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Author Topic: Possessed--Part Ten  (Read 2395 times)

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Offline Evie

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Possessed--Part Ten
« on: February 25, 2011, 04:38:26 pm »
   Part Ten—Loss

   June 6, 1127   
   Caerdraig Castle


   “I had to do something I didn’t particularly like last night, darling, and I’m afraid it’s your fault.  I had to kill a man.”  

   Javana de Branigan reeled inwardly with shock, though she remained outwardly composed.  “Oh?  And how is this one different from the other poor souls you’ve harmed or killed?” I will show no emotion, she told herself.  I will not reward him with my pain.

   “Was that a rhetorical question, or do you truly wish to know?  Very well, then, I’ll show you.”  Grabbing his wife’s arm, Walter used his psychic control to wrest down her shields, forcing his memories of the dying Sir Ethan into her mind.  “Do you recognize him, my treasure?”

   “N-no,” Javana stammered, her composure cracking.  The statement was true, but even as she spoke, a glimmer of recognition began to surface.  

   “No?  Well, maybe this will remind you, then.”  Walter force-fed her a second memory, this time of Sir Ethan as Javana had first met him, dressed in a nobleman’s garb, clean-shaven, and happily seated beside his adoring bride-to-be, Javana’s sister.

   “Oh, sweet Jesú….”  Javana whispered, shock stripping away the last vestiges of her self-control.  She started to tremble in reaction, her eyes filling with tears.  “Walter, you bastard, why?”

   “Why?”  Walter yanked his wife’s chin up, forcing her to look him in the eye.  “You tell me, my deceptive little witch!  What was he doing in Caerdraig, or anywhere near the Kheldish Riding?  Answer me!”

   “I—”  She’d started to answer ‘I don’t know,’ but she did know, she realized after a moment, so she cut her answer short, not wishing to verify Walter’s suspicious of her by being caught in an outright lie.  Instead, she simply shook her head.  “I never asked him to come here.”  That, at least, was the truth, technically speaking, though Walter was bound to suspect the lie of omission behind it.

   “Well, it's a damned shame he happened to just drop by the neighborhood then!” her husband said with a sneer.  “Hopefully he didn't have any traveling companions.  They might find this part of the Kingdom equally inhospitable, the poor souls.”  He tilted his head at Javana curiously.  “Will your sister be very bereaved, do you think?  Or will she better off without him?  Maybe Sir Ethan was just a philandering git like your former lover Stefan.  He was found beside a dead whore, you know.”

   Javana dropped her eyes, shielding her emotions from her husband once more.  “Yours, belike,” she said, her voice cold.

   “Sadly, no, there wasn't time.  Speaking of cold women, though, I don't suppose you're infertile this week?”

   “If you don't know my cycles by now, I'm certainly not going to apprise you of them.”

   Walter counted days back in his mind.  “Pity.  Ah well, there are always other options.  By the way, dearest, you could well be a mother by February next.”

   Javana stared at him, confused.  “Since I'm not with child by you, I can't possibly see how!  Wouldn’t I have to have caught with child last month for that to happen?”

   “Oh, you did!” Walter gave you a feral smile.  “Or rather, someone did, and as she's bearing my child, I figure he'll make as good an heir as any other.  So congratulations, madam, and enjoy your last weeks of freedom.  I believe you'll be having complications in short order, and shall have to be confined to your chambers for the duration of your term.  With your new midwife, of course.”

   Javana continued to look baffled.  “But...why?”

   “Why what?  Don't tell me you're heartbroken you won't be bearing my sons yourself.”

   She gave an incredulous bark of laughter.  “Of course not!  But...why are you fathering them on someone else?  There has to be some motive in that for you.”

   “Indeed!”  Walter smiled.  “While she grows fat with my pups, you, my darling, will remain perfect.  I'd hate to see you ruined, dear.  You do wish to remain fit for my collection, I hope?  You know what happens to my old acquisitions once I tire of them.  Oh, and speaking of tiresome things, the next time you try to betray me, my lovely, you’ll lose far more than just a prospective brother-in-law.  That grieving sister of yours comes to mind; she might welcome the chance of a reunion with her beloved, after all.”

   He left the room, leaving her staring after him in dismay.

#

   June 7
   The Kheldish Riding


   Sextus Arilan was on a mission—to get bleeding blind drunk by the end of the evening.  

