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Author Topic: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven  (Read 6776 times)

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Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« on: January 20, 2012, 09:19:30 am »
   Chapter Eleven

   Rhemuth Castle Parklands
   September 25, 1136


   “Oh, must you and Briony leave so soon, my lord?  Why do you have to go, anyway?”   Lady Ædwige pouted prettily up at her escort as they walked through the parklands between the castle apartments and St. Hilary’s Basilica together.  A slight breeze picked up, and she shivered.  The young Earl accompanying her stopped, pausing long enough to remove the light cloak from his shoulders and drape it over hers.  She beamed up at him, savoring not only its warmth, but the courtly gesture and the protective way he tucked the fabric around her, ensuring her comfort before continuing on their stroll.  

   “Duke Alaric’s birthday is on Michaelmas, and our mother wants the whole family back in Coroth for the festivities, but we’ll only be gone for a few days, my lady.  Briony has her studies and Court duties to come back to, after all, though I’ll only be able to stay here in Rhemuth for a few weeks longer once we get back.  There are things I need to see to back home in Marley before I return in December for Christmas Court.”

   “Oh, but you will return, won’t you?”  She averted her eyes demurely.  “I do so look forward to seeing what Twelfth Night is like here at Court this year.  I missed it last year, you know.”    She gave Earl Brendan a tremulous smile.  “And I’d been so hoping to see at least one Twelfth Night feast and revel here in Rhemuth, too!”  She glanced up at him as if suddenly remembering.  “And you were knighted then, weren’t you?  Oh, I imagine the merrymaking afterward must have gone on for hours!”

   Brendan chuckled at the memory.  “It did at that, although I’m afraid I was a lot the worse for wear after.  I don’t quite remember how I got back to my own bed afterward.  My brother Kelric probably had to pour me back into it.”

   She glanced back down at the walkway, stifling a giggle.  “At least it was your own bed you woke up in the next morning and not someone else’s!”  Her cheeks warmed with a not entirely feigned blush as she sensed his surprised glance in her direction.

   “Yes,” he said after a momentary pause, “that could have been quite an interesting way to begin the next morning, and not necessarily a pleasant surprise either, given how much port I’d consumed the night before.  What if, instead of finding myself with some lovely and biddable young lady, I’d found myself waking up to discover Lord Pemberly the chamberlain snoring in my ear?”

   Ædwige’s eyes widened at the thought, and she burst out in startled laughter.  Brendan shot her a wicked grin, his cornflower blue eyes alight with good humor.

#

   Brendan covertly studied the young widow beside him as they continued their walk from the Castle to the Basilica.  Lady Ædwige seemed a study in contradictions at times.  Her fair, delicate features and youthful, dainty form swathed in the black widow's weeds of mourning made her appear quite vulnerable, bringing out his protective instincts, and yet there was something about her occasional comment or fleeting expressions which seemed to belie her fragile and innocent appearance.

   A breeze blew the filmy black veiling away from her face, and Ædwige paused briefly in her walk, lifting a hand to brush a stray tendril of pale golden hair back under it.  There was a thin band of paler flesh on one finger, and Brendan surmised she had worn a ring on that hand until quite recently.  Her wedding ring, perhaps?  His sister Briony had told him that Ædwige's brief marriage had not been to a man of her own choosing.  Social convention required that she at least make a token show of mourning her late husband's death, and for the most part, the young woman appeared to be doing so.  But the absence of her ring so soon after her husband's death seemed a hint that the other tokens of grief were for show only; hardly a surprise, if the marriage truly had been forced upon her.  He couldn't imagine what it would be like to be compelled to marry against one's wishes.  Strongly encouraged to wed, yes, that was easier for him to fathom; even at his young age, he'd already begun to feel some subtle pressure to find a suitable wife and produce an heir for Marley.  But simply given over to someone who had been chosen for him without his own input in the matter?  He was glad that his parents weren't the sort who were minded to be so heavy-handed in the matter of arranging their children's futures.

   The lovely young widow appeared to have rearranged her veil to her satisfaction, and now she looked back up at him with a smile, sky-blue eyes peeking up shyly at him from beneath a fringe of lashes several shades darker than her hair.   She really was pretty, this half girl, half woman who stood gazing up at him with a look in her eyes akin to hero worship.  That trusting gaze brought out mixed feelings in him.  On the one hand, he felt an urge to look after her that was very similar to the brotherly protectiveness he felt towards his sister.  On the other hand….

   Her soft rose-colored lips curved upwards at the corners, and he glanced away, reminding himself they were in full view of anyone who might be looking in their direction from either the Basilica or the castle.  Damn, she looked kissable!  She was, however, a Court lady to be treated with honor, not as if she were some mere strumpet eager enough to share her favors in exchange for a few coins or a trinket.  Not that even the most innocent of Court ladies didn't enjoy a bit of flirtation with a young knight now and again, but he didn't want to lead Lady Ædwige into thinking that he meant to court her, at least not seriously.  After all, at nineteen he was hardly ready to settle down with a wife just yet, not while he was still getting used to his new responsibilities as a knight of the realm and Earl of Marley.  Not that he wanted to wait until he was old to marry either, but surely a bride and heirs could wait until he'd reached his mid-twenties at least.

