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Author Topic: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction  (Read 3012 times)

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Offline DoctorM

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The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« on: January 18, 2017, 01:16:25 pm »


Author's Summary:  This is a kind of introduction to an AU story (or stories), set post-1122 in a Gwynedd where the coronation challenge at Kelson’s coronation went rather differently--- very differently. There are characters and background here that go back to some stories in very, very early issues of Deryni Archives and to my own much younger days. I’m not quite sure exactly where I want to take this, but input would be appreciated.

The Two Kingdoms:  An Introduction


The Bremagni envoy Ghiselin d’Ailhan to his friend, the jurist Guillaume Raimond-Colom:

Valoret
16th April 1125

My old friend, I am writing you from the city of Valoret, though I remain uncertain in what kingdom I find myself.

I mean that in both senses, I assure you.

These lands across which I have ridden are hardly the kingdom of Gwynedd you or I might have seen a decade ago. The kingdom of the late King Brion spread in all directions from the city of Rhemuth, stable and prosperous, with peace inside its borders. These days, what do we see? Two courts, two contending dynasties, the countryside in chaos. Rhemuth city, they say, is a shell of its old self, still scarred from the great fires of the coup of 1122 and the recapture of the city by the Dukes of Corwyn and Carthmoor.  The armies of Torenth hover on the northern frontiers, though Torenth is hardly in better shape than its enemy. There are anti-Deryni rebels and peasant fanatics loose in the Corwyn lands, and their enemies include, as such men’s enemies always do, landlords and nobles as much as Deryni. The difference between rebels and mere brigands hardly exists there, and along the border with Howicce-and-Llanedd mercenaries for one side or the other ravage the locals on their way to and from hired service.

It’s a fine thing these days to be a provincial lord in the lands of Gwynedd. Every local nobleman with a few dozen men-at-arms at hand is being courted by one side or another. Riding west to Valoret out of the Connait and the mountains of Cloome into Gwynedd, the countryside is studded with new towers and forts, each town and each lord putting up little holds of stone and wood and banked earth, trying to command a few miles of land. Every crossroad has its gallows erected, and every petty baron lays claims to rights of high justice.  Chains are strung across the rivers and tolls extorted; river commerce here is one more way for the barons and the more aggressive towns to prey upon the merchant kind. The old kingdom, the one you and I knew as young men, is disintegrating.

It has been not yet three years since the Coronation at Rhemuth and the great killing that followed. So little time, and so much crumbled away. Whatever you choose to call what has happened in Gwynedd—- war, civil war, revolt —the kingdom is coming to pieces, and it seems likely that Torenth will come apart as well.

I mean what I said in two senses, mind you. Nothing here resembles the Gwynedd you would have come to know a decade ago. We have the two courts, the Haldane court at Rhemuth and the Shadow Queen’s court here at Valoret. Believe me, you would not recognize this city where I must represent our master’s interests.

Valoret is or was the seat of an archbishop, of the Primate of All Gwynedd. A Church city, one that made its living from the great hive of Church functionaries, from trade based on the lands owned by the great monasteries. Three years ago this city may have had fifty thousand people—two-thirds the size of the royal capital, but the second city of the realm. It’s an empty city now, and an occupied city. The archbishop and his fellow churchmen are gone, their palaces in the hands of the Shadow Queen and her new nobility. There is a forest of stakes along the city walls and down the river banks, each with the head of some enemy of the queen and her cause. The head of the last archbishop is reputedly among them, though no local, even for payment, can point out exactly which skull is the unfortunate Archbishop Loris.

The city streets are filled with soldiers now rather than priests and monks. There are more colours and banners here than I can name. Ducal troops, now royal, from the Tolan and Marluk lands, of course—- the queen’s own men.  The new-made Duke of Marley’s soldiers, too, and Eastern horsemen from Arjenol, the soldiers of her great allies. There are Moors here, too—-hired Moors brought up by sea, an unsettling sight for any Bremagni. (And, yes—in the suburb where the Moors are quartered, you can hear the calls to prayer, one more way for the Shadow Queen to mock the Church. )There are the inevitable local barons as well, men whose allegiances to either side are temporary and fickle. The queen’s consort, they say, is bringing in mercenaries from the eastern steppes, and there are Eastern faces and tongues heard in the streets.

