The Worlds of Katherine Kurtz

FanFiction => Evie's FanFic => The Demoiselle and Derry => Topic started by: Evie on August 05, 2010, 09:26:14 pm

Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Evie on August 05, 2010, 09:26:14 pm
Chapter Six

   Celsie and Derry polished off their evening meal, a meat pie and spring greens along with some flaky pastries drizzled with rose syrup.  As the sun set fully and the day's warmth began to dissipate, Master Derwin and one of the kitchen maids returned, the maid clearing away the used dishes while the steward set a warming fire ablaze in the study's fireplace, moving on from there to do the same for the bedchambers on the same floor.  Celsie lit some beeswax tapers as well to give the darkening room some added light.

   The steward and kitchen maid left, Celsie's tiring maid remaining upstairs for propriety's sake, although she retreated to Celsie's private chamber to work on some mending, keeping the doors open between that room and the study beyond both to keep an occasional eye on things and to ensure she could hear if her Lady had need of her.

   Derry stood briefly to stretch his legs, walking to the window embrasure to gaze out over Celsie's land.  Not too far beyond the distant hills lay his own Earldom of Derry.

   Celsie came to stand beside him.  “How long has it been since you've been home?” she asked, divining his thoughts.

   He glanced down at her.  “Not so long ago.  A couple of months.”

   “And how long were you there last?”

   He shrugged.  “A couple of weeks?”

   “Oh, Sean!  Don't you ever get homesick?”

   He smiled slightly.  “On occasion.  I'm usually too busy to spend much time missing it.”

   “I suppose.”  Celsie sounded slightly dubious.  “Though haven't you ever wished--?”  She broke off, blushing slightly.

   “Have I ever wished what?”

   She shook her head, her golden ringlets bobbing gently.  “Nothing.”

   Derry sat in one of the window seats, picking up a lute and beginning to tune it idly.  “Have I ever wanted to settle down?” he asked, not looking up at her.


   He paused to pluck on the strings, testing a few notes.  “Occasionally,” he said finally, looking up at her.  He looked back down at the lute, starting to play an old ballad.  Celsie sank onto the seat opposite his, leaning back to watch him play, her lips curving into a smile at the music.  Eventually her eyes drifted shut.

   “Am I boring you to sleep?”  Derry teased.

   Celsie chuckled.  “No, not that.  Just enjoying the music.  That was my father's lute.  He used to play it in the evenings, and my mother would sing.”  Her eyes opened.  “I was only eight when she died, but I remember her singing.”

    His lips tilted up at the corners as he continued to play.  “You sing.  I remember hearing you in Rhemuth.”

   She laughed softly.  ‘Yes.  Sophie and I would sing, and Ailidh played the vielle.”

   “Ailidh didn’t sing?”  He glanced up at her, a smile in his eyes.

    “Oh, she could.  She had a decent enough voice, it’s just that if she started singing, she’d forget to play.”  Celsie giggled at the memory.  “Do you sing?”

   “On rare occasion.”  Derry grinned.  “I rarely have my hands on a lute anymore, unfortunately, but in my home in Derry there’s a bathchamber that happens to have quite good acoustics, oddly enough, so sometimes I’ll catch myself singing in the bath.”  

   Celsie burst out laughing.  “Oh, I’d love to hear—“  She broke off suddenly, her cheeks turning rosy as she fought to stifle her amusement.

   Derry’s eyes gleamed with mirth as he raised an eyebrow at her.  “You’d love to hear me in my bath?”

   She folded her hands in her lap and cast her gaze demurely downwards, her lips twitching.  “Indeed not, my Lord.  That would be very bad for the lute.”

    “Just as well, I suppose.”  He shot her a devilish grin.  “If you were in my bath, I’m sure I’d forget to play and sing.”

   “On the lute, anyway,” Her smile broke free.  “Sean, you incorrigible rapscallion, we’re going to scandalize my tiring maid!”  She stole a glance towards the open door.

   He shook his head.  “No, we won’t.  She nodded off over her mending several minutes ago.  Though you might want to wake her; she’s likely to wake with an aching neck otherwise.”

   Derry watched as Celsie stood, walking into the other room to wake her maidservant.  The girl blinked sleepily up at her, then set her mending back into her workbasket, moving out of sight.  A few moments later, Celsie re-emerged.

    “Poor child!” she whispered once she had rejoined him in the window embrasure.  “She barely made it to her pallet, and fell fast asleep again.”  She glanced at him, her eyes reflecting a sudden uncertainty.  “Are you tired?”

