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Author Topic: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine  (Read 6097 times)

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Offline Evie

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Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« on: June 20, 2011, 09:20:20 am »
   Chapter Nine

   June 15, 1134
   Chateau de Moreau, Barony of Kinlochan


   As luck would have it, we arrived at Kinlochan’s baronial seat just in time for little Lord Taggert’s birthday celebrations.  I’d even remembered, by some miracle, and had stopped to pick up a hobby-horse along the way as a present for the young lordling.  We had, of course, bypassed Rhemuth altogether.  After having told the baron of Levington and his steward on several occasions on the evening prior to my departure that I was heading back to Court, and especially after implanting false memories of my urgent summons back to Rhemuth in his stableman and guard, I figured that would be the first place they’d search for me if they suspected I’d made off with the baron’s daughter.  Or, for that matter, even if they had no idea I had, but simply hoped to employ me to track her down again.  I knew I would owe Kelson an explanation for the sudden change in plans, and preferably sooner rather than later, but in the three days since we’d fled Levington, I’d yet to come up with exactly what explanation to offer to the King about why I’d run off with a baron’s heiress.   It had seemed a good idea at the time?  That was unlikely to suffice.  I’d wished to spare her the poor lass an unhappy marriage?  I knew the King well enough to know he’d be privately sympathetic—he, after all, had managed to dodge the snares of so-called marital bliss for years before finding his soulmate in Queen Araxie—yet the hard truth was that it was a noblewoman’s duty to wed for such practicalities as land inheritance and secure border alliances just as much as it was a nobleman’s.  Kelson himself had finally, after a prolonged season of mourning for a first wife he’d barely known and who hadn’t lived long enough to be bedded, followed by a longer season of endless bride-dodging and dithering, managed to muster up the gumption to sacrifice his virginal all on the matrimonial altar for the Kingdom’s sake, before love for his newly affianced bride-to-be unexpectedly gob-smacked him between the eyes and turned duty into delight.  And Lady Jennet was, after all, the heiress to Levington, not some daughter much farther down the string of heirs and spares who might be granted a bit more leniency of choice in whom she was allowed to wed.  Kelson, despite his personal feelings on the matter, was hardly likely to override a father’s wishes for his daughter unless urgent matters of state were at stake.

   I wanted to marry her myself? Bloody hell, no!  I cast a wary glance over my shoulder.  Lady Jennet ducked her head shyly at me, giving me a sidelong smile through thick lashes.  I suppressed a groan.  One unforeseen consequence to my rescue of the damsel in distress was that she’d gone from thinking me a loathsome ruffian to deciding I was her hero.

   I faced forward again, riding resolutely on towards Chateau de Moreau, gleaming in the distance across the fertile, well-tended fields of Kinlochan.  I’d ask Lady Avisa for her advice.  Surely she’d understand Jennet’s predicament and could help us brainstorm some solution.  She too had been given in marriage at a young age—at Lady Jennet’s age, come to think—to a man she’d had as little choice about wedding as young Jennet was given with Lord Odwyn.  Surely the dowager Baroness would sympathize.  How could she not?  Together, I was certain we’d figure out some plan of action that would be mutually satisfactory for all parties concerned.  Or at least most of them.  Or at least some.

   Or, at the very least, something I could say to placate Kelson.

   How the hell had I gotten myself in this fix?

   Warm arms clutched my waist more tightly, and I felt the maiden rest her cheek against my back.  I knew how.  There was a woman involved.  Women had ever been my downfall.  Women, dicing, and strong drink, but I’d been stone cold sober when I’d left Levington, and there’d not been a single gaming den in sight, so I hadn’t had even those latter two excuses.

   No, it was a woman who had proven my undoing this time around.  Yet another baffling, unpredictable female swooping in to wreak havoc in my life.  Somehow, it usually was.

#

   “What in heaven's name were you thinking, Sir Sextus?” Lady Avisa chided me in private much later.  She'd not been nearly as sympathetic as I'd hoped when I'd shown up unannounced with a stray maiden in tow.  Oh, she'd been glad enough to see me back in her Hall, but as for Lady Jennet...well, the Dowager Baroness of Kinlochan had played the gracious hostess well enough, once she'd gotten past her initial shock, but I could tell her heart wasn't in the welcome.  One didn't have to be an expert in reading females to gather that much.  Her lips curved in what might have passed for a smile as she spoke to her unwanted guest and had Master Lars escort her upstairs to a guest chamber, but her eyes glared daggers in my direction every time they left Lady Jennet.  Jennet, thankfully, had seemed oblivious.  Or perhaps she was simply feigning innocence.  For whatever reason, she took Lady Avisa's welcoming words at face value.

   “Or were you even thinking?  And with which organ, might I ask?”  My employer whirled to face me.

   I felt my cheeks warm.  “It's not what you're thinking.  I haven't any vested interest, it's just that.... My Lady, if you'd seen the man her father had picked out for her, you'd understand!” I tried a winning smile, laying a coaxing hand on her arm as I mentally shared an image of Lord Odwyn with her.  She grimaced in distaste, pulling away from me.

   “All right, I'll grant he's no prize.  But still, that's an issue you should have brought up with her father.”  She threw her hands up, shooting me an exasperated glare.  “Sextus, you simply can't haul every unhappy maiden back home with you just because she's about to have her hand given to some man who falls a bit short of perfect!”

