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Author Topic: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three  (Read 5553 times)

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Offline Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« on: November 26, 2015, 10:36:58 pm »
Previous chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1623.0.html


Chapter Twenty-Three

Morning
The Queen’s private apartments
Eirian House
December 25, 2021


The Duke of Corwyn acknowledged Henry Carlisle’s salute before turning his attention to the other armsman guarding the entrance to the Queen’s apartment. “New blood?” he asked.

“Armsman in training,” Henry confirmed. “Your Grace, this is Corporal Stephen Barrett. Michael and I are taking turns bringing the new armsmen up to speed in their duties. Barrett, this is His Grace of Corwyn. Learn his face; I’m sure he’d appreciate it if you don’t greet him with a flying tackle or perforate him with the live weapon of your choice the next time he drops in to visit Her Majesty.”

“Definitely not my preferred way to start the day,” Morgan affirmed, sizing the new armsman up before offering a friendly nod of greeting. “I’ve seen you before. Where?”

“Here, sir,” the corporal answered. “I’ve been billeted here at Eirian House for the better part of the past three years, aside from a six month tour of duty in the Anvil last winter. You’ve probably seen me on sentry duty trying to look appropriately stone-faced for the tourists.”

Morgan gave an amused snort. “At least your regiment’s ceremonial uniform doesn’t include a kilt. You should see what some tourists get up to when they’re gawking at the guards up at Ballymar. At least one of the guardhouses had a box full of confiscated mirrors last time I was there.”

The new armsman laughed. “I think the worst I had to sidestep was a four-hundred pound Americian woman with a face like a bag of hammers trying to kiss me while taking a selfie. I think I’ll prefer indoor work, sir.”

Henry started to open the door and announce the Duke’s arrival when a quiet sound stopped him. Turning to face Morgan with a baffled look, he asked, “Excuse me, Your Grace, but did you just . . . mew?”

Morgan smirked back, opening his jacket in silent answer. A furry head peeked out from beneath Morgan’s jacket, the kitten’s tiny neck collared with a ruby and diamond bracelet. He drew the kitten out to show her off. Dark spots matching the wide stripe down its spine dotted its sides, hindquarters and underbelly, contrasting with the tawny background of its body fur.

“What is it, sir?” Barrett asked. “That’s not your standard Gwyneddan tabby.”

“No, this is a Byzantian breed, specially created by breeding one of their indigenous wild cats with one of the domesticated breeds to produce these exotic little moggies.” As if in agreement, the kitten chirped loudly at him, drawing an amused grin from all three men. Morgan slipped the kitten back inside his jacket, zipping it up and mostly concealing it from view, although a dark-tipped tail briefly flicked up and waved over the V of his collar and it gave another mew.

Henry’s lips twitched in an effort to hold back a laugh. “Happy Christmas, sir.” He opened the door and announced Morgan’s arrival. “The Duke of Corwyn, Your Majesty.”



Morning
The Queen’s sitting room
Eirian House
December 25, 2021


Jen looked up as Morgan Haldane entered the room. “Happy Christmas, sir! Sophia’s just wrapping a few presents; she should be out in a minute.”

“No worries.” He unzipped his jacket slightly and a furry head popped out of the lowered opening. Jen laughed. Morgan cocked an eyebrow at her and lifted his finger to his lips. A tiny paw batting at his sleeve cuff nearly set her off again.

“You look dressed for the cold,” he observed. “I take it you’ve been out and about already?”

Jen gave him a mysterious smile. “Maybe.”

“Out riding?”

“Not exactly.”

“Ah, I see. I’m not meant to know, am I?”

“You will eventually.”

Morgan tried to figure out what Sophia and her ladies would have been doing outdoors on a chilly Christmas morning that he wasn’t supposed to know about yet. It was probably gift-related, given Jen’s reticence on the topic. “Am I getting a horse for Christmas? That might be hard to bring back through the Portal.”

She grinned. “We are not going to play Twenty Questions, sir; you’ll just have to wait and be patient.”

“Patient? Have you met me?”

“I’m sure you can fake it.”

The door to Sophia’s bedroom opened. Eilonwy Adams came out first, leading a man who was presumably her husband, judging by their clasped hands. The man recognized Morgan almost immediately. He bowed his head respectfully to the Duke, who extended his hand for a handshake.

“Your Grace, this is my husband Patrick Adams,” Eilonwy confirmed. “Paddy, I’d like you to meet the Duke of Corwyn.”

“How do you do, sir?” Patrick responded as he shook the hand Morgan offered.