The city population is far less than what it was three years ago. Those who are left can have no love for the Shadow Queen, though one suspects that innkeepers, brewers, victuallers, and brothel-masters are becoming rich as bishops and abbots from the occupation.

I must tell you—when our master first selected me to be his envoy to the court at Valoret, I believed that the Shadow Queen’s war in Gwynedd, her effort to become ruler here, had been a great failure, that she had thrown and lost, that even if she destroyed the Haldane boy at Rhemuth and his supporters, she would be left with only ashes in her hand. What I have come to suspect now (a suspicion I share with more than a handful of the envoys here) is that what was happened in this kingdom is not a failure of policy, but policy itself. The Shadow Queen intends to bring down both Gwynedd and Torenth. She hopes to be the last one standing when the great kingdoms collapse. This is what I believe, and I see no contrary evidence.

I said that I do not know what kingdom I am in. Not just that the Gwynedd of King Brion’s day is ruined, but that I do not know what the Shadow Queen calls the lands she holds, or how she intends her rule to be understood. None of the envoys at Valoret quite know to whom they are accredited. The Shadow Queen plotted half her life to become Queen of Gwynedd, but she does not use the title. Her signature on documents is “Charissa Regina”, but neither the queen nor her officials ever use “Gwynedd” in any of her proclamations or laws.

Neither does she use “Furstan” in any signature—or allow anyone to call her by that name. The story goes round that a new envoy once addressed her as “Furstana-Festil” in his introductory speech on behalf of his master and was all but physically tossed into the street. No one can quite identify the hapless envoy, but the story is easy to believe. The queen’s consort and the queen’s ministers are firm enough: she is Charissa de Festil, Charissa of the Tolan Festillic. The Duke of Arjenol has cast off his wife, the King of Torenth’s sister (though he has kept his children and heirs close) and himself no longer uses “Furstan” as a name. The current king of Torenth, needless to say, is regarded here as at least as much an enemy as the young Haldane king at Rhemuth. 

I have not been presented to the Shadow Queen yet, but I have seen her at court, striding through the old palace of the Archbishop— the royal palace, now —surrounded by her Moorish guards and the Tolan Guard, witch-lights glowing around her. She is, as her legend says, shockingly tall and no less shockingly thin. She is beautiful, yes, but in a cold and knife-edge way. I do not know how much of that is an assumed pose. Her manners are exquisite, as you might well expect. She looks rather younger than her age; there are still those who refer to her as “the Tolan girl”.

The queen’s consort— the Dark Prince, he is called at Rhemuth —is less visible at court, by the way, but if the two of them are together, her eyes are only for him. No one from the south or west knows what to make of him. That branch of the Torenthi Netterhavens who have opted for the queen regard him as a mere plaything of the queen’s, a hired horse soldier who’s the queen’s folly. The Arjenol soldiers and diplomats regard him as a serious figure; he is certainly a close friend and protege of their duke. It is true that he was a horse-soldier, a minor northern lord who was a mercenary captain. Indeed, as a very young man he fought in Bremagne and won a victory at the fortress of Bremagne against the Moors. He was awarded lands at Veira for that; I believe there was a minor title attached. These days he is addressed as Prince Christian—the queen’s consort, the titular Prince of Kheldour (though he holds no actual land in that Haldane stronghold).  He is more than a folly or a mere bed-mate. He has, as is well-known, been with the queen since childhood. He is Deryni of old blood, and his family is reputed to have been loyal to the Festillic line time out of mind. He is reputed as well to have written poetry and history.

Of course you know the story of what happened at the Coronation in Rhemuth. If there is any doubt that the queen’s consort is more than a kept favourite or that his loyalty could ever waver, that story gives the lie to such thoughts. Shorter than the queen (almost everyone is, I admit), dark, intense, a horse-archer’s awkward build, he is the one who supposedly planned the coup at Rhemuth—- whether he did or not, he certainly stood as her champion after having the last Earl of Eastmarch killed.

