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Author Topic: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen  (Read 2830 times)

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Offline Evie

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Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« on: July 25, 2011, 09:32:11 am »
   Chapter Fourteen

   June 27, 1134
   Godwyn Hall, Duchy of Haldane


   It was the sound of a giggly girl that woke me the following morning.  “I need you to tie my points, Six.  I can’t figure out how.”

   I opened my eyes, wondering what Grub was talking about.  My eyes widened further as I saw what the child was wearing.  “Where in the world did you find that get-up?” I asked, staring at her.  Grub was wearing the undershirt and braies of a young boy—from the size of the garments, one who had only recently been breeched—and was struggling to figure out how to attach the points of the chausses to the braies so that they would stay up on her skinny little legs.

   “Lady Avisa gave them to me.  She said they used to be Jamie’s, but he’s outgrown them long since, and she said they’ll be more practical than skirts where we’re going.”

   I got up, walking over to a nearby basin and ewer to wash the sleep from my eyes and wake myself up further.  “Where is it that you’re going?”

   Grub shrugged her skinny shoulders.  “I don’t know, but Lady Avisa says you’re going with us.”  She giggled.  “So be sure not to wear long skirts.”

   “Right.”  I rolled my eyes at her as I bent to secure her chausses to her braies.  “If I can’t wear my fancy gowns, I’m sure I’ll have nothing else suitable.”  She chortled.  I tickled her ribs with my finger as I straightened, making her giggle even louder, then popped a short overtunic over her head to complete the ensemble.  “There.  You’re a proper boy now, aside from all that hair.  Let’s see if we can scare it into submission.”

   She drew a face at me, twisting her hair in one hand and stuffing it all under a cap.  I sighed.  “No, it will only be a tangled mess later if you leave it like that.  Let’s comb the snarls out first.  You didn’t braid it before bedtime, did you?”

   She pouted.  “No.  It was still damp and I forgot.  Can’t Lady Avisa comb it out?  She doesn’t pull as hard as you do.”

   I rummaged in my bags for my comb, running it swiftly through my own short hair before handing it to my daughter.  “Lady Avisa is probably quite busy this morning, but here, you can see if one of her maidservants can tame that rat’s nest.”  I tousled the snarly mess.  “Run on now while I find something to wear.”

   “No gowns, remember!”  She giggled again.

   “No gowns.  Trust me, Grub, no one here wants to see that!

#

   To my relief, when we found Lady Avisa in the Hall later, she was not wearing the same sort of clothing as my daughter.  I didn’t think it would have been possible for me to go blithely through the day at her side while trying not to stare at shapely female legs swathed in close-fitting fabric.  Instead, she wore a modest kirtle belted at the waist, though as Grub skidded to a stop before her, proclaiming her disappointment at seeing the lady dressed so normally, the dowager baroness laughed and pulled the hem of her skirts up to knee height, allowing us a glimpse of linen chausses and short boots worn underneath her more feminine garments.  “Don’t worry, sweeting; you’ll get your adventure soon enough.  But first, we’ve got work to do.”  She glanced up at me.  “Sir Sextus, I shall require your assistance.  Though if we can get our tasks completed by nuncheon, I’ve asked Cook to prepare a hamper of food we can bring with us to my favorite place in all of Gwynedd.”  Her eyes drifted to Grub’s face with her last statement, and she smiled as the girl’s face lit up.  “And there, we’ll have our adventure!”

   “Six is coming too, ain’t he?”

   Lady Avisa met my eyes, chuckling slightly.  “Yes, ‘Six’ can come too, but only if he promises to behave himself.  Or, more likely, to keep us both out of trouble.  And only if we get enough work done here first.”

#

   We followed the lady and Master James outside, where I soon discovered the work of the morning was to be a thorough inspection of the manor’s guest wing that was still under reconstruction, along with discussion of what other labor might be required to bring Godwyn Hall back to its full glory and, if the lady’s personal coffers would allow, modernize certain portions of the property.  While the building had never been allowed to fall into a state of complete disrepair, it had been one of Lady Avisa’s family’s lesser properties, with the family in residence only during brief visits, generally during the summer months, so they had not tended to the place as well as they had to their more frequented properties.  When Avisa had married Edgar Moreau, Godwyn Hall had been given to her as part of her dower, but she had been too busy to visit the property very often between her responsibilities as a young wife and mother and, after Baron Edgar’s death, her even greater responsibilities as the baronial regent to Kinlochan.

   Avisa, however, wished to rectify the matter now, for Godwyn Hall had been the place of her birth and she looked forward to a time when it would someday be her permanent residence, once little Aldwyn had grown into full manhood and was ready to assume his baronial duties.  Not that she had any reason to believe she would no longer be welcome at Chateau de Moreau or any of Aldwyn’s other Kinlochan properties after her son gained his majority, but Godwyn Hall was where her heart lay, ever since her earliest memories of childhood.