   “Not especially,” he answered, plucking absently at the lute, “though if you feel it would be best for us both to retire for the evening, since your chaperone has….”  He stopped as she shook her head.

   “No, it’s fine.”  She smiled.  “I’m enjoying talking and listening to you play.”

   He smiled, launching into another ballad to oblige her, this one a haunting love song suitable for a quietly shared moment, singing along after the opening notes, though in a voice soft enough to avoid waking the sleeping maid.   Celsie watched his hands as he played, watched the deftness with which he plucked at the taut strings.  Her cheeks colored slightly, considering other things those hands were doubtless quite good at, and she dropped her gaze again.

   The song ended.  Derry watched the firelight flicker across the demoiselle’s features a moment longer, then set the lute aside, reaching for her hands to draw her closer, tilting his head towards the empty half of his window seat in a wordless invitation to join him.

   Her heart pounding, Celsie stood, moving over to sit beside her guest.  He lifted a hand, lightly callused from years of handling swords and reins, to cup her cheek, gazing into her eyes with a very serious expression, all trace of laughter gone.  “Celsie, there’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask, but I didn’t wish to bring it up with others present.”

   Celsie’s heart nearly stopped.  ‘Yes?”

   Derry’s voice went soft, so quiet she almost had to strain to hear him despite his nearness.  “What exactly happened, that Twelfth Night in Rhemuth?”

   It was certainly not a question she’d expected; definitely not the one she’d longed for!  “On Twelfth Night?”  she parroted, staring down at her lap in dismay.

    “Yes.”  He reached a fingertip under her chin and tilted her face back up.  “I know what I remember, but…there are things about that night that haven’t been adding up properly, and I’m well aware of how mutable memories can be.”  He gave her a wry smile.  “Especially for a human who keeps close company with Deryni.”

   Celsie’s face flamed.  She closed her eyes, trembling slightly.

   He wrapped strong arms around her in a gentle embrace.  “I remember a merry revel, and a drinking contest.  Ballymar whisky, and some Border lads.”  She felt his lips smile against her hair.  “And that’s part of what’s not adding up right there.  Not only do I not remember seeing those particular men at Court before or since, I’ve had Ballymar whisky since that time, and I assure you it normally takes a much greater quantity than what I remember having at that revel to have that much of an effect on me.”

   “Maybe you just had so much, you can’t remember exactly how much you drank?” Celsie ventured, her voice shaky.  

     She felt him shake his head.  “Possibly, but I doubt it.  There’s also the matter of the missing handkerchief.”  He drew back slightly to look at her.  “The one you’ve never replaced, by the way.”

   Celsie swallowed.  “I’m sorry.  I will make you a new one, I promise.”

   Derry nodded.  ‘You said you couldn’t replace it right away because of some problem with the spell work, and that you'd need to ask permission before you could make another.  Did something go wrong with the first one?”

   She shook her head, pretending to misunderstand.  “No, it saved your life, remember?”

     “Ah, yes.  I meant the second one.  My Twelfth Night present.  The one that disappeared the same day I got it.  Did something go so badly wrong with that present, you weren't permitted to make me another?  Because clearly the mere fact I'm still alive attests to the fact that there was no problem with the spell work on my first.”

     Tears leaked out from under her lashes.  “Oh, Jesú, Sean, don’t make me tell you!  You’ll only hate me for it.”

      “I won't hate you, Celsie.”  He smoothed a hand down her hair.  “I just need to know.  It's been niggling at me for years, that memory I can't remember anymore but should.”  He took one of her hands, frowning thoughtfully at it.  “You know I allow Alaric access to my mind, I'm sure.  There...might have been times when he's had to...modify a few things while he's in there; I couldn’t really say for certain, of course.  It's not a liberty I would wish just anyone to take, obviously; I only grant it in his case because I trust him fully.  And still...I'd be lying if I said it's not a difficult sort of trust, and one I yield only reluctantly, even to him.”  He lifted her hand to his lips, kissing it gently.  “I will assume, if he altered my memories of that evening or allowed them to be altered by someone else, it was only because he desired either to protect me or to protect someone else.  I won't ask you who tampered with me.  But it would help, I think, if at least I knew a little of why it happened.”

    Celsie bit her lip.  “It happened because I was an ignorant child,” she finally managed, her voice breaking.  “I wanted... I thought I wanted....Oh, Sean, please don't make me confess this!  Confessing to the Bishop was hard enough, and he's Deryni!”

