This is the last part of this Triplet Tale.
Part 7 – Triplets Three, Let Them BeRhemuth
Duchy of Haldane
Late April, 1132
Jared de Tehryn waited patiently on his bay pony, stroking his mount’s neck with pleasure. Patience was not normally one of his strong points, but that afternoon he and Justin had some time free from their duties as royal pages and he was determined to enjoy every moment of it. It was the Feast Day of St. George, and after the celebratory feast at midday, Prince Nigel had released all of the pages not required for specific tasks to an afternoon of leisure. After days of rain, the warm, sunny day was welcome and page tabards had been eagerly exchanged for riding clothes.
It had been his idea to have a good, long ride on their new ponies outside the city gates with Jäna. His father had been against it at first, but after assurances that he and his brother would make sure they did not over-tire their ponies, would stay well away from the river, and would look after their sister, his father had finally agreed. Jäna had been none too pleased about the “look after their sister” part, but she had not objected, preferring to be granted the outing rather than making the point that she could look after herself. Justin’s comment that providing proper escort for a young lady was good training had been a nice touch, even though his father had snorted.
“There,” Jerrill said, straightening after checking the girth of Jäna’s saddle one more time. “Well secure.” He patted the pony’s rump and turned to offer his daughter a leg up onto the saddle. “Ready?”
“Yes, Papa,” Jäna replied, careful to hide any impatience. Once she was settled in her saddle, her father checked the stirrups, adjusted her cloak behind her, and finally moved to one side.
“No farther than Potter’s Field and St. Joseph’s Abbey,” he reminded them. “Make sure you are mindful of other riders and anyone on foot.”
“Yes, Papa,” the triplets said in unison as they lined their ponies one behind the other, with Jäna in her usual place in the middle.
“It is still very muddy,” he continued as they urged the ponies forward. “Keep the ponies on firm ground as much as you can.”
“Yes, Papa,” they said again.
Jäna turned in her saddle enough to wave at her father as they left the stable yard and headed in the direction of the Rivergate. As she turned forward, she asked her brothers in a low voice, “Do you think he was ever like that with his knights?”
Jared snorted and Justin grinned. Further conversation was abandoned as they rode into the busy street that led to Market Square and the Rivergate. Many people were out and about enjoying the fine day, freed from their normal work to celebrate St. George’s feast day. As they approached the market square, enticing smells came from the stalls, but the triplets were focused on the afternoon’s adventure outside the city wall, and they did not linger. Baron Jerrill had slipped Jared a few coins in case they would want a treat when they returned, but food held no interest at this moment.
At the Rivergate they paused while a large wagon pulled by a pair of oxen came into the city, moving forward again when the guard nodded in their direction. The road was still too busy to move at more than a walk as they turned northward, but once they were past the warehouses and other buildings they would be able to quicken the pace. Intent on moving safely through the throng of people, they didn’t notice another rider who passed through the gate behind them, one who continued to ride a discreet distance behind.
The triplets had almost reached the end of the long row of buildings when Jäna moved her pony forward to ride beside her oldest brother and said, “You’ve gone off.”
“What?” Jared replied, startled. “I’ve spoiled?”
“No, that is not what I meant.” Jäna gave him a considering look and then continued. “I mean you have gone on, moved on, beyond how we were when we left Tehryn for Christmas.”
Jared concentrated on the road ahead, not quite sure what he should say.
“And you are never coming back, not to how we were before,” Jäna continued. “You are happy here.”
“Would you rather we were not?” Jared asked, turning to look at her.
“No, not really, but I feel left behind.”
Justin, sensing that this was not the normal banter between his brother and sister, urged his pony forward to Jäna’s other side. They had passed the last of the buildings and there were fewer people now.
“Are you unhappy?” Jared asked.
“Not unhappy, just….” Jäna stopped, looked down at her reins for moment and then said, “Missing.”
“Missing?” Justin asked.
“Missing out, missing you, missing what used to be, missing everything
His sister’s sincerity stopped Jared from giving any kind of glib answer.
“Jäna,” Justin said, reaching across to grasp her hand. “You know we miss you too.”
“When you have time to think about it,” she responded dryly. “I seem to have more time for that than you.”
“No you don’t, but you worry about it more.” Jared’s triplet brother and sister stared at him, and even Jared seemed surprized at his own insight. Inspired, he plowed on. “You have always been the leader, but you don’t have anyone to lead anymore. No one could ever get us into trouble like you could.”
“Or back out of it,” Justin said with a smile. “Your life is too quiet now.”