   “A bit short of perfect?  Jesú, lady, can you honestly say he falls even just a bit short of mediocre?”  

   Avisa looked at me as if she found me a bit dim.  “Is that what you're planning on telling Kelson?  'I'm sorry, Your Majesty, but I've abducted a damsel from her legal liegelord because I don't approve of his choice of husband for her.  He falls short of mediocre.'  Jesú, Sextus, it hardly matters if he barely falls short of Lucifer himself, the point is, she's not your responsibility!  I'll grant her father's choice for her seems quite loathsome.  So if you feel sorry for his daughter, point out some better options to him!  If his heart isn't swayed by her preferences, appeal to his reason or his greed...whatever’s most likely to get through.  Don’t just steal the chit and think that solves the matter!  Really, my lord, do you truly think that either the King or Holy Church is going to bar any man's marriage on the grounds that the oaf's too ghastly to wed?  I hate to say it, but Gwynedd is doubtless chock full of equally ghastly men—after all, you can't all be handsome, dashing sorts—and yet they've all got the right to try to marry someone!”  She turned away from me, staring out the window.   “If Lady Jennet truly wishes to remain unwed, all she has to do is say no, either to the betrothal or to the marriage vows.  Her father can put pressure on her to agree to the match, but when it comes right down to it, the Church won’t solemnize a marriage made under duress.”

   “In theory, it won’t,” I agreed.  “In practice, all a man has to do is find a chaplain willing to take bribes.”  

   “She could seek refuge in a convent, then.  They won’t turn her out, especially if she tells them she wishes to take holy vows.”

   I tried to imagine Lady Jennet taking holy vows.  Raising a holy ruckus, yes.  But vows to a divine calling?  Not likely.  “I’ve heard her swear a few choice oaths, but it’s hardly the same thing.”  

   Lady Avisa sighed.  “At any rate, Sir Sextus, the woman can’t stay here.  I’ll allow her to spend the night, of course—I’d hardly pitch her out with no protector—but you need to bring her back to her father.  Or take her to the King instead, if you prefer, if you think you can convince him to approve some other course of action, though I doubt it.  In any case, I’m not willing to harbor a fugitive indefinitely; the last thing I need is for Levington to find out where his daughter’s run off to and bring a case against Kinlochan before the Royal Court!  Or, worse, simply take up arms against me, though hopefully the man’s got too much sense to think Kelson will take kindly to one of his barons simply attacking another without attempting some sort of peaceful resolution first.”  

   I couldn’t see either of those options going over well with Lady Jennet.   If I tried to bring her back to Levington, she’d fight me every step of the way once she realized where we were headed.  Bringing her to Kelson instead didn’t seem like a much better option.  As long as I didn’t have to deal with the King directly, there was still the option of seeking forgiveness rather than permission for my actions later, and I hadn’t screwed things up so badly that I felt Kelson would be disinclined to be lenient.  Yet.  But if he heard the lady’s case and then ordered her home regardless of her wishes—and wherever his personal sympathies might lie, there was no legal reason why he wouldn’t—I’d have no choice but to return her to Garulf and Odwyn, with the maiden kicking and screaming the entire way.  And then I’d get an earful from the King upon my return to Court, if he felt inclined to allow my return at all.  After all, my standing in the Royal Court depended entirely on how well I carried out the King’s missions, and he had hired me to be his discreet agent, not his court fool.

    “Oh well, at least I’ve got another night to come up with some solution,” I muttered.  I stared at Lady Avisa in bafflement.  “I felt sure you'd understand!  After all, your arranged marriage didn't live up to your hopes either, did it?”

   She gaped at me.  “Well, no, but that was only because I was a silly little fool ignorant enough to still be dreaming that you might eventually notice me, you numpty!”  

   “Oh!”  I gaped back at her, feeling pole-axed.  “You…were hoping I’d offer for you?”  The latter half of the sentence came out almost as a squeak.

   She raised her chin proudly, crossing her arms before turning to stare out the window again.  “When I was her age, mayhap.   But don’t worry, Sir Sextus, you’d not have stood a chance.  I made the mistake of asking my father about you once, right after our first meeting.  He told me it would be a balmy spring day in West Hell before he’d allow you to call upon me.”

   “Then…why are you so upset?”  There was no answer.  I lapsed into silence, too confused to know what else to say.  She shook her head as if I was a sad specimen of humanity too hopeless to deal with any longer, and fled the room.

#

   “Six!”  Grub’s blue-violet eyes brightened as she spotted me, and I thought I saw a look of profound relief cross her face.  My daughter, not waiting for the nursemaid’s permission, ran across the garden courtyard towards me before remembering her manners and skidding to a stop to offer me a polite curtsey instead.  The nurse glanced at me hesitantly, as if awaiting some cue from me as to whether she should call my child back until a more convenient time to welcome her father home, or allow her to continue her wild dash towards me.

   I smiled and held out my arms.  Grub catapulted herself the rest of the distance to me, crushing greenery the entire way.  Doubtless Master Lars would have something to say to me about it later, but at that moment, I didn’t care.  I lifted the child up into the air, making her squeal with laughter.  Even in the short time since my departure, she seemed to have put on a little more weight, and healthy color was in her cheeks.  Glancing past her at Nurse Moira, I nodded my thanks to her.  She curtseyed back, gathering her other charges to continue their stroll to the other side of the gardens.

   Grub hit me as I set her back down on the ground.