   The path began to slope downward as they reached the periphery of the Basilica grounds.  Brendan extended a hand to assist Lady Ædwige down the steeper part of the walk.  Her fingers trembled slightly in his light grip, and when he glanced at her face, her cheeks bloomed a becoming shade of rose.  He pretended not to notice, suppressing a smile.  He was flattered by her response, and a part of him wanted to follow up on it, to play the pursuer and see where the flirtation might lead, but given that he really wasn't minded to seek out a serious relationship just yet, that hardly seemed a fair game to play with a lady's affections unless the lady sought nothing more than a casual flirtation as well.   Brendan hardly knew her well enough yet to know just what it was Lady Ædwige hoped for from him.  No, he'd do best to keep things friendly, but not so much as to encourage hopes he had no intention of following through on.

   They reached the entryway to the Basilica grounds.  Brendan lifted Lady Ædwige's hand, bowing over it and bestowing a courtly kiss just above her fingers.  "I need to head back towards the Castle now—I've a meeting with the King this afternoon that I need to make ready for—but if I don't see you again before I leave for Coroth, I hope you have a pleasant Michaelmas."  

#

   Male scholars’ dormitorium, Saint Camber’s Schola
   September 27, 1136


   “Now there’s a tasty morsel I wouldn’t mind having as a late night snack!” Sivney said quietly as he watched a young woman walk by under his window.

   “Jesú, Siv, you make her sound like a haunch of meat rather than a maiden,” Jemmy teased, rising from his padded stool to amble towards the window, mildly curious.  “Which one do you have your sights on this week?”  Spying the lass in question, he gave a low whistle.  "Cass?  Oh, have fun with that!  Have a death wish, do you?"

   Sivney smiled.  "Oh, I don't know, I might be able to bring her around to the idea.  I don’t mind a bit of a challenge."

   The younger lad frowned slightly, protective feelings towards the female scholar arising.  Not that he wanted Cass himself—they weren't close in that way, although he enjoyed her company and even thought she was pretty enough in her way—but he and the draper's daughter had forged a friendship in the time they'd been to the Schola together that was based on their shared experience of common birth.  Very few of the scholars at St. Camber's were common-born.  It was not that the rector or the King wished to keep its membership exclusive, but it was simply harder to attract students from lower-class families than from the nobility.  Poorer families, even if their children were offered a means at the Schola by which they could earn their room and board and a small stipend for basic needs, often could not afford to send a child off to gain an education if he or she were old enough to be apprenticed out to learn a trade or sent into a service position that would bring in the necessary income to help maintain their families.  Perhaps if their parents understood how scholarship and training in the Deryni arts might make it possible for their children to earn even greater livelihoods someday in noble or royal circles, they might be more willing to spare them.  But even among those who understood such potential advantages, the memories still ran strong of an earlier time, not all that long ago, when practicing Deryni arts openly might lead to opprobrium, harsh penalties, or even death.  No, despite the rector's willingness to accept new students from all walks of life, the simple fact remained that far more of the scholars here were noble or even royal-born than not.  He and Cass had bonded over the mere fact of being two of the rare exceptions to the rule, and Jemmy felt vaguely guilty about standing up here in Sivney's window watching her walk by, evaluating her for the first time as an attractive young woman rather than simply as a comrade in shared common birth.

   “I doubt you’ll persuade her, Lord Sivney, and even if you did manage it somehow, you’d be doing her no favor,” he said quietly.  “Cass can’t afford to buy herself a good marriage with a fat dowry if you ruin her.  If her reputation’s in tatters, so is her future, and what’s more, she’s smart enough to know that, so any attempt to cozy up to her is likely to get you shot down in flames.  If you’re lucky, they won’t be literal flames aimed at your randy crotch.”  He gave the older lad a wry grin.  “What about someone else instead, my lord?  Perhaps someone you wouldn’t even mind being pressed into marrying if you ever get caught in your dalliances?”  Jemmy’s brown eyes swept over a group of young ladies returning from an afternoon stroll.  “Who is that pretty brunette walking with your sister and Lady Briony?  I don’t think I’ve seen her before.  Is she new to the Schola, or just visiting from Court?”

   Sivney gave his friend a thoughtful frown, wondering why Jemmy had suddenly found it necessarily to stand on formality with him, despite them being alone together in the dormitorium and Jemmy having been on a first-name basis with him, at least in private, for over a year.  “You mean that girl in red?  Yes, she’s newly arrived from the Hort of Orsal’s Court, and I doubt Uncle Létald would thank me for seducing her.  Especially since Aynbeth’s my own first cousin.” He smirked as Jemmy’s expression changed from startled to a sheepish grin.

   “All right, I suppose that’s one maiden whose virtue is safe around you,” the former kitchen boy joked, hoping his friend’s attention had been successfully diverted from Cass Draper, at least for the moment.  At the very least, hopefully he’d bought enough time to warn Cass about her randy young admirer before Sivney could approach her.