   The guest wing had required the most immediate repairs, for it had been damaged in a storm that had blown through the area the previous month.  Master James pointed out some roof damage that had been temporarily patched up to keep the elements out.  It was this damage that Lady Avisa wished me to take a close look at, for several of the baronial chateau’s outbuildings had suffered similar damage in the same storm.  

   While her Godwyn Hall steward and I discussed various options for restoring the property, along with the various merits and drawbacks and estimated costs for each, and I compared the availability and costs of labor and various materials here with what I’d noted during my brief stay in Kinlochan, Lady Avisa and Grub carried on their own conversation on the side, the dowager baroness dividing her attention between both conversations equally and with seeming ease.

   “Yes, slate for the rooftop would work nicely, I agree.  It’s more costly than clay, though, and we’d have to import it.  Look into the probable cost for that, would you, James?  I’d rather pay for it from our own coffers, though if the extra expense isn’t too exorbitant, I’ll speak to Master Lars about arranging a loan from Kinlochan.  We can repay it in full after next harvest.  Sextus, Lars sourced that slate for the roof repairs at the Chateau; could you find out from him where he acquired it?”  And moments later, almost before I’d had time to realize she was no longer addressing me, “Now see that window, sweeting?  That used to be my chamber when I was your age.  Sometimes late at night, once the household was abed, I’d climb out that window and down the trellis.  My nurse was quite cross with me once she found out, and she had the shutters nailed shut. Climbing down the trellis was quite dangerous, so she was right to do so, but I didn’t understand that at the time.”

   “It doesn’t look dangerous,” Grub told her.  “I could climb down it quite easily, I should think.”

   “Oh, it’s not the climb that’s the issue but the likelihood of the trellis falling over and taking the climber with it.  It’s not a very sturdy trellis, and it’s not well affixed to the wall. It could easily have broken under me, or fallen free of the wall and crushed me beneath it as it fell.  It’s the understanding of what could happen that marks an important difference between a child’s mind and an adult’s, you see.  We grown-ups have enough life experience to see all the things that could go wrong, while children are usually too busy just having fun and enjoying life to think of such things.  Oh, James, look at what’s happened to the gutter up there; how soon do you think we could attend to that?”

   The dual conversations continued in that wise throughout the morning as we walked the grounds, Master James making careful notes on a set of wax tablets of all we had discussed as we walked along making our rounds of all the buildings on the lady’s demesne.

#

   We finished our rounds and discussion shortly after noon.  Lady Avisa sent for our lunch hamper.  A plump brunette with a pretty face and a ready smile brought it out shortly afterwards.  Avisa introduced her as Godwyn Hall's cook, Nan Holland, Master James's wife and mother to young Jamie.

   “I hear you're to have a grand adventure,” Mistress Nan said, smiling down at Grub.

   “Yes, mistress,” Grub replied.

   The cook glanced up at Lady Avisa with a grin.  “Aye, you've not changed a bit, have you, my lady?”

   The baroness laughed.  “Let's hope not.  I suppose I'm about to find out.”  She looked up at me. “Sextus, you won't have any trouble riding a short distance while carrying our nuncheon, will you?”

   “Not unless it starts screaming and fighting back.”

   She took Grub’s hand.  “Off we go to the stables, then.”

#

   Upon our approach to the stable yard, I found Murray already saddled and waiting for me.  Alongside him was a mare Lady Avisa informed me was Nutmeg, who had been her mother's favored mount once, but as the mare had grown older she'd become semi-retired and now remained at Godwyn Hall rather than at Taggerton.  A groom soon led out a pony for Grub's admiring gaze.

   “This is Buttercup, Amanda.  She used to be mine before I got too big to ride her comfortably, so Jamie rides her now, but he won't mind us using her for the day.  She's quite gentle; would you like to try riding her?  I think you've come along well enough in your riding lessons to have a mount of your own for the afternoon.”

   Grub stared imploringly up at me.  I nodded my permission.  She beamed at us, barely managing to contain her excitement.  I hoisted her up onto Buttercup's back, checking the stirrups to make sure they were adjusted properly for her before handing the hamper over to the groom to hold while I mounted Murray.  He handed the hamper up to me once I'd settled into the saddle.

   Lady Avisa, already seated on Nutmeg and eager to get started, smiled over her shoulder at us.  “Ready?

   “Yes, my lady!”  Grub gave me a gap-toothed grin.

   “Let's go,” I said.

#

   We rode through the lady’s demesne and past the outlying fields until we reached a shallow stream.  The horses picked their way through the knee-deep current, Nutmeg leading the way up the slope of a hill to an old oak tree that was not particularly tall but which had a thick trunk that grew at a slant before taking an upward bend, and which forked into sturdy branches not very far up from its base.  From one high branch swung a rope.  Lady Avisa gave the rope a few brisk tugs, testing its strength, and smiled.  She dismounted, helping Grub down from Buttercup’s back.  Horse and pony immediately sauntered off to enjoy the cool shade of a nearby grove.  It was evident they’d both been here lots of times before.  I handed the hamper down to Avisa and dismounted also, allowing Murray to join the rest of the small herd.