“Mew!” said a tiny voice within Morgan’s jacket, making them all laugh.  “What she said,” Morgan belatedly answered. “Good to meet you, Detective Inspector Adams.”

“You are not going to ask him anything work-related today,” Sophia warned her cousin as she emerged from her bedroom. “Unless the investigation has turned up news of a bomb here at Eirian House, I really don’t want to know at the moment. Not today. Time enough to catch up on things tomorrow.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Morgan answered in a deceptively meek voice, although the effect was spoiled by a tiny growl followed by the front of his jacket twitching in a very odd manner.

Sophia raised her eyebrows at the sight. “Either those are the strongest palpitations I’ve ever seen, or you’ve got something in there. Hopefully not one of those chest-ripping aliens from a horror movie.”

“Well, it’s quite cute for an alien, and it is digging at my chest with its hindquarters at the moment, but hopefully it’s not too horrific,” Morgan replied as he unzipped his jacket further to reveal the present inside.

Sophia beamed in delight as she reached for the little bundle of highly animated fur. It sniffed at her fingers before venturing a sandpapery lick on her thumb. She laughed. “Well, look at you! Aren’t you dressed rather formally for the occasion?”

“She wanted to look presentable for palace life,” joked Morgan. “Here, let me remove that before she manages to lose it. Several Duchesses of Corwyn will come back to haunt me if that happens.”

“Is it a Morgan heirloom?”

“Yes and no.” Morgan fumbled with the bracelet’s clasp. “Alaric the Third gave it to Duchess Alycia Morgan as a wedding present when she married into the Haldane family. But it was a Haldane heirloom before that.” He managed to remove the bracelet from the kitten’s neck without snagging any fur, transferring it to Sophia’s wrist instead. The kitten reached out to bat at him.

“And what is your name?” the Queen asked the wriggling kitten.

“She wouldn’t tell me, though maybe she’ll tell you,” Morgan said. “At least if your ancient Greek is better than mine. She’s a Byzantian cat.”

“Ah. Then I’ll have to look up some suitable names for a little lady from ancient Byzantyun,” Sophia replied. With an arch look towards Eilonwy, she added, “Perhaps the professional librarian has some suggestions?”

“Or the professional historian,” Eilonwy said, smiling at Jen. “Between the three of us, I’m sure we’ll manage to turn up something suitable.

“I have your little Byzantian’s luggage downstairs in the Lord Chamberlain’s office,” Morgan told Sophia. “She comes with a set of essentials, so there won’t be any need to make an emergency run for kitten food or a litter box during the bank holiday. Shall I have her supplies brought up?”

“That would be helpful. I was going to make her sleep in your bed this weekend if she didn’t come with a litter box.” Sophia grinned.  “All right, Eilonwy and Patrick, would you two mind kitten-sitting for just a few minutes while I drag Morgan downstairs to open his present? We can stop by the Lord Chamberlain’s office on our way out. When I get back, Eilonwy can have the rest of the day off so you two can disappear to do whatever it is you newlyweds might think to get up to after being separated for nearly a whole week.”

“Nothing’s coming to mind,” Patrick joked, earning a swat from his wife. He laughed.

Sophia and Morgan left, Jen following at a discreet distance along with Armsman Barrett.



Morning
The west wing coach gate
Eirian House
December 25, 2021


“What in the world is that?” Morgan wondered aloud as he and his royal cousin approached the immense cardboard box dominating the covered driveway at one of the palace’s side entrances. At close range, the monstrosity appeared to have been pieced together from several huge cardboard boxes that had been scavenged and taped back together to form a single, much larger box. The assembled gift box had then been partially covered over with scrap wallpaper, although at one end the paper had run out, so that side had simply been spray painted in a similar color. The top of the box was adorned by what appeared to be several looped strips of plastic sheeting that had been formed into the shape of a crude bow.

“That is . . . amazing. I have no words, Sophia. What’s under all that, a very short elephant?” Out came Morgan’s smartphone; he had to take pictures of this . . . thing!

“That’s it, Morgan, a sawed-off pygmy elephant. They’re all the rage now.” Sophia handed him a box cutter.  “Cut carefully; you won’t want to scratch what’s inside the box.”

He took a final photo, handing the phone over to his cousin before opening the box cutter. “Any suggestions on where I should start?”

“Try one of the corners,” Sophia offered. As he began carefully slicing down the length of one taped corner, Sophia took more photos.