   “Ouch!  What was that for?” I scolded as I released her.  “Use words, not fists.”

   Tears shimmered in her eyes.  “You scared me!”

   I crouched to get a better look at her face.  “I scared you?  I didn’t lift you all that high, poppet.”

   “Not that way.”  Her lips quivered.  “You left me!”

   “Yes, I’m sorry I had to leave so suddenly.  I was called on the King’s business.  We talked about that before I left, remember?”

   She hung her head, sniffling.  “But you were gone so long!  I thought you’d never come back.  Lady Avisa kept saying you’d be home soon, but you weren’t.”

   I hugged her gently.  The absence hadn’t seemed all that long to me, but it must have seen like a short eternity for a young child, especially one who had spent most of her life feeling unwanted.  “Well, I did, and I’m here now, aren’t I?”  

   She nodded again, blinking rapidly to clear the moisture from her eyes.   “I guess I don’t hate you anymore, then.”

   I chuckled, sitting on the ground and pulling her onto my lap.  “I suspect you didn’t really hate me even when I was gone.  You were just angry with me for leaving you behind, weren’t you?”

   “I guess.”  She glared up at me.  “Why can’t I go with you on the King’s business?”

   I was a little taken aback.  “Well…for one thing, you’re not in the King’s service.  And for another, you’re still far too young.  And while this particular job wasn’t all that dangerous, sometimes the work can be.  It’s not really the sort of work that’s suited for a lady.”  

   “Why not?  Ladies can do stuff too, can’t they?”

   “Well…yes…ladies do all sorts of stuff!”

   “In the King’s service?”  Her eyes challenged me.

   “Um…yes, I suppose so.” A sudden thought presented itself to me and I grabbed it gratefully.  “Like, for instance, take Duchess Meraude.  She’s served as the King’s chatelaine for years.”

   Grub cocked her head at me, looking interested.  “What does a chatelaine do?”

   “Uh….”  In truth, I hardly knew myself.  I’d always taken the resident ladies of Rhemuth Castle more or less for granted.  “I imagine she sews a lot, and she supervises the castle staff, and makes sure the meals are to the King’s tastes, and…ah…that sort of thing.”  I shrugged.  “A bit like your Aunt Sophie does for Tre-Arilan, I’d think, only…well…a whole lot more of it….”

   “Oh.”  Grub deflated slightly.  “Boring stuff, you mean.  What sorts of fun stuff do ladies do?”

   I couldn’t exactly tell her the first thing that leapt to mind; repeating it would hardly be suitable.  Not that I’d really had any experience with ladies, per se.  Rustic wenches, most certainly, but in my mind there was a significant difference.  Dalliances with country girls wouldn’t put my place at Court at any risk, after all, but I’d had it drummed into me since earliest boyhood that country lasses and common-born serving girls were for having fun with, but noblewomen were for admiring from a respectable distance until a man was ready to marry and get heirs.  And since I had nothing worth passing down to a son, what was the point of looking for a lady to wed?

   The bastard daughter of a mere knight errant would certainly not be serving any King in that way, at any rate!  I wrenched my thoughts back to the question.  “Hm.  Well, they tend to their babies….”  I was running out of ideas.  “What sort of thing would you consider fun?”

   “Going on adventures with you.”  Her eyes met mine in challenge.  “And learning magic.”

   I smiled.  That latter idea was certainly in the realm of possibility.  Kelson was quite likely to insist, in fact, given the lack of formally trained Deryni in Gwynedd.  “Yes, you could most certainly learn more magic, though you’ll have to grow into your full powers before you can do anything more than a few simple spells.”  Another thought occurred to me, one that was certain to please my daughter more than the thought of having to learn the usual womanly duties expected of a wife or chatelaine.  “Deryni talents, whether wielded by men or by women, will always prove useful to the Haldane Court, I imagine.  King Kelson might find a place of service for you yet, if you’re a diligent student of the magic arts.  Though you know, you’ll have to learn the boring stuff as well.  Even I had to learn a lot of boring stuff.”

   “That’s all right, as long as I can learn fun stuff too.”  She beamed, and I suppressed a relieved sigh.  Hopefully by the time she discovered that, trained Deryni or not, the King wasn’t likely to be sending a young lady on the same sorts of ‘adventures’ that he sends me on, she’d have found too many other interesting outlets for her bright mind and insatiable curiosity to care.

#

   As Lady Jennet and I had arrived at Kinlochan on young Taggert’s third birthday, there was no getting out of the celebratory feast in the Great Hall that evening, nor could I hope for a discreet spot on some bench at the end of the hall farthest from the dais and High Table.  No, as Taggert was the guest of honor at this night’s feast, that meant his brother and my daughter would be out of the nursery as well, at least for the early part of the meal.  Not to mention that we had a baron’s heiress as a guest this evening, and despite the Lady Avisa’s personal feelings on that matter, she was hardly going to be so discourteous a hostess as to not invite a noblewoman in temporary residence under her roof to join the rest of Kinlochan’s nobility at High Table.

   Thus it was I found myself seated at High Table with the baronial family and my daughter, sharing a trencher with my latest acquisition from Levington, who clung to my left arm like a barnacle on a rock.  On my right sat Grub.

   Grub peeked curiously past me at the new arrival as we approached our seats.  Lady Jennet gave her an uncertain smile back.

