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Author Topic: A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12  (Read 2798 times)

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Offline AnnieUK

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A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12
« on: December 31, 2010, 09:58:50 am »
May 18th, 1121
City of Dhassa


We had arranged ourselves by the fire after dinner, more from habit than necessity since the evening was warm.  My uncle took his usual chair to the right of the mantel, and Bishop Denis Arilan and I sat opposite each other with a low table between.  Uncle Thomas had poured us all a glass of a very nice port, and sipped at his occasionally, but Bishop Arilan and I had barely tasted ours, preferring to keep our heads clear as we matched wits across a cardounet board.  On my previous visits I had played my uncle at cardounet a number of times, beating him on several occasions, and so it was that I found myself taking on Denis Arilan for the first time.  According to my uncle, he was a keen player, and Uncle Thomas was eager to see who would come out the winner.

Brendan and I had travelled over from Stonelyn in the afternoon.  Brendan had behaved impeccably that afternoon, minding his manners with Bishop Arilan, and managing to lisp “Your Excellency” in a particularly endearing way that forced a smile into the blue-violet eyes.  Joan had taken Brendan back to the guest rooms before dinner, to give him his meal there, and we had enjoyed some rather more grown up talk since.  That is if enjoyment could be truly had from a discussion of the fall of Cardosa to the forces of Wencit of Torenth.  

“Of course, we suspected months ago that Cardosa would fall eventually.  Then Morgan disappeared for a while and it turned out that Brion had sent him to Cardosa to see if he could make any recommendations to strengthen the garrison and make it easier for the city to hold out through the winter.  Not even Morgan’s recommendations could help us hang onto the city when it came to it, though, and of course he had to return to Rhemuth when Brion died.”  Bishop Arilan carefully moved one of his pieces to remove one of mine, and looked up for a moment as if to gauge my reaction to the loss of my piece.  He allowed a flicker of contentment to cross his face – he obviously thought he had the measure of me.

“Fair exchange at the time, a border city for the safety of a new king.  A shame it seems so much more significant now,” mused my uncle.

“What will Wencit do now?” I asked, scanning the board in case my planned next move held any perils I had missed.

“He doesn’t have to do anything for a while, my lady,” said Arilan, “Ordinarily he’d want to strike before Kelson was ready, although our forces have been more or less in place for a while.  But the situation is getting worse, rather than better, with the situation in Corwyn less stable with each report.  He may well decide to wait for Kelson to force his hand in the hope that things self destruct internally first.”

“So the longer it goes on the better it gets for Wencit?” I asked.

“He has the upper hand, it appears.  He has control of Cardosa and we know his forces are threatening many of the smaller mountain passes too, to say nothing of a formidable force threatening Corwyn, so they could come through at any one of several places.  We have had to spread our forces right along the border and wait and see what he does.”  The younger bishop took a sip of his port.  “Straight down the Cardosa defile is the most likely choice though, since Wencit himself is there.  Of course with him being Deryni, he has a more immediate way of sending orders to the other commanders than most – one must assume that he has links set up so that he can communicate with the other forces to coordinate the attack.”

“So my husband is the first line of defence.”  My hand trembled slightly as I moved a piece into an attacking position and waited for Arilan’s response.

Two pairs of sympathetic eyes turned towards me.

“Yes, my dear,” said my uncle, “but that just shows in what regard he is held.”

 “Alaric Morgan will have advised the king where to position his armies and he obviously thought highly enough of Bran to recommend him for Llyndruth,” Arilan chimed in.

“That’s if he didn’t give Bran the most dangerous posting on purpose.”  Bran’s mistrust of Morgan had seemed ridiculous when we were safe in our own beds in Marbury.  Here in Dhassa, with war just days away, anything seemed possible.

Arilan looked at me shrewdly across the cardounet board. “Morgan will have recommended troop positions based on numbers and the talents of their commanders, not on personal feelings.  Why do you think he would do otherwise?”

My uncle answered for me.  “Richenda is aware of the... ah... relationship between her husband and our renegade Duke.”  

Arilan pulled a wry face.  “There is no love lost between them, that’s for sure.  It’s no secret.  Most people at court will be aware of it.”

“Richenda feels it is the Deryni issue again.”

Arilan pushed his chair back from the table and steepled his fingers, giving the idea due consideration.  “I’m not so sure it is, actually.  Now bear in mind I have only seen them together when we are in council and so only rarely, but I think it is more – forgive me, Lady Richenda – but I think originally it was more envy on Bran’s part than any feeling about Morgan being Deryni.”