Morgan sliced through the gap between two taped sides and moved to an adjoining corner to free those side edges as well. As the blade finished cutting through the last few inches of tape on that corner, Sophia stopped him before he lifted up the resulting flap of cardboard.

Looking up at him uncertainly, she said, “I wasn’t sure . . . I know this is something you need, but if you decide you don’t want this particular one . . . I mean, if it’s too soon, or if you’d just rather not . . . .”

With a flash of insight, he lifted the flap, his gut instinct already telling him what the box contained. Under the cardboard, polished black metal gleaming as the morning sunlight hit its side, was Prince Kelric’s Gryphon Charger 3Z, the car he’d borrowed four nights earlier for his trip with Jen DeLisle through the Cloome Pass to retrieve the missing regalia box. It brought back a rush of memories, some painful, but happy ones as well.  Of all his cousins, he’d grown up closest to Kelric. Yes, the gift was bittersweet, but he treasured the remembrance nonetheless.

Morgan drew Sophia into his arms, blinking away tears as he dropped a tender kiss atop her head. When he could trust himself to speak, he asked, “Does it come with the key, or am I meant to hot wire the thing?” His voice was husky with emotion, and Sophia’s reply sounded rather liquid as she answered, “Jen has it.”

Morgan looked behind her to see Jen approaching with a small box. He took it, opening the lid to find not just the expected car key, but also an embossed leather key fob decorated with his Corwyn arms. He smiled. “Nice touch.”

“Thank you,” Jen replied. “I’m afraid it was a bit of a rush effort, but fortunately your arms are easy enough to trace.”

“You made this?” he asked, surprised.

She shrugged. “There wasn’t exactly time to find a local shopping mall.”

He chuckled. “I imagine not. Thank you. I’m afraid you’ll need to wait until tomorrow for your present; it involves a bit of long-distance travel, although it’s only seconds away by Portal.”

“Long distance . . .” Jen glanced at the Queen, who caught Morgan’s eye with a conspiratorial expression. “Wait, you mean an insider’s tour of Coroth Castle?” At the Duke’s confirming smile, she grinned. “Hot damn!”

“I do want my lady-in-waiting back eventually, Morgan,” Sophia informed her cousin, “even if you have to pry her fingers off the Green Tower’s crenellations with a crowbar.”



Late morning
Eirian House grounds
December 25, 2021


James and Devlin sought the relative privacy of the Eirian House grounds for their conversation, despite the wintry chill outside. The rising sun had brought a slight rise in temperature with it, enough so that James felt warm enough to unbutton his coat once the two men had been walking for several minutes.

“We’ve traced Armitage to Americia, but there the trail stops,” James told Devlin. “Rumor has it that he is planning a return trip, and there has been an increase in chatter between the Humanity Ascendant cells, but it’s well encrypted.”

“Have there been actual sightings of him in Americia?” Dev asked, “or what makes you certain he ended up there?”

“There’ve been reports of sightings from credible sources,” James answered, “although we haven’t managed to track down where he is staying. There are Humanity Ascendant cells in Americia as well, and they’ve also shown an increase in activity since the Castle bombing. He could be staying with one of his Americian colleagues, which would explain the lack of activity on his bank account since the fifteenth. It would be tempting to think he died in the bombing, except that there’s a record of him purchasing an airline ticket to Americia earlier that evening.”

“But that’s where the trail ends?”

“Pretty much.”

Dev thought through the implications. “He could have switched to an assumed name. With forged documents, any of his allies in Americia could have set up a new bank account for him.”

“Yes, I’ve reached the same conclusion. It would be more difficult for him to obtain a forged Gwyneddan passport from over there, but he might have made arrangements for one on this end before his trip to Americia. That would allow for the return trip.”

“Might he be using his Eric Harvey alias?” Dev asked.

“That would be handy, wouldn’t it? I have my men checking that lead, but if he has one alias we know about, I think it’s likely he has others we’re not on to yet.” James sighed. “We really don’t need this complication, especially on the eve of a state funeral. But hopefully we’ll get a break in the case soon.”

“Detective Inspector Adams is here from Rhemuth visiting his wife Eilonwy,” Devlin informed him. “He might appreciate being filled in on your discoveries, since he’s been working the case as well.”

“I think I’ll do that, especially since he might tracking leads I’ve not come across yet.”

“You might want to wait a few hours, though,” Dev cautioned.

“Time is of the essence,” James reminded him.

“True. But Patrick Adams is a newlywed who has been working long hours lately and hasn’t seen his bonny bride in nearly a week. Knocking on his apartment door might be rather awkward just now.  I’d suggest waiting until tea time at least.” Dev smiled.