   Another young woman, this one dressed from head to toe in black, joined the small group of maidens walking through the courtyard, and they paused in their walk, apparently introducing the newcomer to their group to Sivney’s cousin.  Sivney peered intently at the black-clad woman’s back.  Something about her seemed familiar, from her figure and posture to the long plait of golden tresses gleaming beneath her filmy dark veil, although Sivney couldn’t quite make out the features behind the sheer silk.  “Who’s the raven?” he asked Jemmy.

   “That’s Lady Ædwige,” his friend informed him.  “You remember her from last year’s classes, surely?  She’s the one who had to leave during the Christmas holidays to get married.”

   The figure turned slightly, and this time Sivney caught a glimpse of her profile.  He glanced at Jemmy in surprise.  “That’s Ædwige?  She’s widowed already?”

   Jemmy nodded.  “And back for the new term.”

#

   St. Hilary's Basilica refectory
   September 27--evening


   Cass Draper looked up at Jemmy Kitchener joined her on a bench and leaned close to whisper in her ear, "Watch out for Sivney; he's set his sights on you, so don't be surprised if he starts trying to pay court to you."   

   She turned to her friend, arching a raven brow at him in disbelief.  "Baron Savile's son, Lord Sivney?  Sivney Kishknock?"  She laughed.  "I think not!  Has he forgotten I'm just a draper's daughter?  And my mother's not that wealthy!  I'd be lucky to attract even a knight errant."

   "No, that's the problem, Cass.  He's quite attracted, but it's not exactly marriage he's got in mind."

   Cass snorted in derision.  "No worries, Jem, he's not at all the sort I find even remotely interesting.  And even if he were, I'd not be fool enough to let him seduce me."

   "Didn't think you were, but I figured you'd prefer to be forewarned."  He glanced at her, suddenly curious.  "Who is the sort you'd find interesting?"

   She laughed.  "Well, no one here, Jemmy!  You know I haven't a chance of finding a husband among this rarefied lot."

   He flushed slightly.  "I didn't mean that, exactly!  I just meant...well...leaving marriage totally out of it, or even ranks and titles, if none of those things were even a consideration then surely there's got to be at least one or two people around here that you like well enough to find interesting?"

   Cass gave him a wry smile.  "People, or more specifically, men?  And am I meant to count present company or not?"

   Jemmy gave a short laugh.  "Jesú, never mind.  I wasn't angling around to a courtship, if that's what you're wondering.  I'm years away from that yet, with any lass."

   She nodded matter-of-factly.  "And you'll be looking higher than me at any rate, or you're more fool than you seem and your knight's wasting his time with you."  Cass sighed, looking thoughtful.  "All right, if you honestly want to know...."  She glanced around the room as if seeking inspiration.  "Prince Oswin von Horthy is all right, and knows a lot of amusing stories about his father’s Court.  Sure, he’s a bit dim at times, but he’s nice, and he’s not the sort who’s constantly chasing skirts.  Of course, he’s just eleven yet.”  Cass grinned.  “Plenty of time for his brain to rot once his voice starts changing.”  She paused, continuing to look around the refectory.  “I don’t think he’s here this week, but Earl Brendan is courteous and has a working brain, and unlike certain other highborn lords like your friend Sivney, he doesn't assume that just because a girl is common-born, she's loose with her favors or can be bought if his coin purse is fat enough.  And neither does Prince Payne, though he’s handsome and charming enough to make almost any girl reconsider whether being a royal mistress would be such a hard fate.”  She grinned.  “Almost.”  

   Jemmy raised an eyebrow at her, smirking slightly.  “I doubt you’d make friends with his new Duchess that way.”

   “Well, it’s a good thing for all three of us that I’m never going to find out, aye?” Cass retorted, her ice-blue eyes sparkling with merriment.  “Oh, and there’s this certain upstart squire and former kitchen boy I find rather amusing as well.”

   Jemmy stretched his legs out in front of him, studying his boot tops and struggling to hide a grin.  “I can’t imagine who that would be.  Do they even let riffraff of that sort into an refined place like this?”

   Cass shrugged.  “I don’t see why not.  They let Lord Sivney stay, and if you’re asking for my honest opinion, he’s even bigger riffraff than you.”

   The stifled grin turned into a muffled laugh.  Cass started to give him a conspiratorial smile, but froze as two other scholars entered the refectory to take seats at two empty spaces a short distance higher up the hall from the end of the table where they sat.  After a startled moment, her smile widened.  “Are you certain Lord Sivney is still aiming for me, or might he have moved on to more certain game?”

   Jemmy turned to see his friend the baron’s heir, seated with his back angled away from them, assisting a young lady in selecting the choicest morsels from a server’s platter and adding them to her trencher.  The blonde gazed up at Sivney with a coy smile, accepting his gallantry as her rightful due.  The young squire glanced back at Cass, who looked amused.