   He had found Sir Ethan’s body within mere minutes of his death, the corpse still somewhat warm despite the growing coolness of the night air.  He knew his friend’s murderer must still be close by, saw two sets of footprints leaving the scene which had undoubtedly belonged to the killer and an accomplice, yet within only a short while after attempting to track them, he lost the trail when the soft mud of the footpath they had taken turned to stonier ground too hard to leave a track easily followed by the silvery moonlight Sextus was forced to resort to for illumination.  He hardly dared to light handfire to see their trail more quickly; without a partner to cover his back, that would be like lighting a signal fire saying “Here I am; kill me too!”  So he’d returned to Caerdraig Village, raising the hue and cry in hopes that a group of village men pursuing the killers might have more luck where he, singly, had not, and that at the very least a decent burial could be arranged for the victims slain near the roadside.  He hadn’t the resources to have Sir Ethan’s body returned to his family crypt at Mainwaring just yet, but at least he could mark the spot where the village men had buried him that following morning, and had made arrangements with the locals to allow for him to be exhumed once a means was found to bring him back home to his loved ones.

   But now that left Sextus with the painful task of returning home to tell his family what had befallen Ethan.  To tell Jashana what had happened, and to hand Seisyll the awful task of notifying Ethan’s family.  Not for the first time, Sextus was glad he wasn’t the senior male of the Arilan household.  

   Then again, if he had been, Seisyll might have been the one sitting here in this tavern just now, drinking himself into a mild stupor, waiting for the dead of night when all the townsfolk of Stavenham were likely to be abed, so he could slip into the garden grotto with its shrine to Saint Catulina and the barely functional Transfer Portal there without anyone noticing.  Denis had used it on rare occasion before, had shown it to Seisyll and Sextus once a few years earlier, when they’d first started needing faster means of traveling across the Kingdom on fact-finding missions for the young King, but unlike the private Portals belonging to other secret Deryni known to their family, the one at Stavenham was less regularly used, and therefore it had become unreliable.  There had been a few heart-stopping moments when he and Ethan had come through it the previous month, not only due to their natural fear of discovery but also because, on their first attempt to access it, they had simply disappeared into blackness for a few moments before finding themselves still in Tre-Arilan’s ritual chamber.  But Sextus, after a quick mental sharing with Seisyll to figure out where he might have gone wrong, had ventured it once more, and the second time the men had gotten through without further mishap.

   He hoped their recent use of the Portal had re-energized it, making it more functional this time.  He did not fancy a nearly two week ride back to Tre-Arilan under these circumstances, especially as his remaining resources did not allow for both the purchase of a horse and the luxury of eating and sleeping indoors during the long journey back.  The few belongings Ethan had carried on his person had been returned to him by the villagers of Caerdraig, and that had included his money pouch (clear enough evidence that Ethan had not simply been beset by robbers), but even so, the two men had been planning on starting their trip back home in just a week’s time, returning the same way they’d come to avoid any delay in Ethan’s wedding plans, so a horse had hardly been in the budget for that journey.

   Sextus downed the rest of the stout in his tankard and ordered another.

#
   
   June 8, pre-dawn
   Tre-Arilan

   “He hadn't been dead for long when I found him, but his memories were already too fragmentary to retrieve anything useful.  I tried anyway, but I couldn't find anything to indicate who killed him.  It might have been the culprit we were sent to find, or it could have been a totally random incident.”  Sextus looked shaken as he faced his older brother.  “I rather doubt it, especially since nothing of value was taken from him to indicate it might have been a simple robbery, but then again, there's no proof one way or the other.  It could just be that his killers heard me coming and abandoned the scene before they had a chance to steal anything.”

   Seisyll absorbed the information, looking grim.  “It could be.  Though if they killed one man, you'd think they'd think nothing about lying in wait for another, if they were naught but common brigands, especially since they had the advantage of numbers.  My guess is that they left because they didn't wish to risk discovery.  And if two men feared discovery by a single opponent encountering them in the dark, they might have had some suspicion of what you're capable of.”  He poured some Ballymar whisky for both himself and his brother, handing the second glass to Sextus.  “But then again, how would they have known?”  He sighed.  “Damn it, I wish we had more answers.”  

   “I'll go back, Seisyll.  I'll find those answers, even if it kills me.”