James laughed. “Point noted. Having seen his bride, I’m thinking maybe I ought to wait until tomorrow.”

“Well, time is of the essence, but hopefully they’ll emerge from their love nest sometime before that.”



Late morning
A private apartment
The Queen’s Wing, Eirian House
December 25, 2021


Patrick Adams took a short break from enjoying his beloved and very much missed bride to cast an appreciative glance around the room at the rest of the scenery. “This is really nice. I could get used to this.”

“I should hope so,” Eilonwy teased, “since you’re sentenced to me for life.”

He laughed. “That too, but I meant the palace! This is a great bed. How old do you suppose it is?”

Eilonwy gave the headboard an appraising look. “Oh, maybe a century or nearly two? The mattress is considerably newer, of course. I rather doubt they made memory foam back in Alaric the Third’s day.”

“Yes, that seems unlikely.” Patrick trailed a string of kisses down his wife’s bare shoulder.  “So you’ve been living in the lap of luxury here in this apartment while I’ve been pulling double shifts and eating tinned soup, have you?”

“Well, not in this apartment; Jen and I have been sharing a small room off the Queen’s bedchamber, but it’s not too shabby. We have managed to miss out on tinned soup, but we’ve not had any shift breaks either, although that’s soon to change. Sophia’s managed to contact a few other friends who will be able to join us here at Eirian House after the holidays, so starting in January we’ll be rotating pairs of ladies-in-waiting on call for one-week shifts. I’ll only need to be on duty here every fourth week or so. But she says this apartment is for our personal use as long as I’m part of her Court, and that you’re welcome to stay with me here whenever I’m on duty, or even when I’m not.  Or when I’m not on duty, I can return to our Rhemuth flat for those weeks, since that’s more convenient for your work. And mine as well, for that matter, since I’m hoping to be able to stay on at the Royal Library at least on a part-time basis.”

“It wouldn’t be so bad to spend weekends at a palace,” Patrick mused, “although it’s a fair bit of a commute during the workdays.”

“Not so bad,” Eilonwy countered, “if you’re willing to use the public Portal network.  Eirian House has a working Portal again, and it’s not so far a walk from the public Portal in Rhemuth to your station. Even if you have to queue up to use the Portal during the peak hours, the wait wouldn’t be nearly as long as driving back and forth every day would be.”

“There is that. I suppose I could do that during the weeks you’re on shift here.” The kisses ventured back up her arm before exploring more interesting territory. “What’s the nursery like here at the palace?”

Eilonwy responded with something between a strangled laugh and a catch of breath. “Why?” she asked once she could speak properly again.

“We may need to know someday, if this keeps up,” Patrick replied.

Eilonwy began a few explorations of her own. “Seems to be keeping up well enough so far,” she mused. “I don’t know about adding to the palace nursery just yet, though. Perhaps we ought to get in a little bit more newlywed time first.”

“I’ll get right on that, Mrs Adams.”



Afternoon
Another private apartment
Eirian House
December 25, 2021


Heather answered the knock on her door expecting to find someone was in need of a Healer’s services. Instead, she found James Arilan bearing a large cardboard box.

“Happy Christmas,” he told her, gazing down at her with a cheery smile as if they’d not parted on strained terms just three nights earlier. “I thought you and the half-pint might be able to use these during your stay here.”

“I . . . .” Heather stared at him, baffled, hoping the box wasn’t too heavy. She stepped back to allow him entry. “What is it?  I didn’t . . . I don’t have a present for you, I’m afraid.”

He set the box down on the floor in her small sitting room.  “No worries. Is this box wrapped like a Christmas present?”

“Well . . . no.”

“There you go, then. It’s not a Christmas present, really, it’s a ‘keep Heather and Aderyn from expiring from mind-numbing boredom on bad weather days’ present.”

She laughed despite herself. “You really didn’t need to do this, James,” she told him, peeking into the open-topped box. It appeared to be filled with an assortment of board games and card games.

“Once upon a time there was a ten-year-old boy who drove his mother batshi--um, batty,” he quickly amended as he noticed Aderyn peeking in on them from the bedroom, “because he was cooped up inside for an entire week during a blizzard. Now granted, we’re not expecting a blizzard this week, so maybe you can’t quite relate yet to my mother’s predicament during that time of extreme duress, but she told me years later that board games and playing cards were what saved what little remained of her sanity.” He eyed Heather dubiously. “Of course, having ridden in a car with you here all the way from Tre-Arilan, I’ve just realized I might have arrived with the box too late to save yours, Chameleon-Face.”