   “Lady Jennet, may I present my daughter Amanda.  Amanda, this is Lady Jennet de Levington.”  I made the introductions quietly as I handed Grub into her seat before taking my own.

   The lady gave me a startled look.  “You’re married?” she asked.

   I briefly toyed with the idea of inventing a convenient wife, but I wasn’t quick enough.  “No, he’s not,” Grub answered for me.

   “Oh.  I see.”  Lady Jennet brightened.  “I’m sorry for your loss, then, Sir Sextus.”

   “I’m not sorry,” Grub said cheerfully.  

   “Oh, look…turnips!” I interjected hastily as the servers headed for our table.

   My daughter grimaced.  “Turnips are vile.”

   I really didn’t care what opinion she held regarding turnips or other vegetation, just so long as I could get her off the unfortunate subject of her mother and steer the conversation into safer territory.

   Grub continued to study our guest covertly as she stabbed at the bits of meat on her trencher.  “Looks like a screamer to me,” she observed in a loud whisper.

   More of a scrapper and a scold, actually, I answered via Mind-speech, hoping she'd take the hint and reply—if she was planning to—likewise.  At least I hoped I'd construed her meaning correctly, and she was merely alluding to the maiden’s temper.  If she wasn’t, then I certainly hoped we weren't going to continue this conversation at High Table.  Or, for that matter, at all!  I wondered what advice the Books of Courtesy had to share, if any, about the best way to raise the most streetwise nobleman's chit in all the Eleven Kingdoms.  Even Jashana, the bolder of my two sisters, came across as a sheltered convent-bred innocent in comparison with my worldly little seven-year-old guttersnipe! Belatedly, I wondered if my niece Stefania was still harboring illusions that a Bird of Paradise was nothing more than an exotic avian species, or if Grub had disabused her cousin of this notion during her brief residence at Tre-Arilan?  If so, that would certainly explain why Seisyll had looked so relieved when I informed him of Lady Avisa's offer to install me as Kinlochan's newest steward, and why he'd all but flung my daughter's belongings out the door with a joyful smile plastered to his face as we departed our former chambers.

   Why'd you bring her here?  Grub asked me.

   She's...ah...connected to the mission the King sent me on, I replied.

   Grub craned her neck to peer around me at Lady Jennet, who was oblivious to the unspoken conversation taking place beside her and who was chattering away quite cheerfully at me, her features alight with admiration as she smiled winningly up at me.  She's your mission?  Grub raised her eyebrow at me, looking peculiarly like a miniature female version of my Uncle Denis.  And the King pays you for that?

   I blushed.  I don't know what you're imagining, but I was sent to find her.  She went missing for a short while.

   Grub gave me a skeptical look. She don't look very missing to me now.  If she presses up any closer to you, she’ll be sitting in your lap.  Are you planning on keeping her?

   “No!”  Lady Jennet stared at me, startled, and I realized I'd accidentally said the word aloud, and rather forcefully at that.  I wondered what she'd just been prattling on about, and if my unexpected response had been in any way appropriate to what she'd been telling me.

   “Well, if you feel that strongly about it....”  The maiden's emerald eyes widened, and she hastily ducked her head to hide her mortification.  I, of course, having no idea what I'd just said “No” to with such vehemence, had no idea what words of comfort or explanation I might offer for my sudden brusque denial.

   I glanced down the table at Lady Avisa, seated between her two sons and smiling at the birthday boy’s excitement at finding a coin baked in his cake.  She glanced up at me, her laughing eyes briefly shining with delight as her gaze met mine, then she chanced to look past me at Lady Jennet and the smile dimmed, becoming merely coolly polite.  She turned her attention pointedly back to her child.  A chill descended upon the room that had nothing to do with any inadequacy of the flames dancing on the Great Hall’s hearth.

   It was, I decided, one of the more hellish evenings of my entire existence.  

#
   

   June 16, 1134
   Chateau de Moreau, Barony of Kinlochan


   The idea came to me in the middle of the night, as I lay sleepless in my bedchamber, but I thought it could well be the answer to my dilemma regarding Lady Jennet.  She could clearly not remain here—even had Lady Avisa been more receptive towards the idea, I saw now that harboring the baron of Levington’s runaway daughter could embroil two of Kelson Haldane’s baronies in a dispute that the King would hardly thank me for.  On the other hand, I still had no stomach for returning her to the near-certainty of a forced marriage to Lord Odwyn, nor did I think that Lord Garulf her father would be amenable to hearing any arguments I might make against the match.

   However, a third option had occurred to me, offering up a glimmer of hope.  My sister Javana had been living at a sanctuary in Derry for the past year, ever since the death of her husband Walter.  Hers had been a horrific marriage, and after his quite welcome demise she’d needed time to recover her bearings in a sanctuary where she could regain her physical and emotional strength while recovering from her husband’s abuses.  She’d also found renewed strength and purpose in devoting her energies towards helping other women in need, which seemed to be helpful to her own recovery, at least judging from the letters Uncle Denis forwarded to Tre-Arilan from her on occasion.  Surely the Saint Nicholas Sanctuary for Widows and Orphans would gladly take Lady Jennet off my hands, despite her being neither widowed nor precisely orphaned.  At least I was hoping I could convince Countess Celsie, the sanctuary’s patroness, of Jennet’s need for safe shelter. One of the few things I could remember my sister-in-law Sophie mentioning about Celsie’s younger years was that the Countess had only narrowly escaped a traumatic forced marriage of her own once, so surely she’d be sympathetic to the baron’s daughter’s plight.