   The head of the Arilan household shook his head.  “Which it quite likely would, if I send you back without backup.  Or even with it.  No, we're lost the advantage of secrecy, I fear.  At any rate, I'm not willing to take the risk, at least not right now.”  Seisyll nursed his whisky for a few moments, staring into the fire.  “Have you told Jashana yet?” he asked.

   “Not yet.  I wanted to report what happened straight to you first.”

   Seisyll rubbed his eyes.  “All right.  She was planning on spending the day in Rhemuth with Sophie, leaving right after breakfast this morning to visit Sophie's former household sister, Lady Ailidh.  The news can wait until they return.  In the meantime, Sir Ethan's family will need to be notified, and I'll need to inform Kelson as well.”

   “I've made arrangements with the villagers of Caerdraig to allow Ethan to be disinterred and relocated if that's what his family desires.”

   Seisyll nodded.  “Good thinking.”  He stared at the fire a bit longer, then stood, moving to his writing desk.  “I should probably notify Denis as well.  He's expecting to officiate at a wedding at the end of the month, and he needs to know it's likely to be a funeral instead.”

#

   June 9
   Tre-Arilan
   
   
   Jashana was numb.  Seisyll had told her the awful news a few hours before, once she and Sophie had returned from their overnight stay in Rhemuth, but it had taken a while for the words to sink in, and even now, Jashana was in too much shock to make much sense of them.  She understood that Ethan was dead, had been killed in some sort of ambush, but at the moment those words had little meaning yet.  They were just words, random collections of sounds that Seisyll had quietly uttered earlier in the day, and Jashana had listened in a daze, nodding at the right moments to indicate that she understood, but deep down, it had not fully registered.  Not yet.

   Sextus, his gaze not quite able to meet hers, had handed her a glass of something to drink, and she'd taken it, but it was tasteless, unable to permeate the fog that had closed in over her mind.  Sophie had whispered things to her then, things Jashana had also nodded at, though she had ceased to hear by that point, wanting nothing more than to be left alone.  Alone where she could think, where finally all their words might have meaning.

   Jashana was alone now, gazing out the window of the family solar, towards the fields, beyond the planted lands to the wooded copse beyond where she had been with her beloved on their last day together, where she had lain in his arms.  She sat in the window seat, reaching absently for the sewing basket containing her latest project—the veil she was trimming with seed pearls to wear with her wedding gown.

   From down the corridor, she heard a quiet cry.  Stefania, her infant wail swiftly silenced as Sophie put her to the breast.  

   There was something she'd meant to tell Ethan, if only he'd come home.

   The words finally permeated the hard protective shell around Jashana's heart, and she sobbed, her anguish finally felt.  And at that moment, a second pain pierced her, lower than her heart, and a spreading warmth warned her of a second loss.

#

   “Oh, Jesú!”  Sophie, hearing her sister-in-law's cry, dashed into the solar only to find Jashana bent over in the window embrasure, a bloody show beginning to stain her skirts.  “Your courses have started off strong?”

   Jashana shook her head, bloodless lips tight with pain.  “I think you'd best fetch the midwife.”

   Sophie's eyes widened.  She helped her sister-in-law into her chamber, then sent orders for one of the maidservants to fetch the midwife.  That done, she called for the steward, asking him to fetch the Laird of the manor as quickly as possible.

#

   June 10
   Tre-Arilan


   Denis Arilan sat at his niece's bedside, for once not wearing the garments of his office, for he was here in his role as uncle, not bishop.  He held Jashana's hand, her fingertips cool in his, a bit too cold for his liking.  

   She awakened, turning slightly towards him as her eyes opened.  Seeing who it was that held her hand in his, she turned her eyes upwards, staring blankly at the canopy above before allowing her eyelids to drift shut again.

   “How are you feeling, sweeting?” Denis asked, his voice breaking slightly.  He coughed once to clear his throat, then tried again.   “You should drink something.  The midwife says you need to take in liquids to regain your strength.”

   Jashana reopened her eyes at that.  “Seisyll told you, then.”  It wasn't really a question.

   “I came as soon as I heard the news of Ethan's death, thinking you might have need of me here,” Denis said, looking uncomfortable.  “But yes, I know about the miscarriage.  The midwife was still tending to you when I arrived; Seisyll could hardly avoid telling me something.

   “Are you very upset with me?” the niece whispered.

   “Because you lost your baby?”  Denis sounded a bit shocked, much to Jashana's surprise.  “I hardly think you meant to do so!”