The other figure of note at Valoret these days is the queen’s Inquisitor of State, the Grey Death. He is the Prince’s friend, the Prince’s second-in-command in the free-company the young Christian commanded. We know that his name his Aurelian, and he comes from, well, nowhere. His manners are perfect, his conversation polyglot and well-read. City-born, mind you—- one can always tell an upbringing among the urban patricianate. But…which city? Where? That remains a mystery. His looks live up to the name given him in the streets. Perhaps a bit below medium height, greying even at a young age, thorough and formal.  He has the gift of being in the background; he strikes me as a man given to keeping notes. The Shadow Queen has named him her Duke of Carthmoor, though of course there is a living Haldane Duke of Carthmoor who actually holds all the Carthmoor lands—- the queen planting another barb in her rivals. He rarely uses the title, I’m told. He is the Inquisitor of State, which means that the forest of stakes and skulls on the city walls is mostly his doing. If the queen falls, the Haldanes and their allies would certainly do even worse to Master Aurelian. His name, by the way, is the other one connected with planning the coup at Rhemuth. It is taken for granted that the great fires set to distract the young king’s defenders and disrupt any defense of the city were the Grey Death’s doing.   

I will be presented soon to the queen—to the queen of whatever these lands are supposed to be. I will represent our master and work to preserve his interests in the tangle of what Gwynedd has become. I know how to discuss the ordinary business of diplomacy—- trade treaties, border disputes, hostage exchanges, rights of transit and passage, taxes and lawsuits. You and I have devoted our lives to these things, in the Forcinn and Fianna and even in the Moorish lands. I know how to discuss those things, how to deploy our master’s money and assert his rights. If I am right about the Shadow Queen, though, I may be all at sea. What does one say to a ruler whose policy is to call in Chaos and Old Night as a project of state? 
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 02:35:13 pm by Bynw »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2017, 03:00:51 pm »
Oh my, oh my!  Please, please continue this; I will happily follow where ever it leads....

(I remember Lover of Shadows, and enjoyed it very much.)
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2017, 08:49:10 pm »
I startled a little at the mention of Loris' head on a pike.  An actual scenario where Loris might actually acquit himself as a hero.  Whatever elese you may say about Loris, he was no coward or weakling, and he would have resisted and defied Charissa to his last breath.

Offline Laurna

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2017, 10:31:13 pm »
An intriguing AU that could lead many of our favorite characters across a dark minefield. I was not too shocked about Loris's head but I worry about those left in Rhemuth in the wake of catastrophy.

Offline drakensis

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2017, 02:26:55 am »
I was rather wondering part-way through if it was linked to that story. Nice to see.

Offline revanne

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2017, 11:27:45 am »
We are told that the Dukes of Corwyn and Carthmoor are alive so I am assuming that  means Alaric and Nigel. No mention is made, of Cassan but hopefully Jared is holding out in the mountains.  And if the events of DC didn't  happen then maybe Kevin and Bronwyn were able to marry without tragedy. But what happened  to Duncan?  Hopefully  his head is not alongside that of Loris.
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Offline Evie

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2017, 01:34:56 pm »
I'll need to reread the story once I'm no longer sorting story chapters into new folders like a madwoman, but the impression I got was that since Charissa was now in charge, she appointed her own trusted followers to be the new dukes of Corwyn and Carthmoor (and doubtless of Cassan and Claiborne as well), but that at least Nigel and his sons were still alive to contend for the title, since rebellious Haldanes and their loyalists were still an issue to be dealt with.
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Offline Laurna

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2017, 02:00:11 pm »


I'll need to reread the story once I'm no longer sorting story chapters into new folders like a madwoman, but the impression I got was that since Charissa was now in charge, she appointed her own trusted followers to be the new dukes of Corwyn and Carthmoor (and doubtless of Cassan and Claiborne as well), but that at least Nigel and his sons were still alive to contend for the title, since rebellious Haldanes and their loyalists were still an issue to be dealt with.


Eek! Poor Alaric and Nigel.  No!