   “Lady Ædwige is welcome to him,” she whispered.  “God knows he might even end up a better man for it, especially if they’re ever caught together!   I’m pretty sure that’s who Ædwige was sneaking out of the dormitorium to be with late at night last summer.  If Bishop Duncan were to find them in a compromising situation, he might well force Lord Sivney to choose between marriage to that spoiled rotten bitch or taking a vow to remain chaste until marriage if he wants to finish his education here at the Schola.  And given that choice, not to mention the embarrassment of having to explain to his half-sister the Queen why he’s in danger of being booted out by the rector, I suspect that quickly finding some more suitable lady to settle down with might suddenly not seem like such a bad option to Lord Sivney’s way of thinking!”

#

   Abbot’s Tower
   September 28, 1136—late night


   Ædwige lay awake in her bed on an upper floor of Abbot’s Tower, feigning sleep.  Nearby, Princess Rothana appeared to be sleeping soundly, but Ædwige had already risen from her bed once earlier that evening, attempting to move silently towards the door, only to be stopped in her tracks by the sound of Rothana rolling over, eyes still closed, but now facing her and only slumbering lightly.  Ædwige hadn’t wanted to chance being discovered trying to sneak out of their shared chamber, so just in case the princess was more awake than she appeared, she made a slight detour in her path, moving behind a screen to the close-stool it concealed.  Not that she actually needed to use it, but she remained there standing in the shadows next to it for a few more minutes before daring to return to her bed.

   She heard the Basilica clock ring the hour and groaned silently.   No doubt Sivney would give up on her soon, if he hadn’t already.  She had forgotten, when she’d agreed to this assignation, that she was no longer sleeping in the maidens’ dormitorium where most of the young ladies were willing to turn a blind eye to one of their friends sneaking out after hours in exchange for like favors.  Sure, there were a few prudish sorts who could be counted upon to tell tales to the magistri or to Bishop McLain if they caught you at it, but fortunately most of those girls had been the sort to fall asleep soon after curfew, and they’d been heavy sleepers as well.  Ædwige had grown to count on such luck, and had forgotten momentarily that her situation was far different now.

   Perhaps, though, it was for the best that she was stuck up here.  She didn’t want Sivney to think she was overly eager for him, after all.  He might lose interest in pursuing her if she did, and now that she knew what he was up to, she didn’t intend to play too easy to get.  Oh, easy enough to keep his interest, but not so much so that he’d have his fill of her too soon.  No, now that she understood what he was after, he’d have to offer her more than a few kisses to get that.  She’d not settle for anything less than a ring on her finger and an exchange of wedding vows in exchange for that, but as for all the rest…well, she was willing to do whatever else it might take to keep him hungry for her.  

   The problem was, how was she to keep Sivney's interest in her from waning, yet hold him off long enough for Brendan to court her, if he was ever going to, and also keep the two from finding out about each other’s interest in her?  Or would an open rivalry simply serve to make their courtships progress faster?  She’d really rather have Brendan, if she could manage to captivate him, but if she couldn’t, she certainly didn’t want to lose this opportunity with Sivney.  And at any rate, she couldn't pledge herself to either man until she was out of her mourning weeds anyway, so she'd need to figure out some way to keep one or both men dangling until at least springtime.  Ædwige mused on the possibility of a betrothal announcement made at Easter Court.  She'd have given birth by then, surely, and ought to be as slender as any virgin again by the time Easter came around, or at least a clever enough dressmaker could fool men's eyes into thinking her so.  Wouldn't she look stunning decked out in a fine gown of Marley blue for the occasion?  Or perhaps...oh, what were Sivney's heraldic colors anyway?  Hopefully nothing too ghastly.  Gilrae's colors had been boring--stark black and white.  Pure white had never suited her delicate coloring, and as for black, well, she was certainly wearing enough of that color now, wasn't she?  After this six-month was at an end, she hoped never to see the color again in her wardrobe for the rest of her life!  No, Lord Sivney's colors had better not be something equally plain, or no matter how pleasant his company was, she'd need to concentrate her efforts on Earl Brendan instead.  Or at least find some other lord in need of a wife--some young, handsome, wealthy and titled lord who would fully appreciate her charms and maintain her in comfort, and who moved in the highest and best social circles.  Not some mere backwater knight with some tumbledown manor who might hardly ever be called to Court, like Sir Gilrae had been.  She could hardly fathom why her Papa had ever thought that old fool was worth wasting her beauty and youth on.

