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Author Topic: Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 16  (Read 2408 times)

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Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 16
« on: July 13, 2010, 10:35:59 pm »
Chapter Sixteen

   Sophie turned pale.  “What happened, Your Majesty?”  Beside her, the Contessa reached a comforting hand to clasp hers.
 
   Kelson studied the girl before him, trying to decide the best way to break the news he'd received earlier in the day.  He'd only met Lady Sophie a few times, but she'd never struck him as the swooning or overwrought sort.  Still, these sort of tidings would be a shock to even the strongest of young women.  He knew; he too had experienced this sort of life-changing event at an even younger age.

   He decided, in the end, just to give it to her straight, though as softly as he could manage.  “Lady Sophie, yesterday sometime in the early evening, your family's entourage was set upon by brigands just a few miles northwest of Nyford.  I regret to inform you that there were several casualties.”

   She stared at him with stricken eyes, her hand convulsively clutching at the Contessa's.  “I see.”  She swallowed.  “My family?”

   “Your stepmother is alive, just badly shaken and with some minor injuries.  Her carriage fell onto its side during the attack, but landed with the door facing downwards, so she was trapped within until rescue arrived.  Your brother also lives still, but he's badly injured, and his condition is quite grave.  I'm given to understand that if he can make it through the next couple of days, his chances of survival should improve.  Both are convalescing at a convent infirmary just north of Nyford.”  He waited for her to absorb that blow before continuing.  “I'm afraid Sir Ranulf didn't survive the attack.”

   Her hazel eyes didn't waver from his.  They filled with tears, but she lifted her chin, blinking them back.  “Did—what of the rest of their entourage?  And were the brigands captured?”

   Kelson glanced down at the message he held.  “Several others of your household were injured, some seriously, but your father's groom was the only other casualty from Kestrel Mote.  The other parties traveling to Nyford with your family suffered similarly.  Of the twenty travelers, there were five deaths in all, I believe.  As for the brigands....”  Kelson's lips tightened.  “Some were slain in the fray, but a few escaped.  I assure you they are being hotly pursued, and just a few minutes ago a special courier brought word that at least one more has been brought to justice.”

   She nodded, pressing her lips tightly together for a few moments before glancing uncertainly at her godmother, then back at him.  “And what is to become of me now, Sire?  I suppose, If my brother's condition is still uncertain, I am to be under someone's wardship, at least until he....” Her voice broke, and she waited a moment before continuing.  “If he recovers?”
 
   “Yes.  We're hoping for the best, of course, and hopefully Sir Stefan will be able to take up his new responsibilities as Lord of Kestrel Mote in due course.  But for now, you and your family's lands are in the keeping of the Earl of Carthane.”  Kelson glanced at the Earl, sitting quietly off to one side.  “Have you met your father's liege lord, Lady Sophie?”

   She nodded, glancing over at Earl Michael.  “Yes, Sire.  A few times, but....It's been some while back.”

   Carthane smiled sympathetically at his new ward.  “I'm very sorry to renew our acquaintance under such circumstances, Lady Sophie.  Your father was a good man.  I was quite sorry—not to mention outraged—to receive the news about his death and the manner of it.  I assure you I'll do all within my power to bring the villains to justice.”

   “Thank you, my Lord.”  For the first time, the tears in her eyes threatened to spill over.  “Are you—Will I have to leave Rhemuth?”  The hand clutching the Contessa's turned white around the knuckles.  Her patroness stood, closing the gap between them with a step and dropping to her knees to hold the shaking girl close.

   Kelson glanced at Earl Michael, then back at Sophie.  “No.  Or at least, not in the immediate future.  I understand that the Contessa is your godmother and that your late mother had made previous arrangements to have her see to your education.  I see no reason to disrupt those arrangements.  Earl Michael will assume responsibility for Kestrel Mote for the time being.  And while you're in Rhemuth, you'll be under my legal wardship as well, though of course you would still remain in your godmother’s keeping.”

   “Thank you, Your Majesty,” Sophie whispered.  She glanced at Constanza, then back at Kelson.  “Is Stefan stable enough to bring here to Rhemuth, or might I be allowed to go to him?”

   Kelson’s gaze moved to the Earl, who answered for him.  “From the reports I’ve received, I think it best that we don’t try to move Sir Stefan just yet, although that might be a possibility later if he makes it through this critical period.  As for traveling there just now….”  He shook his head.  “I wouldn’t advise it.  Not just because we’ve not rounded up all the brigands yet; the skies in the area indicate another threat of snow. Perhaps in a few days.”

   The King nodded his agreement.  “I’m truly sorry, Lady Sophie,” Kelson said.  “Not just yet, though I give you my word you’ll be permitted to see your brother at the earliest opportunity that’s safe for both of you.”

   She nodded, eyes downcast.  “Thank you.”

#

   Once they'd been dismissed from the Royal presence, Constanza took her grieving goddaughter back down to their apartment.  Sophie was quiet during the walk back, occasionally blinking away tears, but otherwise fairly composed given the circumstances.  Still, the Contessa suspected that a wellspring of turbulent emotion lay just beneath shields gone rock solid.