Aderyn giggled. “Mummy’s not mad, Lord Aliran, she just acts that way sometimes,” she said as she ventured into the room. “Can I see what you brought us?”

James tilted a questioning look at Heather, who sighed and stepped back from the box to let her daughter rummage through its contents. “Well, since you’re here, maybe I can at least offer you some ginger biscuits and hot cocoa. We were about to sit down to an afternoon snack.”

“Father Christmas found us, Lord Aliran!” Aderyn explained. “I got a little oven that really works, so we’ve been using that to make biscuits, and I made a cake.” She pointed to a round, sloppily-iced confection with red lettering on it. The entire cake looked like it would fit in one of his hands. He ventured closer to read “Happy birhtday Jesus” written on it with gel icing in a child’s script.

“Hm. Looks nice, Aderyn, although I think you’ll have a fair bit of trouble getting two-thousand and twenty-one candles on that tiny cake. And I wouldn’t advise using trick candles either; you might set Eirian House on fire.”

The child giggled. “Don’t worry, no candles.” She ran back into the bedroom, emerging moments later with a large stuffed animal. “I got a cat too!”

“I see that!” James settled onto the sofa and reached for the stuffed cat to give it a closer inspection. “Now we just need to work on that pony garden on the roof.”

“The what?” Heather asked, baffled, as she poured the hot cocoa.

James filled her in on his brief encounter with Aderyn the day before. “The old bat who was minding Aderyn didn’t tell you I’d spoken with her?” James asked as he accepted the cup she offered him.

“She mentioned it, but this is the first I’ve heard about roof ponies,” Heather replied, studying him above her cup with a puzzled frown.

“What did she say?” James asked.

Heather blushed. “Well, she warned me off you,” she admitted.

James rolled his eyes. “Oh, right. I’m the Big Bad Wolf. Rawr.” He nibbled at a ginger biscuit before giving Aderyn a sidelong glance. “Are you Little Red Riding Hood?” She giggled.

“Mummy went as Little Red Riding Hood to a masquerade once,” Aderyn offered. “Nan helped her make her costume.”

“Did she now?” James gave Heather a feral grin. “I’d love to have seen that.”

Heather’s blush deepened. “It was a friend’s party. The theme was nursery tales.”

“Somehow the idea of you going to costume parties surprises me not at all. Sounds like fun, actually. I’ve come to the conclusion lately that I have very boring friends, barring Dev. I’m hoping to change that.” He polished off the ginger biscuit before rising to pull a card game out of the box. “Have either of you ever played ‘Oh, No!’?”

“I don’t think so,” Heather said as Aderyn shook her head.

“Well, we definitely need to change that. ‘Oh, No!’ is very easy to learn; Aderyn will probably be trouncing both of us in no time.” He deftly shuffled the deck and began to deal out three hands.



Later that evening
Heather’s sitting room
Eirian House
December 25, 2021


James leaned back against the sofa cushions, eyes closed in deep contentment. “That was fun. The whole afternoon was enjoyable, really.”

“It was,” Heather agreed quietly.

He opened his eyes again, turning his head toward her. “Aderyn’s settled in for the night?”

“Yes,” Heather said. James thought he heard a hint of wariness in her voice.

“I’d probably best be off, then.” He gave her a teasing smile. “Now that your little chaperone has packed it in.”

“James . . . .” Heather reached out as if to lay a hand on his arm, but seemed to have second thoughts about the gesture, for she withdrew her hand to clasp her fingers primly on her lap. “I owe you an apology.”

“There’s no need.”

“Actually, there is. I was awfully unfair to you a few nights ago. I had a very bad breakup experience with Aderyn’s father, but it wasn’t fair of me to take my anger with him out on you.”

“I figured it was something of the sort. You did mention I put you in mind of him.”

“Well, yes and no.” She gave him a weak smile. “I liked this, today. You’re right, it was a lot of fun.”

“So did I.”