   Derry thought back to the young demoiselle he'd met in her seventeenth year.  Of how sheltered and innocent and naïve she'd been then, how starry-eyed with excitement over her first trip to Rhemuth.  And also about him....

    “Sweeting, I might have forgotten this matter, but I’ve forgotten nothing about the child you were then.”  He chuckled softly.  “Was it a love spell?  You were…rather embarrassingly infatuated, as I recall.”

    She pressed her free hand to her lips, blinking away tears.  “I prayed that you'd fall in love with me, and be a true and honest husband.”  Her hand dropped to her lap as she looked up at him with a bitter smile.  “Don't worry; it never got as far as the 'husband' part, though Jesú, you were honest!”  A mirthless laugh.  “Most bluntly so!”  She twisted a fold in her skirt, unable to meet his eyes.  “I didn't realize...I didn't know it would override your free will, that it wouldn't be....”  She shook her head.  “It wasn't real love, Sean. None of it was real.  And you're right, your memories were altered.  To protect me.”  She closed her eyes again, unable to look at him.  “And because you were already so magic-leery.  I never meant to do anything to harm you, or that might frighten you after…if you’d known….”

   Derry studied her in concern.  “I didn't...harm you, did I?”

   “Harm?”  She turned a dull look at him, his meaning only sinking in belatedly.  Celsie blushed.  “Oh, no!  No, nothing like that.”  She smiled sadly.  'You just...became extremely amorous for a few minutes.  In the middle of the Great Hall.”

   He nodded.  “Ah.  Then that explains the other unsolved mystery.”  At her questioning look, he told her, “A few days after Twelfth Night, someone asked me if I was newly betrothed.  I'd apparently been spotted in a passionate embrace under the mistletoe with a beautiful blonde demoiselle in one of the window embrasures.  Needless to say, having no memory of that event myself, I was quite baffled and put it down to mistaken identity.  But he described what I'd been wearing perfectly.  Later, when I realized that other things seemed amiss with my memories, I came to question that as well.”  He sighed, wiping away her tears gently.  “I know you meant no harm, Celsie.”  Derry gave her a wry smile.  “A woman whose tender conscience won’t permit her to take away a stray cat’s free will certainly isn’t going to lightly meddle with a man’s.  Not intentionally.  I trust, though, that you’ll not allow anything of that sort to happen again?  I don’t take kindly to be tampered with without my leave.”  A tender stroke of her cheek softened the sting of his words, although Celsie flinched anyway.

    “I won’t.  Oh, Sean, I’m so sorry!”

   He gathered her close.  She buried her face in his shoulder, taking comfort in his embrace, grateful for his understanding, wishing—despite the pain of the past few minutes—that she could make this one moment last, for she never wanted to let him go.  But even now, she knew he wasn’t hers to cling to, so at last she straightened, pulling away.

   Her eyes searched his now.  “If this is to be a night for honesty, then, did you love Constanza?”

   Derry dropped his gaze, picking up one of her hands again and stroking the back of it with his thumb idly as he considered the question.  He shook his head finally.   “I was very fond of Stanzi.  I still am.  But no, not in the way you mean.”  He looked back up at her.  “Why do you ask?”

   She stood, pulling her hand from his gently to wrap her arms around herself as she looked out the window, gazing out at her lands, at the distant hills beyond, in the direction of Derry’s earldom.  At last she turned slightly, the faintest of smiles just touching the corners of her lips as she transferred her gaze to him.

    “I...needed to be certain your heart was free.  Because you need heirs, and I know you love children and would be a good father to your own.  And because I want children, and….” She blushed, dropping her eyes.  “I want a husband as well.  I know we both want more than just that, but….”  She dared to look back at him again.  “With you, at least I’d feel like I have someone who understands what I am and accepts that.  Everything that I am.  Maybe we could build on that, and more would come in time?”  She glanced away again, at the moonlight edging the distant hills with faint light.  “You needn’t answer right now.  Just…would you at least consider my offer?”

   The Earl of Derry stared up at her from his window seat.   “I…think so.”  He shook his head as if to clear it.  “Did you just propose marriage to me, Celsie?”

   “Yes.”  The faint smile twitched slightly.  “Unless that ‘m’ word is apt to scare you off considering the offer altogether, in which case I’m merely proposing a….”  She cast about for some alternative phrasing.  “A hopefully mutually satisfying merger of lives.”

   “A merger of lives.”  Derry stood, chuckling at the rephrasing.  “Celsie—“

   She turned to face him, placing a fingertip on his lips.  “Just think on it?”  