   The lady handed the hamper back to me, sheltering her eyes with one hand and peering up into the trees branches briefly before giving a nod of satisfaction.  “See that platform up there?  That’s where we’ll be dining.”  She grinned down at Grub.  “Have you ever climbed a tree before, Amanda?”

   Grub’s eyes grew wide.  “Not one this big, m’lady.”

   “Oh, the King Tree is big, but he’s quite beginner-friendly.  I’ll go up behind you to tell you where to step and make sure you won’t tumble.” She began to hitch up her skirts to make the climb possible, securing the raised and gathered fabric with her belt.  Now I understood her need for chausses and braies under the voluminous fabric.  She glanced teasingly up at me as she straightened.  “I imagine you can manage to climb well enough, Sir Sextus?”

   I chuckled, studying the tree’s structure.  “Oh, it’s been a while, but I think I can manage well enough.”

   “If you tie the rope to the handle of the hamper, we should be able to haul our food up after us,” she advised as she gave Grub a boost up the sloping trunk towards the lowest fork.  By the time I’d finished securing it, they were both high above, almost to the platform.  I gave the knot a final tug, sneaking a surreptitious peek at shapely calves disappearing into the foliage above me, and clambered up behind them.

#

   The remnants of our meal had been returned to the hamper, and Lady Avisa and I sat in contented silence as we watched Grub swinging on the rope below.  After a few moments, she tired of that activity and dropped to the ground, scampering off to wander along the water’s edge.  “Is it all right if I get wet?” she called up to me, her voice sounding wistful.  I could hardly blame her.  Up in the shade of the tree’s foliage and high enough to catch the summer breezes, I felt quite comfortable, but in the sunnier area along the stream bank, at ground level, Grub would be much warmer.

   “You can wade next to the bank, but don’t go out in the middle of the current.”  I was probably being overly cautious—even at its deepest, the current had hardly come up past Murray’s knees, and I doubted it was swift enough to sweep away even as tiny a youngster as Grub, yet since she was well out of arm’s reach, it seemed safer to keep her closer to shore where the water was shallower.  Grub, fortunately, didn’t seem disposed to argue.  Instead, she cheerfully shucked tunic, chausses and shoes and waded straight in wearing her boyish underclothes.  Avisa laughed.

   “I miss swimming,” she said with a wistful sigh.  She pointed a short way downstream.  “About a hundred yards in that direction, the stream grows wider and about chest deep.  I used to spend summers swimming like a little fish.  Mother used to despair at me water-staining my gowns from the inside by pulling them back on over a soaking wet chemise.”

   I gave her a sidelong glance, imagining what she’d look like swimming in her chemise.  “If you’d like to stay in practice….”

   She laughed, her cheeks turning pink.  “I think not; I’d shock Master James for sure if he saw me return from a ride with you in that state!  Though if you want to take a cool dip, I’ll stay here and keep an eye on your daughter.”

   I studied the dowager baroness.  She looked happier than I’d ever seen her.  “You love Godwyn Hall,” I observed.

   “Yes, I do.”

   I leaned back onto my elbows, gazing up at the leafy canopy above our heads.  “Why do you call this the King Tree?”

   She swept a hand in a semicircle before her.  “We’re in the lone tree on this hilltop, overlooking all this woodland around us, holding Court.  It’s clearly the King Tree. It’s far too majestic to be a simple baron, or even an earl or a duke.”

   I rolled onto my side to look at her.  “When I joked back at Kinlochan House about your father having to haul you out of an oak tree to bring you to Court, I struck much closer to the truth than I knew, didn’t I?”

   “Yes.”  She studied me solemnly.  “I hope you don’t mind that I brought Amanda out here.  I’ve got the impression she’s never had much of a chance to enjoy being a child until quite recently, and it seemed a shame to let her grow into womanhood without ever experiencing these sorts of simple pleasures first.”  Her eyes grew shadowed.  “They’ll come so rarely later on.”

   “Unless she makes time for them, as you have,” I countered.

   The corners of her lips turned up wistfully.  “Only if she’s freer than most.  Mayhap if she has an indulgent husband who doesn’t mind her slipping off from her duties now and again.”

   “Or perhaps one who enjoys slipping off for a quiet afternoon with her whenever they can spare the time?”  I wondered if Baron Edgar had simply been one to indulge, or if his young bride had ever brought him here to her childhood paradise.  Somehow I couldn’t imagine the elder, portly Edgar Moreau climbing trees or enjoying a private swim with his adventuresome young wife.  I imagined other pleasures a newlywed husband might enjoy in the relative privacy of Avisa’s woodland retreat, and felt a sudden twinge of envy.