   She frowned to herself in the darkness.  There was something else she needed to take care of before she could partake in a nuptial Mass anyway, but she was afraid.  Perhaps she should have taken care of the matter back in Concaradine, but Sister Helena had been in a hurry to return to the Schola so they wouldn’t miss the start of the new term, and it certainly wasn’t the sort of thing she could have seen to back at Eddington Manor!  Well, surely she’d be able to get it out of the way here in Rhemuth.  You could hardly walk through a city street here without tripping over some priest or monk, after all, not to mention the occasional bishop.  And they were sworn to secrecy, weren’t they?  She might have had trouble paying attention to her catechism when Father Lars went on and on about such things in her childhood, but she was certain of that much at least.  And really, what she’d done had not been all that much.  So she might have to go through the bother of saying a lot of Paternosters in the next few months, or maybe fast on bread and water on certain days, she wasn’t sure, but then it would all be behind her and she could get on with her life knowing she was assured of heavenly bliss again.  And she probably ought to get it out of the way soon, as she’d had another invitation, this time from Lady Siany, to join her and Briony as well as some of the Queen’s other young ladies-in-waiting on a hunt after early Mass on the Feast of St. Faustus in early October, provided the weather was favorable.  She’d not had a chance to send to Eddington Manor for her darling Celestia, more’s the pity, but she was still keen on going even if she had to use a horse borrowed from the Royal Stables, and she could hardly plead illness again to skip the Mass if she intended to join in on the hunt afterward.  

   No, she might as well get the stupid ordeal over with.  Perhaps if she mentioned her unborn child, she might not even have to fast, for mightn’t that be bad for her baby?  Kneeling at a prie-dieu for hours was hardly her idea of fun, but it was better than spending months eating boring fare, she supposed, although at least boring meals would help her keep her figure trim.  Maybe she’d lose her baby weight faster?  To fast, or not to fast?

   Ædwige was still pondering such necessary yet tedious matters when she fell fast asleep.

#

   Rhemuth Castle—late evening
   October 2, 1136

   
   Lord Sivney suppressed a smile of anticipation as he waited for the approaching ladies to pass the portion of the Royal Gardens where he had carefully stationed himself according to the plan that he and Lady Ædwige had hastily come up with earlier that morning.  As they drew closer, he stepped out of the shadow of a large tree and onto the walkway, heading towards the young women in the general direction of the castle’s Great Hall.  They appeared not to notice him at first, but then his cousin Aynbeth glanced in his direction, a sunny grin of recognition dawning as she spotted him.

   “Good evening, Sivney!”

   The other two ladies broke off their conversation to greet him then.  Briony Morgan, her golden hair reflecting the glow of torch and moonlight, also smiled at him as they paused in their walk.  The third lady was the one he was there to meet, though.  Lady Ædwige caught his eye briefly before ducking her black-veiled head again in apparent distraction.  “Oh, bother,” she murmured absently.

   “What’s wrong?” Lady Briony asked, turning her attention back to her friend.

   Ædwige made a show of checking her belt and pouch.  “I think I left my gloves back at the library.  I’d better go back for them before Father John locks it up for the night.”  She gave her friends an apologetic look.

   “Oh.  Well, we’ll go back with you,” Aynbeth told her.  “It shouldn’t take too long for us to run back and fetch them.”

   “Might I help?” Sivney offered, as he and Ædwige had pre-arranged earlier.   “I’d be glad to escort you back to the Royal Library, Lady Ædwige.”

   Ædwige lowered her eyes demurely.  “Oh, but Lord Sivney, wouldn’t that take you out of your way?  Once I get my gloves back, we’ll be heading back to the Basilica after all, which is completely in the opposite direction from where you’re going, isn’t it?  I’d truly hate to impose!  Though it’s dear of you to offer.”

   Sivney made a show of glancing up at the dark sky overhead and then back at the three ladies.  “But then once you’ve all made your way back to the Schola, at least one of you is still going to have to make the long walk back this way again tonight, aren’t you? Lady Briony, don’t you need to return to the Queen’s Apartments after you’ve escorted Lady Ædwige back to her quarters?  And what about Aynbeth?”

   The two other girls glanced at each other.  “Well, yes,” Briony confirmed somewhat reluctantly.  “There is that.  But we should be all right; Aynbeth and I will be together, after all, and we’ll not tarry on our way back to the castle once we’ve seen Ædwige back to her chamber safely.”

   Sivney fell into step with them.  “Then at least let me join you ladies.  It wouldn’t be out of my way at all; I wasn’t going anywhere in particular.  I had just been out for a walk and was about to head into the Great Hall for a few minutes by a warm hearth and a goblet of mulled wine, and to catch up on the latest news before heading back to the Basilica for the night, but that can all wait.”  He smiled at the two younger maidens.  “I don’t want to have to answer for myself if Brendan should hear that I came upon you young ladies walking out this late at night unattended and didn’t offer you a safe escort.”  He winked at Aynbeth.  “Nor do I want to have to answer to your brother Magister Rogan.  He might not be as swift with a sword as Brendan is, but I’d hate to have to dodge the books he’d throw at me!”

   The Hort of Orsal’s daughter made a face at her cousin, giggling at him.   “Well, come along then, though it’s really not necessary.  And don’t think I won’t tell Rogan you said that!”

   They returned to the Royal Library together, catching up with Father John just as he was on the verge of locking up for the night.  Ædwige dashed back into the room, making her way to the table where she’d left her gloves earlier and returning quickly murmuring her apologies to the priest as she left for keeping him waiting.

