason I could think of, Papa.”
Jerrill hugged her closer, wanting to protect his little daughter as she tried to make sense of the adult world. “We don’t know why he did it, Kitten. We are still trying to figure it out, but I do know that it was not because of anything bad you did.”
“Will he try to take me again, Papa?”
“No, he will not, “Jerrill replied firmly. “I put an end to him, so he can do you no more harm. King Kelson has also placed a guard outside our door, and Prince Nigel will be sending additional men to travel with us back to Tehryn. You do not need to worry.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “You do need to be more careful.”
“Papa?” Jäna asked, looking worried.
“You are not a child anymore, Jäna; you are a young girl now and need to pay closer attention to your own safety. You shouldn’t have wandered away from Lady Livia the way you did.”
“I did not, Papa! She wandered away from me!” Jäna’s green eyes flashed with indignation.
“I know, Kitten. Nevertheless, you should not have put yourself at risk, alone at the far end of the hall. You need to pay attention to your safety.”
“I am sorry, Papa. I will try to do better.” Jäna looked up at her father solemnly.
“I know you will.” Jerrill gave her another hug. “It won’t be too many years before you are a young woman, and I will have to worry even more.”
“No, Papa,” Jäna said with a slight shake of her head. “That is when you will trade me for a good warhorse.”
“I will what?” Taken completely aback, Jerrill could only stare at his daughter in amazement.
“That is what Jared said, Papa. He said that once I was a young woman, you would be able to trade me for a good warhorse.”
“I think not, Jäna!” Jerrill decided he would have a short discussion with his son before they left Rhemuth.
“Justin said you could probably trade me for two good warhorses. But I think he wanted one for himself.”
“Jäna,” Jerrill said firmly. “I will not trade you for a whole string of warhorses. I will find you a good, proper husband.”
Jäna wrinkled her nose. “Like Sir Cecil?”
“I think not, Kitten! I will find you a much finer man than him.”
With an impish smile, Jäna settled in against her father’s broad shoulder. She was feeling sleepy now and finally safe. As she started to drift off, she asked, “It will be a very handsome warhorse, Papa?”
“It will be, Kitten,” de Tehryn responded with a smile. “It will be the handsomest warhorse in all the Eleven Kingdoms.”
With that reassurance, Jäna closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. Jerrill let her stay beside him, snuggled against his shoulder, as he watched the fire in the hearth burn down to embers and the embers turn to ash.