   Yes, that was what I would do.  I would propose the idea of seeking shelter at Countess Celsie’s sanctuary to Lady Jennet in the morning.  The plan would require me to leave Kinlochan for a short while longer, of course, but I could hardly imagine Lady Avisa would deny me the additional time away.  After all, she had been the one who’d urged me to find some other solution to Lady Jennet’s plight than a permanent stay at Kinlochan, so she could hardly argue against me conveying the maiden elsewhere.   Musing on how I would broach the subject with her over breakfast, I soon fell fast asleep.

#

   “Not just no, Sir Sextus, but hell no!”  Lady Avisa stared incredulously up at me over her breakfast.  “Bringing the lady back to her father or even to the King in Rhemuth is one thing, but hauling her across half the Kingdom without a chaperone?  Are you out of your everloving mind?”  The look she gave me left me in no doubt as to what her answer to that question might be.

   “Well, my lady, you asked me to find some solution to the dilemma of what to do with Lady Jennet, and this happens to be it.  Saint Nicholas's Sanctuary for Widows and Orphans is an utterly respectable refuge for Lady Jennet; it's under the Countess of Derry's patronage, and as it happens, my own sister Javana resides there.  And given that Lady Jennet has already spent several nights unchaperoned in my company, both when I was fetching her back home from Desse and then on our journey from Levington to here, I fail to see how she can be any more compromised by our traveling to Derry together unescorted.”

   She gave a mirthless laugh, raising her eyebrows at me.  “Oh, I was hardly thinking of her reputation; if she wants to throw that out the window, that’s her business.  I was more concerned about yours!

   “About mine?”  I stared back at her, baffled.  “Lady Avisa, unless I’ve somehow gained a reputation as a ravisher of young maidens—which I assure you would be quite undeserved, as I’m very particular about steering clear of untouched damsels in general, and most especially highborn ones—I can’t imagine why that would be of any concern!”

   The dowager baroness cocked her head at me. “Can you truly not?  Oh, well, let’s see here….a young and handsome bachelor knight with a reputation for being a lusty sort and who has an illegitimate daughter to prove his misspent youth goes haring across the countryside with a runaway damsel in tow—oh, might I add she’s a lovely and nubile young lady who has just recently become fully ripe for marriage?—traveling together without a chaperone or even a protective male escort, and no one in Gwynedd will find that gossip-worthy?  No one at all?

   I took a deep breath.  “Well, I can hardly bring her back to Levington, so if this solution won't suit, then I suppose we'll have to find some sort of compromise.  What would you suggest, my lady?”

   “I already gave you my two suggestions yesterday,” she told me sourly after several moments of thought, frowning at me all the while, “but if you're determined to go against my advice, then at least you'll have the good sense not to go traipsing off with Lady Jennet unescorted.”  She sighed.  “I should be able to make ready for the journey if you can hold off leaving for a few hours.”

   I tried to make sense of her statement.  “Make ready for the journey, my lady?”

   “Of course.  I shall be accompanying you.”  The lady's chin rose proudly, brooking no argument.  I argued anyway.

   “But...my lady...it would hardly be seemly!”

   “Oh?  So now you're worried about reputations?”  She arched a chestnut brow at me.

   “Of course I am!  You're....”  I fumbled for the right words.  “You're a respectable widow!”

   “Yes, I am, and therefore quite a suitable chaperone for your misguided young maiden.”

   “But...there'd be the whole trip back from Derry, you realize?”  Why the thought of traveling back to Kinlochan alone with the enchanting Lady Avisa filled me with more rising excitement than trepidation, I didn't stop to question.  It would be a very bad idea, I was certain.

   “Of course there would be.  I would hardly expect we'd all be moving to Derry permanently!”

   “No, what I mean is, who would be your chaperone on the return trip?”

   Lady Avisa laughed.  “Sir Sextus, you are my steward!  It's hardly unknown for a lady to travel accompanied by her male staff; in fact, it's expected.  How else am I to have a safe escort along the way?”  She dimpled.  “There are highwaymen about, you know.”

   “Well, yes, of course, but I'm not exactly Master Gerard or Master Lars, now am I?  I'm...oh, what did you just call me again?...something about young lusty bachelor knights with a reputation....” I felt my cheeks grow hot.  “Your senior stewards would hardly approve,” I added feebly, sensing my protests were useless.

   “Shall I leave Kinlochan’s domestic management in your hands, then, while Master Lars brings the demoiselle of Levington to Countess Derry?”  The dowager baroness smiled at me as if she had just made the winning move in a cardounet game.

   The offer was a tempting one on the surface of it.  If I left Lady Jennet in Master Lars's hands, I could get back to the easier, more familiar problems of household management and leave Jennet's ultimate fate to someone else guilt-free.  Or could I?  No, I'd need to see this through.  Kelson had entrusted the damsel into my care, after all, and even if I'd managed to make a complete and total muck-up of the job, it was my mess to clean up after, not Master Lars's.  

   “Can you be ready by mid-afternoon?” I asked Lady Avisa with a sigh.

   “I can.  And if you're truly worried about my lack of a chaperone, we can bring Amanda with us.”  

   I goggled at her.  “Bring Amanda?”