   I glanced down at Grub.  She had gathered a collection of small twigs using her tunic for a basket, and was sitting at the edge of the stream weaving them into something.  I watched, idly wondering what she was up to.

   “Sextus…what do you think of Godwyn Hall?”  I looked back up at her.  The dowager baroness smiled at me, but there was a hint of some odd expression in her eyes.  Anxiety, perhaps?  Or maybe vulnerability?

   I pondered the question.  “Well, from what I’ve seen so far, it appears well managed.  It needs a bit of upkeep, but Master James seems to have the repairs well in hand.  And the household is quite clearly fond of you.”  I studied her quizzically.  “Why do you ask?”

   Her hands gripped the edge of the platform we sat upon.  “Because…this is who I am, Sir Sextus.  Who I really am inside, and all that’s truly my own.”  She gazed off into the distance, towards her childhood summer home.  “I’m not a baroness—well, technically I am, of course, by right of my late husband, but that’s not who I am at heart, and once Aldwyn is grown up and has taken full control of his inheritance, this is where I’ll come home to.  And it’s all I’ve ever wanted, really.  At least, in terms of lands and title.”  She glanced up at me with a faint smile.  “When my father told me he’d selected a husband for me, I only agreed to wed Edgar if I could have Godwyn Hall as my dower.”

   I nodded, wondering why she’d felt the need to share this with me, though I was honored by the unexpected confidence.

   She stared down at her hands, unclenching their hold on the platform only to lace her fingers tightly together in her lap.  “I told you once that neither of my parents are Deryni.  Neither is James, to my knowledge, though I have reason to suspect he might be my brother.  My half-brother, that is.”

   I quickly controlled my initial surprise at this revelation, looking away to ponder it more fully.  I’d noticed that they both shared the same hair color, but chestnut hair was not so uncommon that the resemblance had struck me as out of the ordinary, and Master James’s eyes were a clear blue rather than the mistress of Godwyn Hall’s rich brown.  “Why do you suspect that, my lady?”

   Avisa bit her lip, as if trying to figure out how to formulate her thoughts. At last she broke the silence.  “I overheard my parents arguing one night when I was in my sixth year.  My father was angry; he’d just come back to Taggerton that evening from an extended absence, and my mother was with child.  He knew from the timing that the baby wasn’t his; the child had been conceived over the summer, while Mother and I were staying at Godwyn Hall.  There was no way my father could have miscounted the months—he’d been gone since the previous spring, and by the time he’d returned to Taggerton, it was close to winter.  Of course, at that age I only understood bits of the argument.  I didn’t know why Father was so angry.  Mother’s voice was harder to hear, her response was so quiet and she was crying, but she reminded him that he’d ever made it clear to her that her chief duty to our house was to bear him heirs for Taggerton, and if he’d not managed to sire one in all their years of marriage, that was hardly her fault, and so he ought not to blame her if she fulfilled her duty to him in the only possible way.”  She gave a wry smile.  “I suppose that irrefutable argument overcame the blow to his pride, since when my brother was born a few months later, he acknowledged the child as his own.  Legally, of course, he was my father’s, even though he wasn’t of my father’s getting.  They contrived some story about my father having visited Godwyn Hall for a week during the previous summer, and that was the end of it.  But later, as I grew old enough to think back on that night and understand what had happened, I wondered if I might also have been sired at Godwyn Hall, shortly before my parents’ marriage.”  She took a deep breath.  “I was born just a fortnight short of nine months after they wed, you see.  I could have been my father’s get, born slightly early, but Godwyn Hall came into our family by way of my mother, who grew up here, and she remained here until the end of August in the year that they married.  She married my father during the final week of August.  And I was born on the ninth day of that following May.”

   “Your father never suspected your paternity?”

   She shrugged.  “He must have, years later once his wife presented him with another man’s son for an heir.  But early on, I think they assumed I was a honey-month child.”  She looked up at me.  “But there’s another reason I believe I’m actually a Holland rather than a Taggert.”  She cupped her hand, creating copper handfire.  “Our former steward—James’s father—once discovered me playing with leaves behind the stables, making them dance about in a tiny whirlwind.  I was focusing so hard on my efforts, I didn’t realize he’d come upon me until he laid a gentle hand on my shoulder and whispered quietly in my ear, “Lass, don’t ever do that sort of thing where anyone might happen upon you.  Our sort have been burned at the stake for far less.”  That’s all he ever said about the matter, and all he’d ever needed to say, but what stuck with me long after was that he’d said ‘Our sort.’   Not simply ‘your sort.’”

   I considered all the evidence she’d presented.  “Does Master James know?” I asked.

   She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I’ve never asked him, and if he does know or suspect anything, he’s never mentioned it to me.  He’s an intelligent man, though, and I think surely he’d have noticed that his father and my mother seemed unusually close.”  She smiled sadly.  “I think the only times I’ve ever seen my mother look almost happy were those summers that we spent here at Godwyn Hall, only it wasn’t until I was nearly a woman grown that I ever truly understood why.”