   “No, because I had a baby to lose!”  Jashana opened her eyes again, starting up at her uncle, disconcerted.  “That doesn't matter to you?”

   Denis gave his niece a sad smile, turning her hand palm up and resting it on his cheek.  “Oh, it does, sweeting.  But at the moment that's one of my lesser concerns.”  He sighed.  “I arrived knowing about Ethan's loss only to discover the household in an uproar, thinking we were about to lose you as well.  That tends to put matters in a bit of perspective, even for a stiff-necked man of the cloth.”  He poured a beverage for her, leaning over her to help her sit up slightly, his other hand holding the goblet to her lips.  “Here, please drink something.”

   “What is it?” Jashana asked, trying to peer down her nose at the goblet he held.

   “Small beer, to get your strength back up.”

   She took a few sips before grimacing and pushing the goblet away.  Denis placed it back on the table, lowering his niece back onto her pillow.

   “I'll let you rest.”

   Jashana's tears, dammed until now, began to well up.  “Please don't go yet.”

   “I won't.  I'll still be here when you wake.  But sleep now.”  He brushed gentle fingers over her brow, turning request into unspoken command.  Jashana, unresisting, allowed him to work the sleep spell, falling into dreamless slumber.

   Denis, once she was sound asleep, lay his head against her bedside and silently wept.

#

   When Jashana awoke, Seisyll sat beside her.  She looked around the room.  “Uncle Denis?”

   “He's gone downstairs to have supper with the others, but he'll be back directly.”  Her eldest brother studied the woman lying before him.  “How are you feeling?”

   Jashana pondered the question a long moment.  “Empty.”  It was true in more than one way.  Not only did her Deryni senses inform her that her womb was now devoid of life, she felt also as if some part of her soul had been ripped away with Ethan's death, and now that other loss had stolen away what had remained.  She merely existed now, her life ripped away.

   “Jesú, I'm sorry!”  Seisyll's grip tightened on her hand.  “I knew in the back of my mind that Ethan's mission was potentially dangerous, but I honestly never thought he'd not come back from it.”

   “I know,” she said dully.  “It could have been Sextus just as easily.”

   Seisyll paled slightly.  “Yes, it could have.”

   Jashana turned away from him, stared into her fireplace for a long time.  At last she said, “I can't do it again, Seisyll.”

   “Do what again, sweeting?”

   She swallowed, a tear trickling down her cheek.  “I know you want to see me safely wed, but I don't think I can endure a third betrothal.  Not after losing two men already, certainly not now that I know what it means to love someone.”  Jashana turned to look up at her brother.  “I couldn't go through it again.  Please don't make me.”

   Seisyll closed his eyes, thinking of how starry-eyed Jashana had been over her betrothal to Sir Ethan, and before that, how content she'd been in her betrothal to Sir Ronan, even though that had been too brief to have had time to turn into a love match.  Thinking also of how the stellar match he thought he'd found for Javana had, so far as he could tell from her drawn look and subdued behavior the last time he'd seen her, turned into a dismal failure.  He felt now like he'd failed both sisters in his attempts to see them secure and happy.  “I won't.  I promise, Jashana.  If you should choose another betrothal someday, the choice shall be your own.”  His gaze met his sister's, his eyes miserable.  “I only wished to see you securely settled.”

#

   August 10
   Rhemuth


   “And how is your sister Lady Jashana faring?”  The King's gray eyes held warm sympathy for Seisyll's grieving sister.

   “As well as can be expected, my Prince,” Seisyll replied.  “She's past the worst of her despondency, and beginning to take a more active role in manorial affairs again, but as you might imagine, she's still rather subdued.”

   Kelson nodded.  “As I recall, she and Sir Ethan had a love match, did they not?”

   More so than even Seisyll had realized.   “Yes, Sire,” he answered.  

   The King, of course, knew nothing of Jashana's lost child, that being an intensely private matter, not to mention a scandalous one were it to become known outside of the immediate family.  But her lengthier than usual absence from the Court at Rhemuth had been noted.  Seisyll knew, however, that what troubled Kelson more was the loss of Sir Ethan, not to mention the circumstances that had caused it.  Seisyll had given his King a report shortly after Sextus's return from the Kheldish Riding about the series of mysterious rapes, disappearances, and murders there, and after a month to recover from Ethan's loss, Sextus had returned to the area (though not to Caerdraig Village itself) with a few other fact-finders hand-picked by Kelson himself, only to discover that the Riding had grown unexpectedly peaceful in Sextus's absence.  He was still there, along with the others, but now Kelson and Seisyll were in private conference to decide whether they should remain longer or be recalled to Rhemuth.