   “And now it’s time for you two handmaidens to head back up to the Royal Apartments,” Sivney told the younger girls sternly.  “I’ll walk Lady Ædwige back to the Basilica.  There’s no need for you two to go all the way through the gardens and parklands and back again at this hour of the night!”  He patted the dagger hilt under his cloak.  “She’ll be safe enough with me.”

   Ædwige gave him a demure smile.  “If you’re absolutely certain it won’t be too much trouble, Lord Sivney…?”

   “It would be my pleasure to escort you home, Lady Ædwige.”  

#

   Rhemuth Castle Parklands
   October 2—late evening


   Sivney escorted Ædwige through the gardens and parklands almost as far as the Basilica compound, though shortly before they reached that destination he led her off the main path instead, bypassing the picturesque pond on the southern end of the park and heading for the tower at the part of the castle wall where the wall angled to join up with the outer perimeter of the Basilica grounds and Abbot’s Tower.  There was a grove of small trees in that part of the park, one that would offer excellent cover in the growing darkness and which would be well out of the way of any passers-by who might be heading towards either the Basilica or the main part of the castle at this time of the evening.  The moon was high enough now to cast some faint light on the ground, lighting their way well enough for them to pick out the path without having to call upon their enhanced Deryni senses too much.  Sivney was glad for the moonlight; they might have created handfire to illuminate their way, of course, but that would have been all too likely to draw unwanted attention to their detour.

   “We can’t stay out too late,” Ædwige reminded him breathlessly once they’d reached the small grove and he’d drawn her into its shadows, kissing her hungrily.  “Princess Rothana might suspect something if I’m back too long after nightfall, even if I tell her the story about the mislaid gloves and having to go back for them.”

   “Then we’d better not waste the time we’ve got,” Sivney whispered, pulling her close.  He fumbled in the darkness for her veil pins.  “How do you remove this damned thing?”

   She giggled and reached up to free her hair of its silky confines.

#

   Brendan, Earl of Marley, was also having a restless evening.   He’d just finished the Michaelmas report for Marley, a task he’d been given Royal permission to defer for a few days longer to allow for his brief holiday in Coroth, and had turned it in to the King just an hour before along with the Corwyn rolls of account that Duke Alaric had entrusted him with bringing back with him to Rhemuth.  But it was still too early for him to feel sleepy just yet.

   He heard voices coming up the stairs and recognized one of the approaching ladies as his sister Briony.   He paused to greet the two maidens, exchanging pleasantries and asking about their evening.
 
   “Aynbeth and I have been studying in the Royal Library, but we’re heading back to the Queen’s solar now,” Briony told him.  “Ædwige was with us, but Sivney said he’d see her safely back to the Schola.”

   Would he now?  Brendan fought the urge to raise a questioning eyebrow at his sister.  He doubted she’d heard the rumors about their childhood friend’s carnal appetites—after all, that was hardly a fit topic for maidenly ears!—but he’d heard about some of Sivney’s more recent exploits firsthand, and wasn’t as certain as his sister that her newly-widowed friend was indeed in safe hands.  Not that he imagined Lord Sivney would ever actually force a lady—hot-blooded, the lad might be, but he was no blackguard—but Sivney was definitely not above seducing one, and the Lady Ædwige was quite lovely and vulnerable….

   “Well, I’m glad you’ve got your studies done.  Have a good evening, ladies.”  He’d walked Briony and Aynbeth back to the Queen’s apartments and then left, going to the top of the Queen’s Tower and exiting onto the castle walk.  Brendan thought a stroll along the castle wall might be in order; it would allow him to vent his energies and would also allow him a good vantage point for viewing the main pathways winding through the parklands.

#

   Brendan never actually saw them either on the main pathways or elsewhere, but he could hardly miss the two lovebirds regardless.  Even if it weren’t for his keen Deryni senses, there was little way he could have missed the sounds coming from almost directly beneath his path.  He kept his mind tightly shielded and froze next to the parapet wall, hoping to avoid their notice.  He needn't have worried; it became clear after just a few brief heartbeats that both the lord and the lady below were oblivious to their surroundings at that particular moment.

   “Oh, Jesú!” a familiar voice moaned.  “I never dreamed it could all feel that lovely, Sivney!”

   An even more familiar chuckle, one Brendan had heard quite a bit in his younger years, but never in quite this same low, confidential tone.  “There’s more where that came from, if you’d like….”

   A soft giggle.  “I would like, but we’re late getting back to the Schola as it is, and if I stay out any longer, Princess Rothana might start up a search for me!”  The last words were slightly muffled, perhaps by a kiss, as there was an extended silence before she spoke again.  “We’d probably better head back.”

   "But…wait…right now?"  Sivney's voice sounded almost plaintive.  Brendan surmised his childhood friend must not have managed to get as far along as he'd hoped with his conquest that evening.  The thought left the young Earl caught somewhere between indignation at Sivney and laughter.