Quote
Rhemuth city, they say, is a shell of its old self, still scarred from the great fires of the coup of 1122 and the recapture of the city by the Dukes of Corwyn and Carthmoor
[/i]

I took this to mean Alaric and Nigel recaptured the city from Charissa's army some time in the three years after Kelson's failed coronation. Although, for Alaric, Nigel, and Duncan to have escaped from the Cathedral with their lives when the  arcane duel suddenly went wrong, well that would be a story in and of its own.  Either way Rhemuth the Beautiful has become a "shell of its old self"

Quote
"It has been not yet three years since the Coronation at Rhemuth and the great killing that followed. "

EEK!

Offline Jerusha

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2017, 02:31:36 pm »
I agree with Laurna that Morgan and Nigel escaped somehow to regroup in Corwyn and Carthmoor to stage the later coup and recapture Rhemuth (though it appears the cost of that recapture was high).  Kelson, alas, would not have survived the Dual Arcane if Charissa is still alive.  Duncan may have survived if Morgan and Nigel did.  Duke Jared and Kevin would have been at the coronation in Rhemuth, but Bronwyn would have been in Cassan.  Will the couple be reunited if Kevin survived?  So many possibilities - I'm looking forward (with some anxiety) to see how this all plays out.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Offline Elkhound

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2017, 04:57:39 pm »
We are told that the Dukes of Corwyn and Carthmoor are alive so I am assuming that  means Alaric and Nigel. No mention is made, of Cassan but hopefully Jared is holding out in the mountains.  And if the events of DC didn't  happen then maybe Kevin and Bronwyn were able to marry without tragedy. But what happened  to Duncan?  Hopefully  his head is not alongside that of Loris.

I'm sure Catriona Quinnell has used this as an opportunity to assert her claim to Meara, probably with the backing of some at least of the Connaight.

One of the major ducal houses of Llanned-Howicce is a cadet branch of the Haldanes; also, I don't think the Jehanna would be likely to have survived, so Bremagaine has cause for blood-feud against Charissa.  Absent direct provocation, Orsal and the Forcinn would probably be officially neutral, but looking for an excuse to move against her.

Offline bronwynevaine

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2017, 11:26:38 am »
If Kelson did not survive the Duel Arcane...wouldn't Nigel be king instead of Duke of Carthmoor?
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Offline Jerusha

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2017, 01:42:12 pm »
Having read this again (and again), I am inclined to believe the dual arcane never happened.  It's stated that "if she had destroyed the Haldane boy and his supporters," which makes me think Kelson is still alive.  Also, Prince Christian and Aurelian set fires to distract the young king and his defenders; this would not be needed if Charissa had defeated Kelson in the dual arcane. 

Or maybe I am just hoping for the best....
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Offline Laurna

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2017, 03:41:37 pm »
Having read this again (and again), I am inclined to believe the dual arcane never happened.  It's stated that "if she had destroyed the Haldane boy and his supporters," which makes me think Kelson is still alive.  Also, Prince Christian and Aurelian set fires to distract the young king and his defenders; this would not be needed if Charissa had defeated Kelson in the dual arcane. 

Or maybe I am just hoping for the best....
I like your way of thinking, Jerusha!

Has anyone been able to contact DoctorM and inform our author of The Two Kingdoms that we have found this story, we are intrigued by it, and want to know where it will lead to?

Offline revanne

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2017, 01:42:18 am »
As a Brit and a monarchist  I am deeply ashamed that I did not notice this. I am now wondering if Kelson has become "The King over the water" perhaps taking refuge in his mother's homeland of Bremagne.
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And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
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Offline Evie

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Re: The Two Kingdoms: An Introduction
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2017, 01:36:09 pm »

Has anyone been able to contact DoctorM and inform our author of The Two Kingdoms that we have found this story, we are intrigued by it, and want to know where it will lead to?

When I first found the story, read through it and approved it, I attempted to send both a PM and a direct email to him (her?) to say it had been approved and posted, and to explain the long delay between when it was submitted and when I discovered and approved it, but I haven't received any sort of reply, so I don't know if that message was ever received or not.  :(  At any rate, it was that discovery of a story submitted months before anyone on the moderator team knew it was even there to approve, along with the fact that no one really ever used the newer Fanfics System section (and small wonder, given how difficult it was to figure out!), that led Bynw to just go ahead and eliminate that section and revamp the original Fanfic section of the forum to make our existing stories easier to locate.
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