A Tale for the feast of St GeorgeApril 22nd Rhemuth 1129
Richenda, duchess of Corwyn sat in the private garden of Rhemuth Castle, glad of the privilege of rank which allowed her the quiet of this beautiful spot outside the King’s apartments. The sun was warm in what had been an unusually mild spring for Gwynedd and the scent of the spring flowers, and the herbs just coming into new leaf, was almost as heady as the incense used in Church.
Her two youngest children sat together in peace and quiet for once. It was, she thought, almost as though the peace of the late afternoon had crept into their normally restless bodies and minds, and quietened them. A doubtless fanciful thought, given the lie by the thankfulness with which their nursemaid, now sitting sewing in the shade, had responded to her invitation to sit for a while. But looking at their bent heads as Briony showed her brother an image of the Corwyn gryphon, Richenda was filled once again with thankfulness that the unhappiness of her first marriage and the horror of its ending had been so far reversed. Briony was spinning her brother a wonderful tale of the adventures of their gryphon, who it seemed had been responsible for the death of a number of rash and foolhardy knights who had dared to pit themselves against the glorious winged beast. It was a clever tale, designed to appeal to an adventurous four-year old already proud of being a Morgan, and Briony told it with a skill which seemed beyond her six years. Richenda felt a momentary qualm as she reflected on Kelric’s already over-active imagination but so charming was the scene before her that she forbore to interrupt.
Not so her lord. Striding into the garden he bent down and with the ease of a superbly fit, still reasonably young man he picked up a child with each of his arms and swung them round until all three of them collapsed in a heap of laughter on the grass. Richenda would never have dreamed of criticising her husband in public, and the nursemaid, after rising to dip in a deferential curtsey, resumed her sewing without the slightest change of expression. Though one was a Deryni duchess and the other a human maidservant yet their thoughts were almost identical.Trust a man to create havoc!
Richenda contented herself with asking, “And has his Majesty kept you busy today?”. Alaric had the grace to blush. His wet hair and damp shirt, which showed signs of having been hastily re-laced, were evidence of how he had in fact spent the last hour. As Alaric sat down beside his wife, combining courtly gesture with affection as he bent to kiss over her hand, she sent to him:I must ask Duncan if ‘tis a sin to covet a man’s ability to go swimming on a hot afternoon, leaving his wife to swelter in the heat.Strangely, he said something similar about bishops and truanting Dukes!
Alaric ran his eye appreciatively down from Richenda’s face and added:That’s one sight the good citizens of Rhemuth will never get to see. But I’m thinking of an underground pool at the end of one of the secret ways into Coroth Castle. Maybe on a hot day we could try it out, you and I?
Colouring at the picture this invitation conjured up Richenda looked carefully down at the children, who were looking up hopefully at their father for more games, before sending“Behave!”.
Outwardly she spoke to Briony.
“Briony suppose you tell your papa the story you were telling Kelric and you can all get your breath back.”
Briony was more than happy to oblige, and taking a still enchanted Kelric onto his lap Alaric listened with rapt attention.Besotted.
thought Richenda, and had to blink back a tear at the thought of her elder daughter whose father had not cared whether she lived or died, though he had been a good enough father to Brendan.
“Come, here my poppet and have a kiss for being so clever”.
As Alaric squeezed his daughter to him he looked down at his son, “Did you like the gallant Gryphon, Kelric?”
“Oh yes, Papa, and it’s our Gryphon, you know!”
“So it is, and here he is on my ring.” And Alaric twisted his signet so that the child could look closely at the green twinkling image.
“Would you both, and your lady mother of course, like to come to the Cathedral tomorrow? Duncan says that they have something special planned for their patronal festival. Tomorrow is the feast day of St George and the Cathedral is dedicated to that brave knight.” The last in response to Briony’s slightly puzzled look.
Wildly excited the children gave their affirmation, although Kelric was anxious that his father should understand something.
“Gryphons are brave too, Papa.”
“Of course they are, my son.”
But the answer was somewhat automatic and neither Alaric nor Richenda quite realised how much in earnest Kelric was. Alaric was too carried away by the excitement he had engendered, while Richenda harboured doubts about the wisdom of the suggestion. Answering Briony’s endless questions and trying to keep an overactive child, like Kelric, entertained, all the while maintaining appropriate decorum in the Cathedral church of Rhemuth’s Archbishop filled her with a degree of trepidation.
“I think Kelric is still too young for a formal occasion,” she demurred. But, her heart warmed by Alaric’s affection as a father, she did not have it in her to argue too forcibly, and in any case Alaric was looking at her at his most beguiling.
“Oh, not for the Mass itself. But Duncan says that they are to have a mummers’ play afterwards in the nave, with something quite spectacular prepared by the armourers’ guild. I’ll beg leave from Prince Nigel for Brendan to join us, and he can keep this little gryphon here under control.”
How could she ever resist a man who treated her son as his own? Smiling Richenda nodded, You win, my cunning lord!
and gathering her skirts rose. Turning to the nursemaid she added: “Evie, as the children will be with us, tomorrow you may have until vespers as a holiday. I daresay some of the other maids in the Castle will be heading for the market stalls, make sure you keep with them. I’m certain that there will be plenty of the trimmings you favour to keep you happy. The children can go with you now for their supper and bed.”
Evie curtseyed her thanks and shepherded the children back into the castle. Smiling Alaric held out his hand to Richenda, and the two of them also made their way back to the quarters set aside for the Duke of Corwyn and his retinue.Next chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1840.0.html