   "The night's not getting any earlier, my lord," Ædwige answered, her voice partially muffled by faint rustling sounds that might have been caused either by her brushing against low branches or else rearranging layers of fabric, Brendan couldn't quite discern which.  "Mayhap we can meet a bit earlier some other evening."  He could see the swaying of low branches and small saplings now as Ædwige moved past them and stepped out into the clearing beyond.  Brendan drew further back against the parapet, masking himself in its shadow.

   "But how?  When?"  Sivney followed her from the tiny copse of trees, fumbling with the lacing of his breeches, looking frustrated.

   "I don't know!"  The lady shrugged slim shoulders.  "I'm sure we'll think of something."  She extended her hand to her companion.  "Just like we'd better think of a good excuse for our late arrival tonight."

   Sivney offered her his arm.  "Your veil was loose and blew away.  It took us a while to find it again in the dark."  

   "And why would I bother chasing after a veil in the dark, when I've got others in my chamber?"  Ædwige tilted her head up at her escort, looking dubious.

   "It's fine silk," Sivney pointed out.  "You'd hate for it to get ruined by being left out overnight."

   A silvery tinkle of laughter.  "I suppose that would be annoying, but it's not as if Papa couldn't buy me a new one."

   They drew out of earshot, so Brendan never heard what reply Sivney made to that comment.


Chapter Twelve:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=819.0
« Last Edit: January 27, 2012, 09:27:26 am by Evie »
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2012, 10:00:24 am »
At least Brendan knows what sort of woman Aedwige is now and will keep clear of her.

Oh, I can't wait for her comeuppance!

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2012, 10:04:40 am »
At least Brendan knows what sort of woman Aedwige is now and will keep clear of her.

Actually, no, he hasn't quite figured her out yet, and he's still giving her the benefit of any doubt.  She's playing the vulnerable young widow schtick to the hilt, and he's a protective enough sort to respond to that, even if part of him is observant enough to realize she's sending a few mixed messages.  But he'll have her figured out soon enough, no worries.   :)
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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2012, 10:38:29 am »
I'm thinking its safe to assume that Lord Sivney was the lad scrying for the female students as they readied for bed awhile back.  It might be good if he gets a bit of a comeuppance as well!

Nice to see Rogan again as a magister at the Schola.  I always liked him.

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2012, 10:55:13 am »
I'm thinking its safe to assume that Lord Sivney was the lad scrying for the female students as they readied for bed awhile back.  It might be good if he gets a bit of a comeuppance as well!

Hm, you could be right about who the culprit was in that little prank.  Sivney was in that same advanced scrying techniques class with Jemmy, Cass, and Avisa, after all....   :D
 
Though he's not a rotten egg on nearly the same order as Ædwige.  He's just a sixteen-year-old lad with overactive hormones who has been raised to a life of rank and privilege and is more prone to acting without thinking and going after what (or who) he desires at any given moment without necessarily having thought through all the potential long-term ramifications.  Fortunately, that's the sort of mindset that some age, increased maturity, and a few hard life experiences can teach him to outgrow in time.  Unless, of course, he should decide to take Ædwige's route through life and grow too used to assuming that Everything is All About Him....   

Quote
Nice to see Rogan again as a magister at the Schola.  I always liked him.

LOL!  I was wondering if anyone would catch that reference.   ;D
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2012, 12:03:12 pm »
I caught it too. :)

Who might Jemmy reasonably tip his hat at, do you think? He is aiming at a knighthood, presumably, but low born? Or are you intending for him and Cass to be a love match, further down the line?

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2012, 12:43:28 pm »
Well, as Jemmy mentioned, he's still too young and unsettled to even start looking for a bride yet.  But I don't think he'll end up with Cass, despite their friendship.  It would be an advantageous enough match for Cass, but not much of an advantage for Jemmy, who is aspiring to some sort of knighthood.  As things stand now, he is on his way to becoming a knight errant, but without land of his own, the best he can hope for is to win enough renown through his service to Kelson directly, or through one of the other great lords, that he ends up attaining a title and manorial lands of his own someday.  Either that, or else he'd need to secure a marriage to a woman who will bring him land, either as an heiress to it or as part of her dowry.  The life of a landed knight is more secure than that of a knight errant, so you can be sure Jemmy will have aspirations towards that goal.  Cass is bright enough to know that, which is why she isn't pinning her hopes on marrying Jemmy, despite liking him a great deal.  Jemmy's best chances at achieving his future goals would be to secure the hand of a knight's daughter (preferably a landed knight) or, better yet, a baron's.  He might have a chance at marrying a younger daughter of some great lord, especially if he manages to win enough renown for himself to become landed first, but that's probably a long-shot and hardly something he would count on.  About the only way I can see him marrying "down" into the merchant class would be if the merchant's daughter were fabulously wealthy.  If she can't bring him vast...tracts of land, at least she can bring him vast...chests of coin.   ;D