   “And what of James’s mother?”

   “Oh, she died several years before I was born.  James barely remembers her himself.  His father never remarried.”

   I thought about the man’s situation.  A widower, in service to a young noblewoman he’d wanted—perhaps had even loved—but who was too highborn for him to presume to marry.  Despite that, he’d succumbed to his temptation, seducing the maiden…or perhaps he’d been seduced by her instead?  She’d been promised to another man, though, someone better suited in her family’s eyes, so she’d been married off in due time, but not until she’d quickened with her lover’s child.

   It had been wrong for them to give in to their temptation, still more wrong for them both to have continued the dalliance after the lady’s marriage.  Still, I couldn’t help but feel a shaft of pity for a man whose ill fortune in love seemed to so closely echo my own.  

   I glanced down at Grub, who was happily planting her newly-woven contraption in the stream, her mouth hanging slightly open and the tip of her tongue visible through the gap in her teeth as she focused intently on getting it to stay in place.  At least I’d never had the heartache of seeing my own baseborn daughter claimed as another man’s lawful child.

   Lady Avisa laid her hand gently upon my own, recalling my attention back to her.  “Sextus, I have no great lands or fortune of my own, nor am I even truly the woman others believe me to be, yet what I do have, I offer you, if you would have me.”

   I stared at her, suddenly breathless.  “I....Lady Avisa....”  I took a deep breath, releasing it slowly.  “You may think you have little to offer a husband, but in truth, lady, I have nothing to offer a wife at all.”  I gave her a rueful smile.  “Naught but my name and a yearly living that I draw from your son's coffers.  Why in heaven's name would you want me for a husband, of all men?”

   She laughed softly.  “Why would I not?”  She traced a slender fingertip across the back of my hand.  “Let's see...why would I want you?  Well, for one thing....”  Her eyes drifted downward towards the water's edge, where Grub waded, slowly scooping the flowing water towards the basket-like device she’d just made.  “I want a daughter.  Perhaps more than one.  Or perhaps a son to inherit Godwyn Hall.”

   “Your younger son doesn't stand to inherit from you?” I asked, surprised.

   “Oh, he does.”  The dowager baroness traced circles on my skin, making my breath quicken.  “My younger brother died of a fever when he was just turned five, and my mother bore no other children, which leaves me as my father’s heiress.  Taggert stands to inherit Taggerton from me someday, and I was planning on ceding it to him once he’s old enough to manage it, should my father die before Taggert achieves his majority.  So both of my sons' futures are secure.”

   I took her hand, turning it palm up, tracing it lightly with my thumb.  “Almost any man could give you more children, Avisa.”

   “Yes, that's true enough.  But no other man could give me yours.”  She stroked my cheek with her free hand, turning my face towards her.  “Don't you want me at least a little?”  She leaned towards me, brushing her lips lightly across mine.

   I drew a sharp, surprised breath.  “That's hardly the issue, sweeting!”

   “Maybe it is, for me at least.” Her gaze dropped, her expression becoming uncertain.  “I'm sorry.  I thought...I imagined I'd seen something in your look at times, something that made me hope you might have begun to feel the same way about me that I've always felt about you, but perhaps I was mistaken.  If I was, then please forgive me.  I never meant to place you in an awkward situation.”   She drew her hand from mine, turning away, but not before I caught a look in her eyes that made my heart lurch.  I'd seen that look before, after our accidental kiss at Kinlochan, and once more before that.  

   It was the same yearning that had flashed briefly in my daughter's eyes when she'd heard her name's meaning for the first time.  Beloved.

   I'd been thinking only of my lady's best interests, yet now I realized that in my hesitation to accept her offer, I'd hurt her deeply.  I'd been thinking a woman's greatest need in marriage was her need for security.  Certainly, aside from the securing of lands and necessary alliances, that’s what most men considered first and foremost when considering a suitable husband for their womenfolk.  A woman needed a man not simply to serve as her strong right hand, to protect her, but also to support and provide for her.  I'd not stopped to consider that, perhaps for some women at least, one other need might be stronger.

   Had Avisa ever truly known love?  I had little else to offer her.  Could that possibly be enough?

   I swallowed hard, suddenly nervous.  I'd given my body to other women more times than I cared to count, but I'd never offered any of them my heart.

   “Avisa....”  I stopped her as she was about to climb off the platform.  She paused, not looking at me.  “It wasn't just your imagination.”  

   She turned to face me slowly, a look of hope in her eyes.

   “I love you, Avisa Taggert Moreau.  Or Avisa Holland.  Whoever you are.”

   A look of profound relief crossed her face.  “Then will you marry me, Sextus Arilan?” A hint of laughter danced in her eyes.  “I've never had a Deryni lover before.  I quite hope I might learn something interesting.”

   I gathered her in my arms, my smile growing into a grin.  “Then that makes two of us, sweeting, because come to think of it, neither have I.”