She picked up a game piece, idly twisting it between her fingers. “Kit’s never shown a moment of interest in his daughter. When I told him I’d fallen pregnant, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d already begun to suspect he wasn’t the marrying sort, even though he’d been stringing me along with talk about us maybe getting married someday, so I had some faint hope he might actually follow through. But the first words out of his mouth were ‘You can abort it, can’t you? I’ll spot you the money.’ Not ‘Do you want to keep the baby?’ or even ‘Maybe we can check out agencies that offer adoption services if that’s what you want to do.’ Not a single question about what I wanted to do about the situation.” She gave a mirthless laugh. “Definitely no offer of child support, though he could certainly have afforded it, even back then. I could have pursued that nonetheless, but I decided not to. I decided we didn’t need him in our lives.  Maybe not my best choice, because Aderyn’s sometimes had to do without things Kit could easily have afforded, but shortly after she was born my Healing gift manifested and I got accepted into Healer training, and at any rate, by that time I wasn’t entirely sure where to find him. He was out of my life as soon as he realized I wasn’t going to be up to following him around from party to party anymore.”

“What about his parents? Would they be willing to help you out for the sake of their grandchild?”

Heather snorted. “His mum who called me a gold-digging whore who deliberately set out to trap her precious darling, or his father who tried to write me a bigger cheque after I’d made it clear to Kit that I was keeping the baby? Kit’s father thought I was just angling for a marriage proposal, or maybe just to make trouble for the family, so he tried to buy me off. Ten-thousand royals if I would go away and leave them alone, and not try to give my baby Kit’s surname or ask him for anything more. As if I’d even consider doing so by that point!”

“How did your folks take the news?” James ached to hold her, but he sensed she wouldn’t be receptive.

“Dad died when I was thirteen, so thank God I never had to tell him. Mum was devastated, but she coped--she always does, bless her! She’d tried to warn me off Kit, but I wouldn’t listen. I was convinced I’d found true love, I liked having an older man paying attention to me and getting me into parties and clubs--Kit was twenty-four at the time--and at seventeen I thought I knew everything and didn’t need my Mum telling me what to do anymore. Having to admit I’d been taken in and that I needed her help was a bitter pill to swallow. But by the time Aderyn was born, she was excited about having a grandchild to spoil. It’s been hard on her, though. Just when she was looking forward to a bit of peace and quiet, not to mention finally getting to enjoy a bit of travel in her retirement years, instead of leaving home to start a life of my own, I was moving back in with an infant. She hasn’t complained, really, but I feel like I’ve imposed on her for too long. Now that Aderyn is in school during the day and I’m finally making a decent income, things are a bit easier, but my job hours were irregular at the RHR, and Mum couldn’t see me paying for daycare and babysitter fees when she was around to help out.”

“Maybe this secondment will end up turning into a full-time position,” James said. “After all, with a household the size of the one here at Eirian House, I would imagine HM will eventually want at least one Healer and one physician to provide for staff needs, not to mention her own.”

“There’s already a physician on call here, I think, although I’ve heard he’s near retirement,” Heather mused. “I suppose you’re right. Though I’d like to keep my hand in at the RHR as well, even if only on a part-time basis. My speciality is in mental health, although of course I can do physical Healing as well, and I’m always looking to broaden my experience and expand my skill set.”

James shrugged. “Maybe some sort of rota could be worked out, then.  Two days a week at the RHR, three days here, and weekends off for good behavior. I won’t tell HM you cheat at cards.”

Heather laughed. “I did not cheat; I won that last round fair and square!”

“Suuuure you did.” James stood. “I need to go. But if you’re free tomorrow, would you and Aderyn like me to pick you up and bring you to Tre-Arilan? Or I can stop by here again--I have a few matters I need to discuss with HM when she has a free moment--but either way, I think Aderyn was hoping for a riding lesson or two, if that’s all right with you, and I’m more familiar with which horses at Tre-Arilan would be best suited for a beginner. I might be able to come up with a docile one for her Mum as well.”

She laughed. “It would have to be docile; the only horse I’ve ever been on was attached to a carousel! Although I’m afraid we can’t. I need to stop in to see a patient in Coroth tomorrow, and I promised my mum I’d drop Aderyn off with her on the way over so they can spend Boxing Day together.”

“What about some day next week, then?”

She bit her lip. “I suppose so. Only . . . .”

“Only?”

“Well . . . .” Heather sighed. “I’m just concerned about Aderyn getting too attached to you. I mean . . . .”

“I know.” James took her hand. “I think, all things considered, we need to focus on just getting to know each other for now. Maybe we’ll just end up being good friends, maybe something more will eventually develop--I’d like that, honestly--but in any case, I think it’s safe to say that Aderyn will figure out that while some friends come and go throughout one’s life, the best of those friends will eventually end up being there for the long haul, like me and Dev. Maybe someday like the two of us, but if not . . . .” He shook his head. “The only thing I can promise you is that I will do my utmost to never hurt you. Or Aderyn.”