   Derry looked down at her upturned face, gazing up at his so nervously, her blue eyes very vulnerable at that moment, yet trusting as well.  He nodded slowly.  “Yes.”

   She nearly sagged with relief.  “Thank you.”


   “Oh, I nearly forgot…I have a present for you!”  Celsie informed him as they were bidding each other a good night.  “I’d intended to give it to you last night, but…well, it didn’t seem like the best time, under the circumstances.”

   “What, with the storm howling all around us and me in a blind panic over spending the night in compromising circumstances with Alaric’s ward?” Derry joked.

   She laughed.  “Well, I was thinking more in terms of the damp air warping the stitchery, or the silk thread becoming water-spotted, but yes, that too!  I’ll be right back.”

   Celsie retreated to her bedchamber.  Derry opened the door to his, using a piece of kindling to transfer fire from the hearth to a candle.  Again, as he walked across the chamber to place the candle stand on his bedside table, a stray thought flitted through his mind, this one of him most pleasantly intertwined with his lovely hostess on the nearby mattress.  He forced the thought away as the demoiselle returned, rapping gently on the open chamber door.

    “Here you go.”  She took a cautious step into the room, handing the small wrapped package towards him.  “I started to go with something safer, like a protective tunic….”  Her eyes widened slightly, and she turned to look around the room, her cheeks going pink.  “Oh, sweet Jesú, I forgot that was in here!”  She picked up the embroidered pillow from the chair and turned as if to bring it back to her chamber, then evidently reconsidered.  Turning on her heel, she strode towards the paneled wood wall instead, pushing a raised portion of the carving until a hidden door panel slid to one side, and tossed the pillow into the dark corridor beyond, blushing profusely.

    Derry lifted a hand to hide a smile, raising his brows at her.  “And what was that for?”

   “Um…that pillow was a bit of my earlier work.”  She dimpled up at him.  “It’s meant to bring gentle dream-visions that reveal the deepest desires of your heart, but I hadn’t mastered the art of subtlety yet, so it’s more like a shout than a whisper.  I hope it wasn’t too annoying, but if you’ve gotten bludgeoned by thoughts of suddenly acquiring R’Kassi’s most breath-taking stallion every time you walked in here, that’s why.”  She laughed.  “Not that I intend to sell you my Seandry.”

    “Hm.  And what visions do you get?  Collecting ten-thousand strays?”  He grinned.

   “That…would be easier to deal with,” she said lightly, with a faint blush.  “Here.”  She placed the present in his hand, but stopped him before he could unwrap it.  “Before you open it, I should probably explain.  It’s just…a portrait, of sorts, and it only contains the magic of illusion in it, nothing more.”  Her blush grew.  “And I know it’s not the standard sort of gift a maiden normally gives to a man, but I figured…well…with you being well accustomed to the Courtly life, I thought you’d appreciate the artistic merits….”

   His curiosity piqued now, he untied the ribbon holding the silken wrapping together.  It fell open to reveal an inlaid wooden frame, like that of a small triptych, folded closed to conceal its contents.  He opened the top panels.

   The embroidery framed within was a portrait worked in Opus Andelonicum, the fine silk threads containing hues so varied and subtle in their shading that the work seemed almost to have been painted in oils instead.  The subject was a young woman, her back to the viewer, her torso completely bare save for the loosely draped shawl looped around her hips.  She was sitting, her head turned only slightly towards the viewer so that only a small portion of the woman’s features were visible from the side.  Her long golden hair was pulled over one shoulder, and her arms were gracefully raised to comb through the cascade of curls.  Under one upraised arm lay the gentle curve of one breast, although the positioning of the woman’s body still preserved most of her modesty.

   As he looked at the portrait, it seemed almost to come alive, the rise and fall of the young woman’s gentle breathing almost visible, the hair seeming to sway gently the moment his focus started to veer away.  The gently parted lips seemed poised to speak.  He watched the downswept brown lashes intently, wondering if they’d flutter upward to direct a gaze back over her shoulder at him, and if that gaze would be a startling blue.  

   Derry found himself holding his breath, as if hoping the maiden of the portrait would turn more fully to look at him.  At last he tore his gaze away, looking back up at Celsie, who regarded him shyly.

    “You have no idea how hard it was to adjust the mirrors so I could sketch that fool thing!” she told him, looking self-conscious.  She took a step back.  “Well…goodnight, Sean.”

   She returned to her own chamber.  Derry folded the covering flaps of the frame back at enough of an angle to allow the portrait to stand upright on the bedside table, then prepared for bed, spending the next couple of hours in sleepless contemplation of magics, mergers, and secret passages between adjacent rooms.