#

   “What is it?”  I had removed my shoes and stripped off my chausses, leaving my feet and legs bare to just above my knees so I could join my daughter in the ankle-deep water.  Now I was inspecting her handiwork.

   “It’s a minnow trap,” she told me excitedly.  “The water flows along the bank like so….” She ran her fingers through the cool water in the direction of the current.  “And then when the minnows come by, they end up in here!”  

   I studied the woven contraption.  Inside the funnel-like enclosure, three tiny fish swam around looking confused.  “Why, so they do!  How clever.”  Grub beamed at the praise, and I tousled her hair.  “We need to talk for a minute.”

   “We are talking.”  She said it carefully, cocking her head at me as if fearing I might be a bit dull.  I suppressed a grin.

   “No, I mean about something in particular.”  I glanced up the hill at where Avisa waited, sitting on one of the lower branches of the sprawling oak.  She smiled encouragement at me.   I looked back down at my daughter.  “I’ve been thinking, maybe it’s about time I found a wife.”

   Grub’s expression turned wary.  “What do you want a wife for?”

   “I…well….”  I gaped at her.  This wasn’t going as I’d expected.  “Well, a man needs a wife!”

   She looked at me as if I’d grown an extra eye.  “That’s not what you told me when I asked you why you weren’t married yet.”

   I tried to think back to when that conversation had happened.  It had been back at Tre-Arilan, I thought, perhaps a day or two after I’d first brought Grub back from Nyford.  “Oh.  Right.  Well, I might have changed my mind since then.  A lot has happened in the past few months, you know.”

   She planted her hands on her hips, looking mutinous.  “You said marriage makes a man stuffy and boring!”

   A burst of laughter wafted back from the top of the hill.  Evidently Grub’s voice had been loud enough to cover that short distance.  I smiled at Avisa, my eyes drinking in the joyful glow in the cheeks of the woman who sat, bare feet dangling in mid-air, skirts still hitched up to reveal enticingly curved calves, looking more like an overgrown child herself than a respectable widowed baroness.  Somehow, I couldn’t imagine anything involving this woman ever becoming stuffy and boring.  Perhaps marriage, at least to the right woman, might be the greatest adventure of all.

   “That was before I met Lady Avisa,” I told Grub quietly.

   A look of relief crossed Grub’s face.  “Oh, Lady Avisa!  Well, that’s all right, then.”  She ducked back down, fidding with her minnow trap.  “I thought you meant to go back for that crazy lady.  The strumpet with the orange hair who fawned all over you and fussed too damn much.”

   I gave a startled laugh.  “Lady Jennet?  You thought I meant to marry her?

   Grub cocked her head at me again.  “You’ve done stupider things, Six.”

   I nodded.  “Yes, I suppose I have.  But don’t worry; I wouldn’t marry Jennet of Levington to save my soul even if all the demons of Hell were after me.”

#

   “This was the best day ever!” Grub murmured sleepily from her pallet late that night.  

   I paused in my packing for our journey back to Kinlochan the following morning, thinking back over the events of the day.  “Yes, it was, sweeting,” I agreed.  On the other side of the closed door, I heard the voices of Avisa’s chambermaids helping her get ready for bed, and despite having bid her a good night only a few minutes earlier, I felt a surge of renewed longing for her.  Hopefully someday soon, there would be even better days and nights to follow.


Chapter Fifteen:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=743.0
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 09:16:50 am by Evie »
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2011, 10:18:52 am »
I imagine that Sextus will be wandering around looking as though someone had hit him on the back of the head with a board for quite some time.

Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2011, 10:23:06 am »
I imagine that Sextus will be wandering around looking as though someone had hit him on the back of the head with a board for quite some time.

LOL!  Quite possibly.  "Did I say 'yes'?  Did I say 'yes'?!"   ;D
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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2011, 11:33:22 am »
"....But don’t worry; I wouldn’t marry Jennet of Levington to save my soul even if all the demons of Hell were after me.”

Now why does that sound so ominous?  Are things not going to go so smoothly as one would think, Evie?   ;)

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

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2011, 12:11:56 pm »
"....But don’t worry; I wouldn’t marry Jennet of Levington to save my soul even if all the demons of Hell were after me.”

Now why does that sound so ominous?  Are things not going to go so smoothly as one would think, Evie?   ;)



Weeelllll....   ;)

Let's just say they won't go quite that unsmoothly, but Sextus might still feel his heart stop a time or two before the end of this tale.   :D
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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2011, 12:18:55 pm »
Aw, romance for Sextus. Now just DON'T you let him get stuffy and boring *wags finger at Evie*.  Jass was never the same once he'd married Ailidh!

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2011, 12:35:33 pm »
Jass says it's not Ailidh that's changed him, it's all that pepperoni pizza he's been stuffing himself with in the chatroom....   ;D
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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2011, 12:52:02 am »
 
Quote
“You’ve done stupider things, Six.”
 
