Part 2 – An Ounce of Prevention
Barony of Tehryn
Early spring, 1132
Lady Amah Furstán d’Arjenol opened her eyes slowly. Judging from the rays of sunshine pouring in through the west window of her room, she had napped longer than she had intended. She sat up from her bed and stretched her arms out in front, the fingers of her hands interlaced and facing away from her, and was rewarded by a comforting crack from her spine.
“The joy of growing old,” she said aloud, although she was alone in her chambers. “I grow too self-indulgent.” Nevertheless, the headache that has plagued her since the morning had eased, and she felt better able to face the remaining hours of the day and speak to Baron Jerrill about the training she had in mind for Jäna. It would require adjusting the young girl’s training controls, which needed careful consideration for one as precocious as Jäna, but how much time would she have to teach Jäna the Deryni skills she should know? And if she didn’t, who else could? Certainly no one else in Gwynedd.
Amah rose from the bed and picked up her black veil, securing it over the coiled silver hair. If life had been different she would have had attendant ladies to assist her, but fate had altered that life and she had grown comfortable over time with the changes. She had her maids, of course, but she had set them to sewing tasks and felt no need to disturb their work. One of her two maids would be leaving in early summer to marry, and they were working on items the girl would need once she had her own household. Amah was in no hurry to replace her; she and Jäna’s mother had agreed from the beginning that it was best to keep a low-profile household. They had deemed it best not to draw too much attention to two noble Torenthi ladies living in Gwynedd, especially after Anya had become the Baroness Tehryn. She still mourned Anya, who had not survived the triplets’ birth….
Amah gave herself a mental shake. This was not the time to dwell on the past. She paused before the gilded icon that hung above a simple pre-dieu, bowed her head for a brief prayer, crossed herself and headed resolutely out the door, turning in the direction of the baron’s study.
Baron Jerrill had agreed to take charge of Jäna for at least the early afternoon, suggesting that Jäna could help him review the plans for the new bridge for the main road leading to Tehryn Keep. Jäna had eagerly agreed, always pleased to be able to spend time with her father. She had further suggested that, when they were finished, she could show her father the new dance steps Amah had taught her. They were hardly “new” dance steps, since Amah had no idea what the current fashion was in Rhemuth, but they were new to Jäna and gave her a start at learning social graces. Jerrill had replied that he would think about it, as he was getting a little old for dancing.
Amah caught herself before uttering an undignified snort at the thought. Jerrill de Tehryn had always been a graceful dancer, almost in spite of his barrel-chested build and stiff military bearing. It had been Jerrill’s dancing that had initially piqued Anya’s interest, and Jerrill had loved to move her through the steps and twirls, dips and bows, ever gracious and attentive. She had not travelled to Rhemuth Court often with him, but when she did, the Baron Tehryn had taken every opportunity to present his equally graceful Baroness in the Great Hall dancing.
As Amah approached the open study door, she was surprised she did not hear the sounds of a lute. Surely, they would have found someone to accompany them with a simple tune….
“That is my girl!” Baron Jerrill exclaimed. “Thrust upward like you mean it!”
“By all the Saints!” Lady Amah gasped, stopping to stand dumbfounded in the doorway.
Jäna stood twisted sideways in the grip of Sir Aaron Meachen, thrusting upward with a wooden dagger in her left hand toward the man’s armpit. Sir Aaron, the baron’s weapons master, protected by a well-padded gambeson, gave Amah a startled look and released Jäna’s arm. Jerrill stood facing them from across the study, standing beside his desk that had been moved from its usual position near the window to the farther wall.
“Lady Amah,” Jerrill said as he turned toward her. “I trust your headache is better?”
“It was until now. This is hardly a dance lesson!”
“Well now, that depends on your point of view. The ability to dance away from danger is also an important lesson.”
“Jäna hardly looks like she is dancing away from danger!”
“Now Amah,” Jerrill continued lightly, although his countenance showed firm resolve. “An offensive move can open the way to a strategic escape.”
“My Lord, this is your daughter, not one of your sons!”
“Aye, Lady Amah, I am aware of that, most assuredly. That is exactly why I have asked Sir Aaron to help me teach her a bit of dagger work. Show Amah how you are doing, Jäna.”
Sir Aaron looked a bit uncertain, but Jäna quickly slid the practice dagger into the top of her soft-soled boot, leaving it invisible under her gown. With a nod to the baron, Meachen moved behind Jäna, who began to walk forward. Meachen strode quickly forward and grabbed Jäna’s right arm, pulling her back toward him. Jäna’s left hand dove down for her left boot, grasped the dagger and would have driven the dagger deep into her assailant’s left thigh, if the thigh had not been so well padded. Sir Aaron released her in feigned reaction to pain, and Jäna spun right and away, running toward her father. She stopped by his side, and he gave her a quick hug of approval.
“There are other lessons she should learn,” Amah said carefully, aware of Sir Aaron’s presence in the room.
“I grant that,” Jerrill responded with equal care. “But there are times when a dagger is the better weapon and less likely to be questioned.” He looked directly into Amah’s eyes. “Anya may have fared better if she had been equally prepared.”
Lady Amah returned his look, but said nothing. She did not know how much Baron Jerrill knew of the events that had happened long ago in Arjenol; that had been up to Anya to reveal and had remained between the baron and his wife. In truth, magic was rarely the first weapon of choice, and certainly not openly in Gwynedd. She gave the matter quiet consideration, her face revealing nothing of her thoughts.
Jäna stood quietly beside her father, aware that the initial tension was beginning to ease. Now she slid the dagger back into her boot, and swished her gown into place, hiding it once more.
“The dagger doesn’t get in the way of dancing at all, Amah,” she said brightly. “Let me show you.” She reached over and grasped her father’s hand. “Papa, we’ll try the new steps Amah taught me.”
As she guided him forward, she began to sing a simple tune, her voice not quite a clear soprano, but beginning to show signs of the lovely alto it would one day become, like her mother’s. The steps were not new to Jerrill de Tehryn, and he led her expertly across the room, his deep baritone joining his daughter in the melody.
In her mind, Amah did not see the girl; instead she saw the woman that had been and glimpsed the woman that would be.
Perhaps the dagger was not a bad idea after all. Amah could bend that much, if it would keep her safe.