   “If you'd like to go to bed and just weep it all out, dear, I'll leave you undisturbed.  Sometimes it's best to just let it all out.”

   Sophie shook her head dully.  “I can't yet.  I have letters to write.  Our steward....”

   “I'm sure he must have gotten word by now.  Let the Earl of Carthane deal with that.  You'll have plenty of time later to handle the administrative matters at Kestrel Mote, if you must.  Just let it rest for the moment.”

   Sophie bowed her head.  “I forgot to tell Father I loved him, Stanzi.  I just said....”  She swallowed hard.  “I told them, 'Safe travels.'”  Her voice was bitter.

   Constanza took the grieving girl into her arms, holding her close.  “It's all right, dear.  He knew.”

#

   “Ivo, is Sir Seisyll Arilan on guard duty this afternoon?”

   “I believe so, Your Majesty,” Kelson's squire answered promptly.  “I think I saw him arrive just before the changing of the guard.  I could check, Sire.”

   “Yes, please do.  And once you locate him, please let him know I need a few minutes of his time.”

   “Yes,  my prince.”  Ivo bowed and departed.  A few minutes later, he returned, ushering Sir Seisyll into Kelson's private apartment.  

   “Thank you, Ivo.  That will be all.”  Kelson waited for his squire to withdraw before looking up from the stack of documents occupying his attention.  Sir Seisyll stood attentively just inside the entrance, his eyes alight with restrained curiosity.

   “Have a seat, Seisyll.”

   Arilan did so.  Kelson suppressed a smile as the slightly older knight took a particular chair in the corner that Kelson had previously noticed he seemed to prefer above all others.  “Like that chair, do you?”  Kelson teased.

   “You know I do, Sire.  It would fit in quite nicely at Tre-Arilan.  How much are you selling it to me for again?”  An amused twinkle in the blue-violet eyes.

   Kelson leaned back in his own chair with a grin.  “I'm not. I'm afraid you'll just have to settle for visiting it whenever you bring me one of your special reports.”  The King sobered abruptly, leaning forward once more.  “I'm afraid it's a report from a different source that has me calling you in here today, however, but before I give you the details, I need to ask you something.  And I apologize, but my question is of a somewhat personal nature.”

   Seisyll raised a dark brow.  “Yes, my prince?”

   Kelson folded his hands above the report on his desk.  “I noticed during the Christmas holidays, you seemed to be favoring Lady Sophie de Varnay above all others as a dance partner.”  A hint of amusement in the gray eyes.  “To the point that I had a bit of difficulty securing a dance with her myself at Twelfth Night, which is rather the opposite of my usual predicament.”  He studied his knight for a moment, then continued. “I hate to pry into your private life, Seisyll, because I know you prefer to keep yours nearly as guarded as that bloody-minded uncle of yours does.  But I need to know, what is the nature of your relationship with Lady Sophie?”

   Arilan's eyes turned wary, but he answered his King honestly.  “At this point?  Friendship only, though I've received permission from her father to court her, and I've been working at winning her over.  Unless....”  A slight tightening of his features was the only sign of emotion; nothing leaked through Arilan's diamond-hard shields.  “Does Your Majesty have a special interest in the lady?”

   “Yes, though nothing that would stand in the way of your suit.”  Kelson sighed.  “She's become my ward.”

   Arilan glanced away briefly.  Kelson could see in his eyes that his mind was working through the implications.  “Yours, Sire?  Not Carthane's?”

   “Both, actually.”  Kelson picked up the report he'd received earlier from Nyford, handing it to Sir Seisyll.  “Michael will be handling the administrative details for Kestrel Mote, but until Lady Sophie chooses to return there, I'll be acting as her legal guardian during her stay here in Rhemuth.”

   Arilan, reaching for the report, looked up sharply at that.  “Then Sir Stefan's been killed as well?”

   “Incapacitated, his chances of survival still unknown at this point.”  Kelson stood, walking towards a window and gazing out at the landscape beyond.  “It's all in the report.”  He was silent for a while, allowing his agent a chance to read and absorb the information he'd just been handed, then asked, “If Lady Sophie were to come to you without dowry, would that make a difference in your interest in her?”

   “None,” was Seisyll's prompt answer, though he frowned slightly as Kelson turned to look at him.  “But is she left so badly off?”

   “I don't know yet.  But Kestrel Mote is an old manor, in need of repairs, and Carthane tells me that Sir Ranulf's fortunes suffered a bad couple of years not so long ago.  A crop blight, I believe.  His recent remarriage helped in recouping some of his losses, but of course with Sir Ranulf dead, his widow's dower money returns to her, so even if Sir Stefan recovers, he won't be able to count on his stepmother's inheritance money to help finance the manor's repairs.  Not unless she's the generous sort.”

   Seisyll raised an eyebrow and snorted.  “I wouldn't count on that, unless she thinks she stands to profit well from the investment.  I've met the woman.”  He handed the report back to the King.  “I'm willing to wed Sophie, dowry or no, and without delay if she's truly in need of support.  But if possible, I'd rather have time to court her properly.  She's...on the shy side.”