Got it in one, Grub.  Not sure 'where' exactly Sextus' brain was when he said Yes, but at least he gave a sensible answer!  

Lady Jennet herself may not be the problem, as I am sure she and her father have come to an amicable arrangement about things, and she seemed to be happier about his suggestion of a different husband.   (Good luck to that poor man, of course ;)  )

But I seem to recall that when he found that Jennet had vanished again, the Baron of Levington first called on the King to inquire about using Sextus again to track down his wayward daughter.  And Kelson knew nothing about a message being sent to recall Sextus to Rhemuth.  So I suspect that poor Sextus will still have to "explain" a few matters to Kelson ...  *evil grin of anticipation*   :D
« Last Edit: July 26, 2011, 01:57:47 am by Alkari »

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2011, 08:52:53 am »
But I seem to recall that when he found that Jennet had vanished again, the Baron of Levington first called on the King to inquire about using Sextus again to track down his wayward daughter.  And Kelson knew nothing about a message being sent to recall Sextus to Rhemuth.  So I suspect that poor Sextus will still have to "explain" a few matters to Kelson ...  *evil grin of anticipation*   :D

Oh, I'm sure he'll have the opportunity to do so in the very near future, given that Avisa is the dowager baroness and regent for a barony that's part of the Duchy of Haldane (not to mention her own dower lands which are also part of the Duchy), and since the Duke of Haldane also happens to be the King of Gwynedd, they'll need to get official permission from Kelson Haldane himself for Avisa to remarry and his approval on her choice of suitor.  So let's hope that poor Sextus has kissed the blarney stone recently, or that Kelson is in an uncommonly good mood, or that Avisa has a "Charm the Haldane" spell in her mostly untrained arsenal....   :D
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2011, 10:39:51 pm »
Oh, I'm sure he'll have the opportunity to do so in the very near future, given that Avisa is the dowager baroness and regent for a barony that's part of the Duchy of Haldane (not to mention her own dower lands which are also part of the Duchy), and since the Duke of Haldane also happens to be the King of Gwynedd, they'll need to get official permission from Kelson Haldane himself for Avisa to remarry and his approval on her choice of suitor.  So let's hope that poor Sextus has kissed the blarney stone recently, or that Kelson is in an uncommonly good mood, or that Avisa has a "Charm the Haldane" spell in her mostly untrained arsenal....   :D

What they were to nip down to the local parish church and have Father Whosis marry them and be sure to consumate it ASAP and then present Kelson with a fait accompli?  On Another Discussion we have demostrated that a mere accepted proposal is binding and that not even the King can do anything about it, even when it is not in the best interests of the country or to the happiness of the parties involved--how much less would his opinion matter in a case affecting only the people involved and two very minor domains?  Sorry, you can't have it both ways.  Either Kelson is an absolute monarch whose word is law, or he is a constiutionl monarch whose power is constrained.

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2011, 08:11:47 am »
Those are two separate issues you bring up, so I'll address the most important one first, since it has a direct bearing on the second.

First of all, it isn't the offer of marriage (the proposal) that is binding, it's the betrothal.  Modern folk tend to get the medieval contract of betrothal confused with the modern-day custom of engagement, but they are two entirely separate things.  Modern-day engagement begins with the offer and lasts until the wedding day, and it's a time in which a couple which has made a verbal agreement to marry prepares for the marriage itself, but it is not a legally binding contract.  Back in previous centuries when the custom of betrothal was morphing into the custom of engagement, the breaking off of an engagement could lead to a breach of contract lawsuit, though I haven't heard of any broken engagements incurring such penalties anytime in recent decades, and it used to be that any man or woman breaking off an engagement for anything but the most pressing of reasons was considered to be no gentleman or lady of honor.  Nowadays, it's seen instead more as a lucky escape from a marriage that was likely doomed to end in divorce anyway.

The only vestige of medieval betrothal we retain in modern society is in the first half of the traditional wedding vows.  If you read them carefully, the man and woman exchange a first set of vows--the "I WILL take you as my wife/husband" set--and THIS was the formal betrothal contract of previous centuries.  The difference is that, after the initial "Will you marry me?" question (or more often, the negotiations between parents or between a girl's father and a prospective husband), there was a formal vow of betrothal that, if not rendered null and void from the very outset by the list of possible impediments set forth by the Church, would make the agreement official and legally as well as spiritually binding.  Nowadays there's really no question of breaking one's betrothal vows before the actual wedding vows take place, because those wedding vows (the "I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my lawfully wedding wife/husband" vows) come immediately after the betrothal vows.  I can't think of anyone who goes through the first part of the modern-day ceremony, immediately has second thoughts and refuses to go through with the second!  But in medieval times, the betrothal could take place days, weeks, months, or occasionally years before the marriage vows, and once made, they could only be broken if you could prove one of those Church ordained impediments (s/a consanguinity, permanent mental incapacity, permanent impotence, etc.) existed to render the original contract null and void.  That's why, as you might recall, Kelson has his clergy looking at the question of Dhugal's undesirable betrothal from every legal angle.  Because in the eyes of medieval society (and, for that matter, still quite a few of us today) Matrimony isn't simply a legal contract, it's a sacrament, he has to cede jurisdiction over this question to the spiritual authorities.  He is the temporal head of the Kingdom, but he is not an Archbishop, and he can't rule on spiritual  matters.  And as it turned out, while Dhugal's betrothal (which, again, did not take place when he first put the offer to Mirjana, but six months after that, in early November, after he'd fulfilled the terms Kelson had originally laid out, and not realizing yet that Kelson had reconsidered and was planning to ask him not to enter into the betrothal) might have been of highly questionable wisdom, the emergency meeting of clergy Kelson called in couldn't find a valid reason to consider the contract null and void.  Hence, it was binding.