Cass, on the other hand, has one of three options.  She can marry another commoner like herself (which, at present, she thinks might be the most likely option).  She can gain enough advantages through her education and any future blessings that might come her way (such as perhaps gaining experience as a lady-in-waiting in some great lady's service once she finishes her training at the Schola) to make her a more attractive prospective bride for some knight (or possibly a lesser lord) who is looking for a bride with those qualities and who doesn't have a need for more lands or a big dowry.  Or she can end up finding a love match with a man who is well off enough that her lack of lands, gentle birth, and/or wealth isn't a consideration at all.  But this being the Middle Ages, though, she's not banking on Option #3 coming true.   :)

And to make matters just a little more difficult for Cass, she is baseborn (her mother was already married to Bill Draper when Walter Branigan and Aylmer raped her, and Bill raised the baby as his own daughter, but it's common enough gossip in Rhemuth that Cass was not actually his child), so any future husband would have to be willing to overlook that.  Easier said than done if one is hoping to marry into the nobility, although not all noblemen would hold that against her.
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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2012, 04:02:09 pm »
Aedwige's such a "charming" little piece, isn't she?  :(     Good thing Brendan seems to have his wits about him, but I'd just say:  RUN, Brendan - RUN.
 
Enjoyed the Cas - Jemmy scene, and LOL at Cass's assessments of young men.  
Quote
"Prince Oswin von Horthy is all right, and knows a lot of amusing stories about his father’s Court.  Sure, he’s a bit dim at times, but he’s nice, and he’s not the sort who’s constantly chasing skirts.  Of course, he’s just eleven yet.”  Cass grinned.  “Plenty of time for his brain to rot once his voice starts changing.”  
« Last Edit: January 20, 2012, 04:21:51 pm by Alkari »

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2012, 06:00:06 pm »
Aedwige's such a "charming" little piece, isn't she?  :(     Good thing Brendan seems to have his wits about him, but I'd just say:  RUN, Brendan - RUN.

I'd love to see Briony b*tch slap Aedwige into next week over her brother; either magically or physically.

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2012, 07:36:35 pm »
Aedwige's such a "charming" little piece, isn't she?  :(     Good thing Brendan seems to have his wits about him, but I'd just say:  RUN, Brendan - RUN.

I'd love to see Briony b*tch slap Aedwige into next week over her brother; either magically or physically.

I'd like to see Aedwige have to explain her intentions to the Queen and/or to Richenda, myself. =o) I'm sure Briony could hold her own but those two, PLUS Rothana all at the same time, would do an admirable job of scaring the socks of Aedwige!

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2012, 08:40:24 pm »
I don't see Jemmy marrying a wealthy merchant's daughter. Her father would be more likely to marry his daughter into the nobility. Her money plus her husband's title would provide quite well for the merchant's grandchildren.

One wonders, though, how well that worked. Granted love and happiness were not essential to married life but if Lord Noble thought he was too superior to Mistress Common their life together could be horrible. They would have little in common, her training might be inadequate to her position, and her servants and staff could despise her...

That went off in an unexpected direction!

Cass certainly attracted Hal's attention...

What about Jemmy and Amelia (Conall's daughter)? Or is she too high-ranking now that she's been adopted by her grandfather and created Baroness Whitney?
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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2012, 08:53:02 pm »
"Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."
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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2012, 11:56:44 pm »
* Evie cues Days of Our Lives theme music....   ;)

Technically speaking, the knights (including landless knights errant) would be considered the lowest rung of the nobility (in fact, the RPG says there is little distinction in rank between a baron and a landed knight in Gwynedd--the baron is just likely to own more land).  But yes, given the choice between giving a daughter to a mere knight and having her married to a Baron or, if one were exceptionally wealthy and/or lucky, an Earl, I would imagine the merchant would pick the highest ranking member of the nobility who would deign to have her.  And yes, I can easily see the disparity in social class between spouses becoming a point of friction unless the couple learned to love, or at least to respect, each other.

I'm not sure Jemmy would aim quite as high as Amelia.  True, she is "just" a Baroness, but as the daughter of a Prince, granddaughter to another, and cousin to a King, she might be a wee bit high for a former kitchen boy to aspire to.  Then again, she's of common stock as well as Haldane, and she's a baseborn child to boot (though I can't imagine any suitor turning his nose up at a Haldane wife, no matter what side of the blanket she was born on! ;D )....  It's really hard to say, but I suspect, having owed Haldanes so much already for his education and training, he'd be really hesitant to risk ticking them off by pursuing one of their bloodline to marry as well.
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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2012, 12:16:20 am »
Tonnes of examples of the poor knight marrying the rich merchant's daughter abound in literature.  Pride and Prejudice shows such a marriage where mutual respect declined before mutual understanding could begin to support it.

The common man would have to be knighted (think of the end of the abominable movie, A Knight’s Tale) in order for the Baroness to be able to marry him.  There are no two ways about it - it has to happen.  Even then, the Coel Howells would sneer at the next two generations at the very least.

As great and revered as he was, Sir Winston Churchill would be in line after the second son of a hereditary Earl.

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Eleven
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2012, 12:52:39 am »
Welcome to the Forum, Arilan's Fan!  I'm a bit fond of the ol' curmudgeonly bishop myself....   :D
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