“So what should I do? Convince Papa to invade Corwyn?”
“I can see it,” Jared said. “Jäna knocking on the gates of Castle Coroth and asking if she can come in and take over.”
“With a proper curtsey, of course,” Justin added.
They all laughed, startling the ponies. As the triplets settled them back into a walk, Jäna asked, “What can I do about it?”
“Be patient,” Justin said. “No, seriously,” he added as his sister scowled at him. “King Kelson is starting a Deryni schola
. You can come to the schola when it opens. He appointed Bishop McLain as rector.”
“Will His Majesty allow girls to attend?” Jäna asked, managing to sound hopeful and doubtful at the same time.
“Queen Araxie and the Duchess of Corwyn are to be patronesses, and Princess Rothana is assisting Bishop McLain. I doubt that it will be a problem.”
“How do you come to know so much about it?”
“I have been delivering messages to the bishop and awaiting answers.”
“It is all part of being a page, you know.” Jared grinned wickedly at his sister.
“Jared de Tehryn…,” she began.
Quickly her brother scanned the road ahead of them. “Catch me if you can, little sister!”
Jared urged his pony into a canter and was quickly followed by the others. Mindful of the muddy conditions, they went no faster, reining in at the far corner of the city wall. There they dismounted after deciding to walk the ponies for a bit before turning back.
There were trees along both sides of the road now, and there were large patches of mud that the triplets either walked around or picked their way carefully through. Soon they reached a large, wide pool of mud and water that stretched across the road.
“I think it is time to turn back,” Justin said.
Jäna looked down at her gown. “I think I have enough mud already without trying to wade through that.”
As they began to turn around, two riders approached from the far side of the road. The triplets moved their ponies to one side to give the riders room to pass. Jared took no particular note of the riders other than the fact that they were older boys, until they said something to each other and spurred their horses faster, charging them through the pool to splatter mud on triplets and ponies.
“Hey there!” Jared called angrily as the riders stopped and turned toward them. “There was no call for that!”
“Look at all that mud,” the first boy said as he leaned forward on his saddle. “We did a fine job of it!”
“Mayhap we could add a little more. No point in leaving it half done,” the second boy said, beginning to dismount. “You can still see their faces.”
Jared and Justin moved in front of Jäna, their ponies forming an additional barrier to either side of her. There they stood their ground, watching as the first boy dismounted, taking up the reins of both horses as the second boy sauntered toward them.
The older boys were unfamiliar to Jared and Justin. Both wore brown leather jerkins suitable for a day’s riding along muddy roads. The hair that showed under their riding caps was neatly trimmed and one boy, the one moving toward the pool of mud, looked to be trying to grow his first moustache. Jared was not pleased to note that each wore a dagger, possibly a squire’s dagger, attached to his belt. He judged they were twice his age and more than twice his size.
The boy had reached the edge of pool and stripped off his leather glove, still looking at them and smiling. He bent over to scoop up a handful of mud and muck.
“I would not do that,” Jared said as evenly as he could. “Do not let them near Jäna,”
he sent to his brother.“Pass me your reins,”
Jäna sent to both of them. Quietly they did so and stood ready, far enough apart to give themselves room to maneuver. Jäna eyed a rock at her feet. As a last resort, she thought she could throw it far enough to hit the boy standing with the horses, hard.
“Ladies first?” the boy sneered as he straightened.
“Don’t take another step,” Justin warned. If he tackled the boy in front of him, they would both end up in the mud, and Jared would have to deal with the remaining boy alone. His pony moved restlessly, sensing Justin’s wariness.
“What are you going to do? Turn me into a toad?”
“I would not want to insult the toad,” Jäna hissed at him.
As the boy stepped forward, his back foot suddenly slid out from under him and he fell backward into the pool, throwing water and mud well into the air as he slammed against the ground.
The second boy burst into loud laughter, continuing until he had to grip his side with his free hand. “What an ass you are!” he yelled gleefully.
“I’ll show you what an ass I am not if you don’t come over and help me up!”
“I think not! You will just reach out and pull me in. Here,” he moved forward with the horses. “I will toss you your reins and your horse can pull you out.” Still laughing, he started to toss the reins forward when his own horse moved sideways and pushed him forward into the pool. With no hope of keeping his footing, the older boy landed almost directly on top of his companion.
Both horses backed away from the commotion that resulted. Furious, the boys wrestled each other while trying to regain footing or handhold, for the moment forgetting the original objects of their torment. Ineffectively they rolled and thrashed, resulting in a thick coating of mud over both.