Cardiel raised an eyebrow, “Go on.”

“Well they are not so far apart in age.  Morgan is twenty nine now I think, and Bran is what – twenty five or twenty six?” he looked at me for confirmation.

“He is twenty five.”

“And as far as Bran is concerned he is the equal of Morgan in military matters.  He wants to be in Morgan’s place at the right hand of the king and at the head of his armies.  I think if you took Morgan’s Deryni powers away completely you would still see enmity between them because they are rivals for the same position.   In fact you might say he wants to be Morgan.”

That made a lot of sense to me.  I remembered our conversations when we first met and him telling me of his ambitions to be in the king’s confidence and become more influential in state matters.
 
“I think Bran came to realise that he was not going to displace Morgan in Brion’s affections - after all, Morgan and Brion had been friends since Morgan was nine or ten, and firm friends by the time he was fourteen – firmer friends than the age difference between them would suggest.  I think Bran hoped that when Kelson came to the throne he would stand more of a chance, being closer in age to Kelson.  But Morgan has been involved with Kelson right from the start, and Bran has had to accept that the post of right hand man is well and truly taken for our younger Haldane as well, for the foreseeable future.”

Arilan paused to move one of his knights, took a long sip of his port and looked back at me.  “Your move, my lady.”

“The fault cannot be all on Bran’s side though, surely.  He told me once that Morgan pulled a sword on him, so Morgan hasn’t exactly helped matters, behaving like that.”  I had the urge to stand up for Bran somewhat – unquestionably he had his faults, but there are two sides on any battlefield.

“Hmmm.  I can only think of one occasion where there was more than the usual snarling between them, and if that’s the occasion he means then I’m afraid he may have ... embellished ... the tale somewhat.”  

“So what actually happened then, Your Excellency?”

Arilan sized me up for a time as if deciding whether to share the story with me before proceeding.  “Shortly before Brion sent Morgan to secure the garrison at Cardosa many rumours circulated in Rhemuth that Morgan planned to overthrow the king and set himself on the throne: ridiculous of course.”

I nodded and moved my queen along her diagonal, “I heard about that.  Bran mentioned them a number of times.  I thought they sounded far-fetched but Bran seemed to believe there was at least an element of truth in them.”

“Bran and Morgan had been having one of their differences of opinion and Brion decided to call an adjournment of the meeting, to allow everyone to have something to eat and drink, and to ease the tension somewhat.  We were in the anteroom and everyone was serving themselves and stretching their legs for a bit, when the argument resumed out of nowhere and before we knew it Bran was hurling these rumours at Morgan.  I don’t know if Bran believed what he was saying or whether it was just the heat of the moment, but Morgan isn’t the sort of man whose honour you question, especially not to his face.”

 “Bran said Morgan drew on him?”

“He never actually drew his sword.  In fact I don’t even recall his hand ever reaching the hilt.  I heard Kevin of Kierney say “Just leave it alone, Alaric” or similar, and he pretty much pinned Morgan’s arms and dragged him away.  Rogier did the same to Bran. Morgan was certainly as angry as I’ve ever seen him, not that he loses his composure often.  Who knows what might have happened if the others hadn’t stepped in - it certainly wouldn’t have been pretty, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if Morgan had challenged him.”  Arilan paused a moment to make his move, placing his bishop precisely on the square and looking back up at me.

“And it didn’t actually happen in the council itself?” pressed Cardiel.

“Thankfully not.  I don’t know what the ramifications are of that sort of disagreement in the council chamber, but as it was, Brion sent the pair of them away to cool down for a couple of hours.  I suspect they were both paid a visit and told exactly what he thought of the incident, and I would guess they both got to see what an angry Haldane king looks like.  He made them shake hands when they returned, but it was a token gesture; it didn’t change anything between them.  It was shortly afterwards that Morgan left court and no-one knew where he had gone.  I think Brion would have done that anyway, but I suspect he was quite keen to stop any escalation of the problem, too.”

“So Morgan was at fault, just as much as my husband was, then.”

“Alaric Morgan is not faultless, by any means,” Arilan agreed.  “He comes across as arrogant to many and often delights in provoking people.  But I can say that Brion put great store by him, and Prince Nigel still does, and those two are among the best judges of men that I have ever come across.  I would trust in their judgement over that of most people.