   “Yes.  Tiny little thing, dark-haired, amethyst eyes and an insatiable appetite.  Amanda, your daughter, otherwise known as ‘Grub.’”  Avisa smiled beatifically at me.  “You told me yourself, there’s not a better chaperone to be had than one’s own young and quite impressionable daughter.  It will be an educational journey for her, and she’s old enough now to think it quite the adventure.   She's not yet met her Aunt Javana, has she?”

   “I…well, no, she hasn’t.”

   I gave up the fight. I knew I had been bested by a master.


Chapter Ten: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=733.0
« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 09:42:47 am by Evie »
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2011, 10:16:09 am »
Sextus, a long journey, and three women - well, two and a half women.  What could possibly go wrong?

Because it will.

Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2011, 10:53:53 am »
Yeah, a train wreck waiting to happen, innit?   :D

I just wish I had the know-how, talent pool, and resources to make and post this as a movie instead, just so we could all watch Sextus get derailed in living color....   ;D
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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2011, 11:43:30 am »
You mean it's not going to be a quick trip to the Sanctuary with Countess Celsie immediately lending her support and Lady Jennet's father readily seeing the error of his ways?   ;D

Seriously, this is wonderful.  And I look forward to seeing Javana again.

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2011, 11:59:29 am »
You mean it's not going to be a quick trip to the Sanctuary with Countess Celsie immediately lending her support and Lady Jennet's father readily seeing the error of his ways?   ;D

Sure it is...in Sextus's dreams!   :D

Quote
Seriously, this is wonderful.  And I look forward to seeing Javana again.

Thank you.   :)  And yes, you'll see Javana a couple of times in this story, and Jashana and Mihall as well towards the end of it.  You should hear the stories those sisters have to tell about their 'baby brother'....   ;)
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2011, 01:18:10 pm »
Actually, I can think of some 'king's service' missions that could be done as well, or even BETTER, by a woman as a man.  Wasn't there a position, even, sometimes, of 'the King's Demoselle' who did just those sorts of things?  Sextus could bring up Amanda/Grub with just the skills needed for such a role--training her Deryni powers, teaching her to ride and shoot and wield blade (a broadsword would be too heavy for most women, but women could and did learn rapier-and-dagger), AND seeing to it that she also knew how to act like a lady when the occasion required.

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2011, 02:50:43 pm »
If there was ever a "King's Demoiselle" position in either KK's fantasy world or in any actual medieval court, I'm unaware of it, though it certainly seems like the sort of thing that would come up in medieval-era inspired fantasies.  But certainly there are some tasks at which a woman in royal service might be better equipped than a man.  A Court Lady might, for instance, pick up vital bits of intelligence from the smatterings of gossip exchanged in the Queen's solar, for instance, or elsewhere around Court where tongues might wag more freely around a 'mere woman' than around a man known to be in the King's Service.  Servant women would be ideally placed to overhear things as well.  Someone like Walsingham, spymaster to Elizabeth I, probably made use of such sources of information as well as his network of male spies.

As for training a woman to fight in the King's service, that would be less plausible, although certainly noblewomen were taught enough about the defensive arts to be able to supervise the defense of their own castles if the lord were away from home and the castle was under siege.  However, they almost never rode off to battle.  I say almost because there are a few documented cases of women who did, although those were extremely rare, and in most cases they were queens or other high-ranking women who led troops into battle but might not necessarily have fought alongside them.  (Again, I say 'most' because there are the even rarer but documented cases of women who did take up the sword, but in those cases, they were either disguised as men, or there's a case or two I read of recently about Spanish noblewomen married to conquistadores who ended up traveling to the New World and fighting alongside their menfolk.  That was hardly the norm, though.) 

There is manuscript evidence however that at least some noblewomen might have sought tutors in the fighting arts to teach them the basics of self-defense with sword and shield.  When I was researching sword fighting styles to help myself imagine the climactic battle between Walter, Sextus, and Stefan, I ran across an online copy of a fascinating sword-fighting manual--one of the earliest extant manuscripts in existence about that art--and a few of the illustrations in it depict a monk (the sword-master) sparring with a woman.  Here, get an eyeful of Walpurgis, the young woman learning the art of the sword:  http://freywild.ch/i33/i33en.html .  If you peer carefully enough, you can catch a glimpse of skin above one of those feminine stockings....shocking!   ;)  :D  It's believed that she might have been a well-to-do woman of the nobility or upper middle class who was hiring the sword-master to teach her some lessons in self-defense.  The average medieval arming sword only weighed between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds, according to Oakeshott, so that would hardly have been beyond a woman's capacity to wield, even if fighting sword and shield style.  (Those 10 or 15 pound swords were purely ceremonial; no man in his right mind would think of carrying one to battle, much less a woman!) 