And that leads us to the limitations of absolute monarchy when it comes to spiritual matters, both in the actual Middle Ages and in KK's world.  When monarchs, even ones as powerful as Henry II (a generation before Magna Carta), overstep their authority and try to interfere in Church business, even they could and did get the rug yanked out from under them.  When Henry's careless words led to the assassination of his Archbishop Thomas Becket, Henry didn't get a wrist slap for that.  He had to submit to penance for his sin.  In ITKS, when King Donal oversteps his bounds by executing a priest without turning the matter over to the spiritual authorities (with good reason, in his mind, since justice towards his son's murderer would not have been done if he hadn't), he still had to submit to public penance in order to spare his kingdom from Interdict.  There's a reason why the Haldane Kings, no matter how Deryni-friendly they were, couldn't simply say "I decree that Deryni are not evil and the Church will no longer treat them as such."  Those are things that go beyond their jurisdiction over the temporal realm.  Yes, medieval Kings could and did smack down the Church when it tried to exceed its authority and get overly involved in temporal matters, but the Church also did the same when the King forgot he was just as bound by their spiritual laws as the rest of his people. 

Which leads us back to Matrimony (which, for medieval folk just as today, began at betrothal, not with the proposal) being a sacrament.  If the Church had already questioned the contract and couldn't see any impediment according to their rules, never mind it being a highly inconvenient match, then Kelson couldn't overrule that.  It left his jurisdiction the moment it went from being a mere offer of marriage and became a formal covenant.

Now, getting back to the question of why Sextus wouldn't just elope, or even exchange betrothal vows before presenting the match to Kelson as a fait accompli.....  Keep in mind that Sextus currently has only two sources of income:  Kelson's coffers (for those missions he's sent on from time to time) and Avisa's son's.  And he only draws a salary from the Kinlochan baronial coffers because Avisa is her son's regent and has the authority to hire Sextus and pay him.  He's taken enough of a blow to his pride as it is, in accepting the proposal of a woman who is providing the main part of his livelihood.  If he can do enough "odd jobs" for Kelson, though, at least he'd be bringing income into the marriage and not feel so much like a "kept man" in a culture where the husband was expected to be the protector and provider for their families and a woman's income--if any--was supposed to be supplementary and not their main source of support.  Now, if Sextus were to "ask forgiveness rather than permission" in this case, he not only stands a big chance of losing his job for Kelson, Avisa would also stand a huge chance of having the regency over her son's lands taken away from her and entrusted to someone else.  That would leave the new couple legally betrothed (and again, with no way to back out of the contract), but unable to support themselves unless Sextus swallows his pride further and goes begging his big brother Seisyll for a second chance to work for him so he can support his family.  And that ain't happening!  Sextus would rather clean all the garderobes in Rhemuth with his tongue first.   ;D  And the other pressing reason, of course, is that Sextus is actually in love with Avisa, so he wants to do the honorable thing by her.  So he's not going to do anything shady when it comes to the betrothal or the marriage.  (For that matter, when Dhugal entered his formal betrothal, he had no idea at the time that Kelson was planning on asking him not to.  Kelson had already given him the grudging green light six months earlier.  Dhugal's problems stemmed from taking that at face value and not checking with Kelson again to make sure nothing had changed before making the formal agreement with Mirjana.)

Go back and re-read that section of "A Time to Heal."  I researched and laid out the various legal impediments and loopholes pretty carefully for that part of the story, because I knew that if Kelson or the bishops had any legal loopholes they could exploit to break the betrothal, they'd have jumped on it.  And as you saw from the rest of the story, if you read past that point, while there were certainly problems aplenty from that match, the end result fortunately turned out much better than anyone had dared to hope months earlier at that emergency meeting.   :)
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2011, 06:09:56 pm »
I still think they should just elope; it is often easier to get forgiveness than permission.  Perhaps to Dhassa and have Uncle Denis do the honors.  He'll be so glad that Sextus is finally settling down that he may even give him some lay job, or buy him an annuity as a wedding present, if money is the stumbling block. 

 

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