   “But she's agreeable to your courtship?” Kelson asked.  

   Seisyll gave a short laugh.  “It's probably more accurate to say that she's agreeable to allowing me to become her friend.  She seems to shy away from the thought of courtship in general.  I think--”  He broke off, his expression suddenly sad.  “I think she just wasn't ready to grow up quite yet.”  He looked up, meeting Kelson's eyes, which filled with understanding.

   “Yes.    Losing a father is a rough way to grow up, isn't it?”  Kelson said.

   Seisyll, remembering the loss of his own father, nodded, his lips tightening.  “I'll look out for her as much as she'll allow.  I'd really rather not force my suit on her, though.”

   “I don't intend to force her into marriage if she's not ready or willing.”  The King took a deep breath, letting it out explosively.  “God knows I know what that feels like!”

   His agent nodded.  “Thank you for that.”  He glanced at the report Kelson had returned to his desk, then back up at him. “Now, how else can I help?”

   Kelson shook his head.  “No, I'm not sending you to Nyford; at least, not just yet.  I suspect the lady has greater need of you here.  Just keep an eye on things, as you always do.”  The King gave his agent a wry smile.  “And let me know if she happens to be in need of anything in particular.”  He turned back to his paperwork, silently indicating the audience was over.

   Sir Seisyll stood.  “Yes, my prince.”  He saw himself out.

#

   “How is she?”  Sir Seisyll stood at the apartment door, talking to the Contessa.

   “Still asleep,” Stanzi informed him.  “I'm afraid she might not be feeling up to receiving visitors tonight.”

   “I'm not worried about that.  Let her rest.”  He sighed.  “Would you send me a message, though, when she is ready?”

   Her godmother, seeing the concern in his eyes, nodded. “I shall.  When she's feeling more up to it.”

   The knight bowed.  “That's all I ask.  Thank you, my Lady.”

#

   Late that night Sir Seisyll stood in his own chambers a long while, staring out the window, lost in thought.  So Kelson didn't wish him to pursue the matter in Nyford in person.  That was fine; he was the King's man and would, of course, obey.

   He'd never said, however, that Seisyll couldn't send someone else to investigate the matter.

   Reaching into an old pouch, he pulled out a round amber-colored sphere the size of a robin's egg.  Taking a seat, he focused on the shiral until all else faded away save for its shining depths, and then he called to mind the face of another Arilan.

   Not, of course, his Uncle.  Denis was doubtless busy with matters of his own.  Instead, he called up his younger brother Sextus, by this time most likely asleep at Tre-Arilan.

   Good evening, brother, he said to the image appearing in the shiral. I'm sorry to interrupt your slumber like this, but there's a matter I need looked into in the vicinity of Nyford, if you can make your way there at your earliest convenience....


Chapter 17:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=561.0
« Last Edit: January 10, 2011, 03:22:34 pm by Evie »
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Offline Alkari

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 16
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2010, 10:46:11 pm »
Oh, poor little Sophie.    And I love the way you handled things, in the scenes with Kelson and Seisyll.

Quote
“Yes.    Losing a father is a rough way to grow up, isn't it?”  Kelson said.
   And Kelson knows all about that himself, doesn't he.

So Siesyll is now sending his brother Sextus to have a look at things. :)   VERY interesting.   You know, methinks I would not like to run foul of the Arilan clan, and perhaps our favourite stepdragon / monster needs to look out ...

Offline kirienne

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 16
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2010, 11:27:38 pm »
Poor Sophie! I'm so glad she's not being sent away. I do hope she'll warm up to Sir Seisyll ---He'd be a good match for her.
Sorry if my other post made it thru...in all those caps, I tried to backspace and fix it, but my computer froze up and then it all went away, so I think it somehow sent itself.

Offline AnnieUK

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 16
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2010, 02:15:53 am »
Heartbreaking chapter, but I think your best so far.  Nice light touch with all the heavy stuff.  And yes, to poor Sophie, there is always so much you wish you had said. :(

Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 16
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2010, 09:04:03 am »
Oh, poor little Sophie.    And I love the way you handled things, in the scenes with Kelson and Seisyll.

Quote
“Yes.    Losing a father is a rough way to grow up, isn't it?”  Kelson said.
   And Kelson knows all about that himself, doesn't he.

So Siesyll is now sending his brother Sextus to have a look at things. :)   VERY interesting.   You know, methinks I would not like to run foul of the Arilan clan, and perhaps our favourite stepdragon / monster needs to look out ...

*chuckle*  No, falling afoul of His Majesty's Secret Service, so secret that even His Majesty probably isn't fully aware of everyone involved in it, is probably not the most life enhancing of ideas....    :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Elkhound

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 16
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2010, 01:28:44 pm »

*chuckle*  No, falling afoul of His Majesty's Secret Service, so secret that even His Majesty probably isn't fully aware of everyone involved in it, is probably not the most life enhancing of ideas....    :D

They'll do something about Stepthing, I'm sure.

 

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