That said, would Kelson ever take Amanda Arilan into his service?  I think the chances are likely that he would be glad to have any trained Deryni--male or female--in his service, but I think it's equally unlikely that he would envision a primarily martial role for a woman in his employ.  At most, he might wish her to be trained well enough in the fighting arts to be able to defend herself if necessary, but I think he'd probably find some other role for a woman in his service that would fit in better with his cultural norms.  A female Deryni would still have easier access to people and places where a male presence might be considered suspect.  Either a man or a woman could perform ritual magic equally well, with the proper training; Kelson certainly has no problem with trusting Richenda in that role.  And after years of exposure to women such as Richenda and Meraude, surely Kelson would have learned that a woman's counsel and wisdom can be respected equally to a man's.  There are ways a woman could serve the Kingdom without necessarily having to take on a man's role and go against convention in order to do so, and I suspect Kelson would be the sort to prefer the ladies in his service to take that route.  After all, if a woman is out there raising eyebrows and hackles by her unorthodox behavior, she's hardly going to be unobtrusive enough to gather the facts he needs without calling undue attention to herself.   :) 
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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2011, 05:48:05 pm »
Dear Sextus - Lady Avisa was right.  Your thinking organ at present is definitely not located between your ears.  However, you are now getting what you absolutely deserve: a trip to Derry in the company of three fascinating young women  :D   May you enjoy every step of the way, and I am sure it will bemost educational for young Amanda.


As for Amanda's desire to do something 'interesting' when she grows up, one possibility for a while is as a lady in waiting to the Queen.  There, a young Amanda could undoubtedly play some sort of 'Court intelligence' role in Rhemuth, especially if she is young, very attractive, and therefore highly interesting to all the young men at court.  However, she would eventually be expected to marry, after which her ability to function in the role of gathering information etc would depend on whether she married someone who was regularly at Court himself.   If she married a man in an administrative role at the Palace, then she would easily fit in as a 'fixture' around Court, moving in circles appropriate to her own rank.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 06:15:57 pm by Alkari »

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2011, 07:22:00 pm »
Dear Sextus - Lady Avisa was right.  Your thinking organ at present is definitely not located between your ears.  

LOL!  Too true, though she's only half right, as he's also not thinking with the 'brain' she's assuming he's using.  No, Sextus got suckered into letting his heart override his good sense.  Too bad Kelson sent him to simply find and return a missing heiress, not to become her codependent rescuer.... ;D
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Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2011, 07:43:42 pm »
Just when you thought Sextus couldn't make his life any more complicated, HE DOES!!  And having Amanda looking like Great-uncle Denis when she raised her eyebrow-Sextus is doomed!
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2011, 09:26:30 pm »
though she's only half right, as he's also not thinking with the 'brain' she's assuming he's using. 

Yes, there are definitely times when the words "thinking" and "Sextus" should not be used in the same sentence.  Or even wave at each other in the same paragraph.  No matter where his "brain" happens to be located that day.


Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2011, 11:16:11 pm »
That said, would Kelson ever take Amanda Arilan into his service?  I think the chances are likely that he would be glad to have any trained Deryni--male or female--in his service, but I think it's equally unlikely that he would envision a primarily martial role for a woman in his employ.  At most, he might wish her to be trained well enough in the fighting arts to be able to defend herself if necessary, but I think he'd probably find some other role for a woman in his service that would fit in better with his cultural norms.

Well, yes, I wasn't imagining that Amanda would be primarily a fighter--just that she would be trained to know how so that she could defend herself in an emergency.  And archery was a perfectly respectable skill for ladies, wasn't it?  Women did participate in hunts, didn't they?

I'm imagining that growing up alongside the Baroness' sons she'd pick up the martial arts alongside them.  Later, they all get sent to Court, the boys as pages, her as a junior lady-in-waiting.  She shows up for swordsmanship class, perhaps disguised as a boy, and by the time she's revealed as a girl she's demonstrated that she's at least as good as most of the boys her age, and better than some.  I'd imagine there'd be some to-ing and fro-ing among the adults; some saying that it is 'unseemly' for a young gentlewoman to be doing that sort of thing, others saying that since she obviously has talent it would be foolish not to let her develop it.  A compromise would be reached--she'll be allowed to continue with archery and equitation, but in place of sword she'll learn knife-fighting; a 'lady' can't carry a sword, but she can carry a knife, and if there's ever an emergency where she has to defend herself, a knife might be more useful than a longer blade.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 11:29:53 pm by Elkhound »

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2011, 09:37:21 am »
Well, yes, I wasn't imagining that Amanda would be primarily a fighter--just that she would be trained to know how so that she could defend herself in an emergency.  And archery was a perfectly respectable skill for ladies, wasn't it?  Women did participate in hunts, didn't they?

Yes, women did participate in hunts along with the menfolk.  Many were simply spectators, but there were women who were more active participants as well.  Women tended to carry cudgels, rods (to drive the prey towards the hunters), or a bow and arrows.  I don't think I've seen any depictions of women carrying swords or spears on a hunt, though I may just not have looked at the right sources.  They also participated in falconry, tending to favor the smaller hawks and falcons (which makes sense, since a woman with comparatively less arm strength than a man wouldn't want the heaviest raptors out there perching on her arm if smaller ones were available).  Women probably weren't involved as active participants in the most dangerous forms of hunting, such as spear hunting for wild boar, which was hazardous even for well-muscled men, but they may have been along on the hunt to help clean (or "unmake") the beast after it was killed.

Quote
I'm imagining that growing up alongside the Baroness' sons she'd pick up the martial arts alongside them.  Later, they all get sent to Court, the boys as pages, her as a junior lady-in-waiting.  She shows up for swordsmanship class, perhaps disguised as a boy, and by the time she's revealed as a girl she's demonstrated that she's at least as good as most of the boys her age, and better than some.  I'd imagine there'd be some to-ing and fro-ing among the adults; some saying that it is 'unseemly' for a young gentlewoman to be doing that sort of thing, others saying that since she obviously has talent it would be foolish not to let her develop it.  A compromise would be reached--she'll be allowed to continue with archery and equitation, but in place of sword she'll learn knife-fighting; a 'lady' can't carry a sword, but she can carry a knife, and if there's ever an emergency where she has to defend herself, a knife might be more useful than a longer blade.