Next chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1627.0.html
« Last Edit: December 01, 2015, 10:41:56 pm by Evie »
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Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2015, 01:59:58 am »
Pretty please, may I have a Byzantian kitty.  Loved this chapter. 
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Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2015, 11:07:53 am »
I was so grateful last night for the Thanksgiving treat of another post. Thank you so much!

Stephan Barrett or Bennett?

He knows that a small furry baby pet is an excellent and fast way to a girl’s heart, and being an efficient Morgan, got to Sophia, Eilonwy and Jen at the same time. Now… is the giving of cats part of the Byzantian martial, uh, marital custom?  Glad to see that the highest circles in Gwynedd share a fault with me- the inability to wrap presents neatly and nicely. These almost tears are good. And a tour!!!!  I want to go on the tour!!!

The domestic scenes were nice, although I am worried that the peace will soon be shattered. Do we need to worry about Aderyn’s father or his family?  When will Patrick and Devlin discuss their concerns with James Arilan and Morgan? I hope that Aderyn and Heather are not attacked whilst out riding at Tre-Arilan (can’t figure out how Mr Carstairs might have the lands protected, although I am sure there are intruder detection spells. Perhaps the spells are renewed with the seasons (imagines Deryni-enhanced “Ward as You Mow” machine).

(edited to correct attached to attacked)
« Last Edit: November 27, 2015, 02:06:08 pm by NavaWazr »
I realized that I wanted to be Deryni, would have loved to be another niece of Uncle Azim, perhaps living on a Fianna vineyard.... but I'm a never wazzer

Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2015, 01:36:13 pm »
LOL!  It's Barrett. I probably slipped up and typed Bennett because the praise and worship leader at my Celebrate Recovery group is named Stephen Bennett.  LOL!

If giving a cat was part of some Byzantine marital custom, I'm pretty sure Sophia wouldn't have accepted it from Morgan.  As dearly as she loves her cousin, she feels about as keen on marrying him as he feels about the idea of marrying her. From her point of view, it would be almost like getting proposed to by Kelric.  Eww!  :D

Tre-Arilan has excellent wards (which was one reason, as you may remember, that Maureen couldn't visualize it clearly when she was trying to discover where Sophia had gone into hiding), though I don't imagine a "Ward as you Mow" machine is involved.  LOL!  Talk about an innovative way to blend magic with technology!  ;D

Demercia, I picture Sophia's new Byzantyun Cat to be similar to our world's Bengal cat, or some similar exotic breed that has markings similar to a wild breed of cat, but is specially bred to be well suited for domestic life.  If she's essentially a Bengal, then she's probably going to be a very active little thing and (in Morgan's mind anyway) more dog-like than the average cat, which in his opinion would be a good thing.  I see him as being more of a "dog person" and Sophia as being more of a "cat person," so a Byzantyun cat would appeal to them both for different reasons.

"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2015, 02:12:19 pm »
Clarification on my comment- agree eew! Efficiency is that Morgan gives cat to Sophia, which is a wonderfully appropriate gift for sibling relationships, and Morgan gets more brownie points with Jen as a result (although he is pretty high already and the tour offer just tipped the balance) (now if they could just get rid of all the villains so that the year is clear for unhurried mourning and for wedding plans)...
I realized that I wanted to be Deryni, would have loved to be another niece of Uncle Azim, perhaps living on a Fianna vineyard.... but I'm a never wazzer

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2015, 02:24:38 pm »
OK - I'm slipping into Jen's purse or backpack for that tour of Coroth Castle!

Nice chapter - I can just imagine the scene as HM, Jen and Eilonwy struggled with cardboard and tape to wrap up Prince Kelric's car.  Bittersweet for Sophie perhaps, but maybe a bit healing as well.  His Grace of Corwyn will be driving his new car for a very long time, I think.

Where are Lady Maureen and Peter Astari all this time?  Snuggled in the penthouse of his hotel, perhaps?  ;)
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2015, 03:06:52 pm »
Quote
If she's essentially a Bengal, then she's probably going to be a very active little thing and (in Morgan's mind anyway) more dog-like than the average cat, which in his opinion would be a good thing.  I see him as being more of a "dog person" and Sophia as being more of a "cat person," so a Byzantyun cat would appeal to them both for different reasons.

Yep, Morgan with a black and tan Corwyn Setter (Gordon Setter) originating from the Cassani highlands as a gift from one Duke to another, but breed and raised by Corwyns's dukes for centuries as the perfect sportsman's dog for the open farmlands north of Coroth.
Yes, yes, Jerutha, I want to join you and Jen on that tour of Coroth castle!