“This is a good time to leave, I think,” Jared said and gave his sister a boost onto her saddle.
“Do you think they will hurt each other?” Jäna asked, more out of politeness than any true concern.
“One can but hope,” said a familiar voice behind them.
“Lord Marley!” Justin said, surprised and slightly annoyed that he had not heard the Duke of Corwyn’s squire approach on his horse behind them.
Brendan Coris smiled as he acknowledged grimy bows and Jäna’s respectful nod. “I agree, it is a good time to leave, although the odds a bit more even now.
“You saw it all?” Jared asked as he mounted his pony.
“I was just a little way back and was about to interfere, when your friends appeared to lose their advantage in addition to their footing.”
“I would not call them friends,” Justin said darkly.
Jäna looked toward the boys in the mud and then at Brendan and asked with a mischievous glint in her green eyes, “Do you think we should look after their horses for them? They will ruin their saddles with all of that mud.”
“A thoughtful point, My Lady,” Brendan replied, his own cornflower blue eyes amused. “Saddles are expensive. They will surely thank us for our thoughtfulness after their walk back to Rhemuth.”
“Oh, surely,” Jared said with a grin.
As Brendan and Jared rounded up the other horses and began to lead them forward, they boys in the mud pool realized the game had changed and, still half-pushing each other back, tried to reach drier ground. They swore at triplets and squire with equal determination and venom.
“Oh dear,” Jäna said as they trotted away. “That sounded naughty.”
“Dear, innocent sister,” Jared replied. “I don’t suppose that first fellow fell into the pool totally by accident, did he?”
“I am sure it was just a misstep,” Jäna said with a smug smile.
“Nice touch with the horse batting in the second one,” Justin said.
“I had nothing to do with that one! I thought you did.” Jäna gave him a baffled look. “Or was it you, Jared?”
“I wish I had, but it was not me either.”
Three pairs of emerald eyes turned to look at the squire who rode beside them. Brendan smiled broadly and continued forward.
Three muddy ponies and riders caught the attention of the guard at the Rivergate as they entered the city wall. Brendan was careful to point out the extra horses and the fact that they could be claimed at the king’s stables when their owners came for them. A charge of horse theft was not to be taken lightly, and the guard nodded his understanding. The smells from the stalls in the market square were too enticing to ignore this time through, and Jared bought sweetcakes for all four of them. The woman selling the cakes provided a wet cloth for quick hand and face washing, and Jared left her an extra coin as thanks.
As they turned into the stable yard, the triplets found their father waiting for them, having expected them to return earlier. Dutifully they reported the day’s adventure, although avoiding references to toads and clever horses while in the stable yard. Jared noted that his father did not seem surprised that the Earl of Marley had arrived at such an opportune time. Brendan could offer no insight as to the identity of the other boys, though he stated he thought he had seen them in Rhemuth before. After a courteous bow to the baron, he withdrew to look after his own horse. Baron Jerrill agreed they should look after the extra horses as planned, sending along Gavin to help and to make sure word was left that the horses could be claimed from the Baron Tehryn.
No one came forward to claim the horses. In spite of their value and that of the saddles and bridles, the horses remained in the king’s stables, cared for at the baron’s expense, until they were eventually transferred to the pool of horses available for general use at the castle. The identities of the riders were never established, although there was a report several days later of a small group of riders heading north with two older boys riding pillion. Baron Jerrill was not inclined to pursue the matter further after the triplets confided that there had been a wee bit of magic involved. Nor was he surprised to be summoned by the Duke of Corwyn, who had been informed of the events by his squire. Morgan agreed that it was best not to pursue the matter further, though a discreet watch would be kept for the boys in case they returned to Rhemuth. Both men were disturbed by the taunt of being turned into a toad, and Jerrill agreed to remind his daughter about the importance of discretion.
A few days later, Jäna de Tehryn sat on her bed in the dark, the only illumination the soft glow of the shiral
crystal beside the St. Camber medal she held in her hand. The rapport she was sharing with her brothers was so clear it was almost as if they were in the room with her. In the morning she would leave them again to return to Tehryn. It would be a little easier this time, because now she had a goal of her own to pursue.
She would learn everything she could from Lady Amah and her father about magic and everything she could learn about her Tehryn heritage from the scrolls and books in the room below the keep. She would attend the king’s Deryni schola
and master whatever was put before her. She would share it all with her brothers. They would always be as close as her shiral
crystal, and as the shiral’s
light dimmed and the rapport began to dissolve away, so did her worry about being alone.