“It’s a shame,” he continued, “for in many ways Alaric Morgan and your husband are hewn from the same block.  They both have an instinctive understanding of military strategy, and if Kelson could make them bury their differences and work together instead of trying to score points off each other, he would have a formidable team.  Your husband is a fine man, my lady; please don’t think me overly critical of him.  It is an unfortunate situation that two of Kelson’s best commanders have such a bad reaction to each other.”

I moved my bishop its two spaces across the board, leapfrogging Arilan’s knight, and Arilan returned his attention to the board, to study the consequences of my move.  My uncle leaned on the back of my chair and suddenly a great beam spread across his face.

“Well I never, Denis.  I think she has you!  Checkmate next move, if I’m not much mistaken, and not a thing you can do about it.”

Arilan stared at the board, trying to see a way to rescue the situation, then smiled and toppled  his king.

“I cede, your ladyship.  And I see that it is not only the lord of Marley who has a strategic mind.”

“Thank you, my lord Bishop, but I fear I took advantage of you.  You were so busy explaining the origins of the disagreement between my Lord Bran and the Duke of Corwyn I suspect you did not fully think through the implications of my moves.”

“Then maybe you will give me the opportunity to redeem myself another evening, my lady?  For you have given me a much better game than your uncle has ever done.”  He glanced at Cardiel, his eyes twinkling slightly, and got to his feet.

My uncle shrugged his shoulders.  “What can I say, Richenda?  I am afraid cardounet is not my forte.  I contribute in such way as I can, but for the most part I leave matters of strategy to those with a flair for such things.”

“It has been a pleasure, Lady Richenda.  Shall I see you at Mass tomorrow?”

“Yes, I’ll be at morning Mass, and then I shall be arranging my apartments for our move into the city.  I dare say you’ll see more of me once we are living here full time.”

As my uncle returned from seeing Arilan out, he whooped like a boy and danced a little jig across the room.

“Well done, Richenda!  Oh well done, indeed!  Our friend Arilan considers himself something of a cardounet expert and I don’t recall ever managing to beat him myself.  He will have his board out tonight mulling over what went wrong, I warrant.  For all his smiles, losing to a slip of a girl like you will stick in his craw.  Beware if you play him again – he will be out for revenge and no mistake.”

“No quarter asked and none given, uncle.”

“And Richenda, even though he was talking he was watching the board and studying your moves.  You won fair and square, so don’t go making excuses for him.”  

“Oh, don’t worry, uncle.  I shall claim that as a victory, just in case I never get another.  And now, if you’ll excuse me, I shall go and see if Joan is managing to keep my son under control.  She has the patience of a saint with him, you know.”

“You can keep her with you when you come to Dhassa, if you’d prefer, you know.”

“No, uncle, she has children and grandchildren in Marbury and when war comes I’m sure she would rather be close to home.  I shall feel better for knowing she is safe with her family, too.  I know when things have settled down she will return to tame Brendan for me.  She is a marvel, you know, I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

With a quick kiss for my uncle, to whom I was becoming most attached, I returned to my apartments.  And I confess when I was safely behind closed doors there, I allowed myself an unladylike skip of my own.


http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=625.0  Chapter 13
« Last Edit: January 02, 2011, 11:03:38 am by AnnieUK »

Offline AnnieUK

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Re: A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2010, 10:07:02 am »
Officially half way through, now, so thank you if you are still reading. :D

Offline Alkari

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Re: A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2010, 10:10:35 am »
Quote
And I confess when I was safely behind closed doors there, I allowed myself an unladylike skip of my own.
   Yay - well done, Richenda!


Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2010, 12:47:25 pm »
Denis Arilan doesn't lose often, but it is fun to see him lose if only to lose a game.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

Offline Evie

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Re: A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2010, 02:24:30 pm »
LOL @ Cardiel's reaction to Richenda's win!  :D
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2010, 02:29:23 pm »
Cardiel always strikes me as a bit of a big kid at heart, so I had fun with him in this chapter.  :D  And you know how much I love Denis Arilan so making him lose a cardounet game was quite fun too ;)  Bit of a blow to his intellectual pride, being beaten by a woman.

Offline Evie

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Re: A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2010, 02:34:06 pm »
But at least he's a gracious loser; I'd hate to imagine Bran's reaction to losing a game to his wife!  ;D
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: A Leap of Faith - Chapter 12
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2010, 06:19:25 pm »
But at least he's a gracious loser; I'd hate to imagine Bran's reaction to losing a game to his wife!  ;D

Cockroach time!

 

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