Sophia's present to Morgan was a bittersweet gift. It's sentimental value alone will have it well cared for in the Coroth garage house for decades to come.

I love, love the way James has decided to befriend Heather.   This was a great comment
Quote
I’ve come to the conclusion lately that I have very boring friends, barring Dev. I’m hoping to change that.
He is a good man.

Please, please, don't tell me that Corporal Stephen Barrett is wearing a red shirt.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2015, 03:10:18 pm by Laurna »

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2015, 04:29:20 pm »
LOL!  Well, as a Haldane armsman, he may well be wearing a crimson tunic.... ;)  But rest assured none of the armsmen wear a Star Trek style red shirt.  Which doesn't mean they are never in harm's way, of course, being armsmen.  I'm fairly sure most of the Royal Family's armsmen died in the Rhemuth Castle attack, aside from the ones who happened to be off duty and/or off the premises at the time.

Like the real world Grenadier Guards (those nicely dressed guards you see watching over Buckingham Palace and other royal residences), the Haldane palace guards from whose ranks their personal armsmen are selected are all active duty military men, and in addition to serving as palace guards they also are deployed to combat zones as needed, so they are far from merely decorative tourist-pleasers.

I think it's safe to say Maureen and Peter are enjoying a bit of quiet time together at Christmas.  :)

And I can easily see Morgan with some sort of setter. Maybe even more than one.

As for those villains, I'm sure they'll be putting in an appearance before too much longer. 
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2015, 04:37:06 pm »
OK, I stand corrected!  Michael Prior, the younger of the two armsmen who have been watching over Her Majesty since the Castle attack, says he would absolutely wear a Star Trek red shirt . . . if he's off duty and has a chance to attend a nearby science fiction convention.  LOL!  Live and learn.  I should have known he'd have that sort of quirky sense of humor, wanting to wear a Star Trek red shirt off duty given his day job.  ;D
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Offline Shiral

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2015, 08:06:14 pm »
I want a Byzantiun Kitty too! But I'll accept the bracelet if that's all I'll get.=o) Fun chapter Evie. So now of course I'm worried that some big explosions/problems are on the way. 

I was half hoping Morgan would turn away from the car and ask "But where's my pygmy elephant?" =o)

I think Devlin is going to have a hard time competing with His Grace of Corwyn as far as the Christmas gift department is concerned. =o)

Melissa
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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2015, 08:11:45 pm »
I was actually thinking of a Cassani deerhound for His Grace of Corwyn, but a richly coloured black and tan Corwyn Setter would not be amiss.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2015, 08:44:58 pm »
OK, I stand corrected!  Michael Prior, the younger of the two armsmen who have been watching over Her Majesty since the Castle attack, says he would absolutely wear a Star Trek red shirt . . . if he's off duty and has a chance to attend a nearby science fiction convention.  LOL!  Live and learn.  I should have known he'd have that sort of quirky sense of humor, wanting to wear a Star Trek red shirt off duty given his day job.  ;D

ROFL

Quote
I think Devlin is going to have a hard time competing with His Grace of Corwyn as far as the Christmas gift department is concerned. =o)

Melissa

lol I do hope Devlin likes the new Kitty, or rather the Kitty likes Devlin, otherwise his relationship with Sophia may be put on the rocks.

Jerusha, I am thinking that the Duke's Cassani Deerhounds are in the Lendour Castle grounds, and the Corwyn Setters are in Coroth Castle.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2015, 08:50:44 pm by Laurna »

Offline drakensis

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2015, 04:29:07 am »
I know I'm being picky, but the Grenadier Guards are one of the five Guards battalions from which troops are drawn for ceremonial duty outside Buckingham Palace (although they aren't just ceremonial, of course). The battalions are the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards (all dating back to the 17th century) and the relative newcomers, the Irish Guards and Welsh Guards (both formed in the early 20th century). If in doubt as to which battalion you're looking at, the number of buttons on the tunic indicates it - the Grenadiers space buttons evenly while the other battalions cluster the buttons in groups of 2-5 respectively.

No doubt the history of the Haldane armsmen is similarly long and complicated.

Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2015, 01:27:50 pm »
Thanks, drakensis!  Now you're going to have me obsessively counting buttons whenever I see a picture of one of the Palace guards.   ;D
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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2015, 01:44:06 pm »
I just spent the morning looking through-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_Guards  - and then reviewing each of the Regiments and their uniforms.
Thank you Drakensis, I learned something today.

 

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