   “I can spare them a short time longer,” Kelson told Seisyll, “but I can't spare them indefinitely.  It could well be that the culprit has already been brought to justice.  As it's a local matter, Baron Walter would hardly have felt the need to report every incident of high justice and execution to me.  Or perhaps nearly being caught at their game might have caused the perpetrators to stop their activities.”

   “If it's the latter, they'll only resume them once they feel safe again, you know,” Seisyll reminded the King.

   “I know.   But for now, with nothing more happening, there's nothing for you to investigate.  If they start back up again later...well, you know, that's really more a matter for Baron Walter to handle.  I'll have a word with him about it.”

   Seisyll looked uncomfortable.  “Sire, I suspect my sister Javana only brought it up in private because, for whatever reason, she felt it best not to ask us to look into the matter with Walter knowing about our involvement.”

   Kelson snorted, raising his wineglass to his lips.  “There's little wonder in that, Seisyll.  It's hardly any credit to Lord Walter that such activities were going on in his demesne and he and his men were unable to put an end to it on their own.  He'd hardly wish that to get around!”  He sighed.  “I'll have a word with him nonetheless.  If the trouble starts up again, he may need more resources to sniff out the troublemakers and bring them to justice.  I don’t need my barons being too stiff-necked with pride to seek outside assistance if it’s truly necessary.”

   Seisyll sighed.  “So, if nothing new surfaces, how soon do you want me to recall Sextus and the others and close the investigation?”

   Kelson took another sip of his port.  “If nothing new surfaces?”  He stared out his window in the general direction of the Kheldish Riding.  “The end of this month.  I have other work for the men to do, and I need your brother's keen mind here, not mouldering out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do but chase down trails long grown cold, doubtless wenching and overindulging in Kheldish ale.”  He sighed.  “In a way, I hope something new does surface.  I'd hate to think Sir Ethan died in vain, and I'd love for us to have better closure to this investigation, not to mention the assurance that no other folk of the Riding will come to harm at the hands of the miscreants.  But at this point, I rather doubt that anything new will surface.”
   

Part Eleven:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=670.0
« Last Edit: February 28, 2011, 10:12:26 am by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Possessed--Part Ten
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2011, 04:56:04 pm »
OK, so being an Arilan female seems somewhat of a poisoned chalice at the moment.  Poor Jashana. :(

Offline Evie

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Re: Possessed--Part Ten
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2011, 05:52:40 pm »
Seisyll says being stuck with the job of family paterfamilias at the ripe old age of 18 kinda sucked also.  (He's a bit older by this chapter, of course, but he's still just in his early 20s at this point.)
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Possessed--Part Ten
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2011, 07:32:05 pm »
Being in charge can suck sometimes.

Denis once again showed that he is such a softie when it comes to his nieces.  Those girls are so lucky.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Possessed--Part Ten
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2011, 07:46:45 pm »
I'm not sure they are feeling so lucky right now.  And what will happen to the child due in February?  Is Javana expected to be a doting mother to a child not hers begotten from the spawn of ... well, you know where I'm headed with that.
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Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Possessed--Part Ten
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2011, 08:38:36 pm »
They are not having a great time right now, but they are VERY lucky that they have an uncle who would do anything for them--an uncle who loves them very much.  I don't know what training Walter has had, but he had better not ever underestimate Denis Arlian.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2011, 08:41:39 pm by derynifanatic64 »
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Possessed--Part Ten
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2011, 09:52:46 pm »
Given the timeline of the story, retribution is a ways off - but I so hope it is spectacualar!
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Possessed--Part Ten
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2011, 01:17:25 pm »
Given the timeline of the story, retribution is a ways off - but I so hope it is spectacualar!

I'm still seeing J. standing over him clutching his still-beating heart.

Offline Alkari

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Re: Possessed--Part Ten
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2011, 03:32:53 pm »
After what she is going through, I don't think Javana would want to touch any part of Walter at all!   

And yes, the situation is certainly tough on poor Seisyll, who is doing his best to be head of the family.   When the truth finally comes to light about Javana, I suspect he is going to feel very guilty about what has happened to both his sisters, even though he was genuinely trying to do his best for them.   



 

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