You'll see Grub dressed in boy's clothing a time or two before this story winds to a close, but for various story-related reasons that will become clearer by the time you get to the final chapters, this particular scenario would be impossible, since the disappearance of an Arilan daughter at the same time that an Arilan son suddenly appears on the scene would be pretty conspicuous in Rhemuth society.  ;)  (And there's no hiding the fact that this child is an Arilan.  Not many children have those distinctive blue-violet eyes to go with that jet black hair, not to mention the Denis Arilan Supercilious Eyebrow (TM)!  ;D )  But I can certainly see Sextus allowing his daughter to pick up a few martial skills along with the young lads.  He's well aware of the dangers out in the Cold Cruel World (for that matter, so is Grub!), and even though he'd ensure his daughter was well guarded and well chaperoned once she's old enough to venture from the family nest a bit, he'd still want her to know a few tricks of her own.  Though I suspect he'd disagree with a knife being more useful than a sword. Swords offer greater reach, for one thing, and keeping some distance--however small--from one's attacker tends to be a good thing.  Like most modern-day self-defense instructors, Sextus would probably prefer for his daughter to learn how to fight long enough to escape, not to try to fight with the goal of overcoming an attacker (where, as the weaker fighter, she'd be at a disadvantage) unless that becomes absolutely necessary, and that would mean he'd want her to stay out of easy grabbing range, which is less likely if fighting with a knife rather than a longer range weapon. And if an actual 13th Century medieval monk would think that giving a noblewoman some sword lessons in the noble art of defense is a respectable enough activity to be documented in a training manual, then I suspect it wouldn't raise too many eyebrows for a father to allow his daughter to learn a trick or two with a sword in KK's medieval-based universe, just as long as he wasn't planning on sending her off to battle in the next war.  :)  If the Walpurgis manuscript is anything to go by, she wouldn't even need to dress like a boy for her lessons unless she just wanted to shock the neighbors (which, this being Grub, I wouldn't put past her!)  ;D
« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 09:56:21 am by Evie »
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2011, 10:23:57 am »
You'll see Grub dressed in boy's clothing a time or two before this story winds to a close, but for various story-related reasons that will become clearer by the time you get to the final chapters, this particular scenario would be impossible, since the disappearance of an Arilan daughter at the same time that an Arilan son suddenly appears on the scene would be pretty conspicuous in Rhemuth society.  ;)  (And there's no hiding the fact that this child is an Arilan.  Not many children have those distinctive blue-violet eyes to go with that jet black hair, not to mention the Denis Arilan Supercilious Eyebrow (TM)!  ;D )  But I can certainly see Sextus allowing his daughter to pick up a few martial skills along with the young lads.  He's well aware of the dangers out in the Cold Cruel World (for that matter, so is Grub!), and even though he'd ensure his daughter was well guarded and well chaperoned once she's old enough to venture from the family nest a bit, he'd still want her to know a few tricks of her own.  Though I suspect he'd disagree with a knife being more useful than a sword. Swords offer greater reach, for one thing, and keeping some distance--however small--from one's attacker tends to be a good thing.  Like most modern-day self-defense instructors, Sextus would probably prefer for his daughter to learn how to fight long enough to escape, not to try to fight with the goal of overcoming an attacker (where, as the weaker fighter, she'd be at a disadvantage) unless that becomes absolutely necessary, and that would mean he'd want her to stay out of easy grabbing range, which is less likely if fighting with a knife rather than a longer range weapon. And if an actual 13th Century medieval monk would think that giving a noblewoman some sword lessons in the noble art of defense is a respectable enough activity to be documented in a training manual, then I suspect it wouldn't raise too many eyebrows for a father to allow his daughter to learn a trick or two with a sword in KK's medieval-based universe, just as long as he wasn't planning on sending her off to battle in the next war.  :)  If the Walpurgis manuscript is anything to go by, she wouldn't even need to dress like a boy for her lessons unless she just wanted to shock the neighbors (which, this being Grub, I wouldn't put past her!)  ;D

have we seen any 'Sweet Polly Olivers' in the KK 'verse yet?

Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Nine
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2011, 11:06:10 am »
None are coming to mind in the canonical KK 'verse, though I haven't read through the Camber era books in ages, so I might be forgetting someone in one of those.  In my own Alternate Universe take on her universe (and technically all fanfic is "AU" to some extent, since while they're based on canon, they're not canonical themselves, but in my stories I've created an additional Kingdom that doesn't exist at all in canon, so any characters from that kingdom or descended from those who are would be especially "AU"), I had Catriona of Llyr, but I don't know if she'd count as such, since at least some highly placed people (Brion, Morgan, and Kelson once he became King) were "in the know" about her actually being a woman, but using her Deryni powers to assume the guise of a young man.  So if total anonymity is a factor in her being a "Sweet Polly Oliver," then I don't suppose she quite fits the trope, but if not, then she probably does, at least during her earlier years in Gwynedd.  

And for anyone who is asking "What the heck is a 'Sweet Polly Oliver?'" here's an explanation:  http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SweetPollyOliver   ;D
« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 11:10:47 am by Evie »
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