   Celsie crouched in the stable storeroom, allowing her new cat to sniff cautiously at her fingers.  She looked up at Derry.  “So, you're off to Coroth?”

   “Yes.  If I leave now, I should arrive shortly before midday.”  Derry smiled.  “Assuming no unexpected rainstorm.”

   The demoiselle laughed, setting the morsel of roast squab she held on the stone paving for the cat to nibble and then standing, wiping her fingertips surreptitiously on her apron.  “Stay safe then.”

   “Celsie....”  The Earl of Derry glanced through the storeroom door, checking in both directions to make sure no one else was close by before pulling her close.  One hand cradled the back of her head as his other lay lightly on her back at waist level.  He studied her face for a long moment before slowly lowering his head for a kiss.  

   Her dark lashes fluttered shut as he drew closer, her rosy lips parting slightly in anticipation.  Derry brushed a light kiss across them, barely making contact at first, but then Celsie's arms stole up to encircle his neck, and he tightened his arm around her, pulling her yielding softness into him for a far more demanding kiss.  She moaned softly.

   After a minute he relaxed his hold on her, taking a small step back, though he didn't release her just yet.  Celsie leaned back to look into his face.

   “Are you considering a...merger between us?”

    Derry chuckled.  “Considering it, yes.”  He brushed another light kiss on one of her temples then let her go.  “Had to make sure that would go well,” he said, grinning down at her.  “Not that a lack of attraction has ever been a problem between us.”  He took her hand and kissed the back of it lightly.  “I'll be returning to Derry at the end of the month.  Shall I stop by here on the way?”

   Celsie beamed.  “Yes, do!”   

   He paused, studying her face.  “And would you fancy a short trip to Derry with me?”

   She looked surprised, then delighted.  And then, after a moment, her face lit up with mischief.  “Should I bring my father’s lute?”

   Derry’s eyes crinkled.  “Yes.  Though lute music wafting out from the bathchamber might be just a little difficult to explain to my mother.”

    “Not nearly as difficult as other sounds wafting out from your bathchamber,” she responded with a sassy grin, stepping out of his embrace, “although you’ll have to commit the ‘m’ word first if you hoping for those.”

   “’Merger.’  Right.  Just let my mother get wind of your matrimonial hopes, and she’ll be more likely to push you into the chamber with me and bar the door, and then tell me I won’t be allowed out again until I’ve sired a legal heir.”

    “Now, there’s a thought.  You’d be the best-scrubbed Earl of Derry in history!”

   He laughed, closing the short distance between them to silence her once more with another kiss.

Chapter 7:
Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Alkari on August 05, 2010, 09:42:24 pm
“Now, there’s a thought.  You’d be the best-scrubbed Earl of Derry in history!”
*dies laughing* Wonderful!   

Great chapter, and I like how you worked through all the various ethical issues between them. 

And I suspect that Alaric will not only give his permission for Derry to marry his (Alaric's) ward - he and Richenda will join with Ma Derry in shutting the two of them in the bathchamber  :D   Though with any luck, one of them might remember to arrange a certain small ceremony first ...
Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Evie on August 05, 2010, 10:45:55 pm
Yeah...about those "ethical issues"...remember me telling you that Derry had taken his revenge on me for that "stuck in a rainstorm with Celsie" scene?  Well,  here's what happened.  The night after I posted that chapter, I was awakened in the middle of the night--like, around 3:00 a.m. or thereabouts--by Derry asking Celsie, "So, what exactly was it that happened on Twelfth Night?"

"Nope, Derry, not going there. Especially not at 3 in the freaking a.m.   Let me sleep."

"Sorry, but stuff's just not adding up, and I need to know."

"No, you don't.  My alarm clock goes off in 3 hours.  So shut up and let me SLEEP!"

"Not happening.  Not unless you 'fess up."


So he did.  Sort of.  And I went back to sleep.  Sort of.  Though I kept dreaming about Derry and Celsie the rest of the freaking night....

And that's how that scene ended up not only getting written, but written from the approach that it did.  Bossy demanding Earls....  *grumble*
Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Elkhound on August 05, 2010, 11:18:54 pm
The next time a character annoys you, conjure up from your imagination an AK-47.

"What's that?"

*Aims at the wall."

"I'll be going now."
Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Evie on August 05, 2010, 11:28:14 pm
But that would result in nothing getting written to post the next day, so where's the fun in that?   :D
Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: AnnieUK on August 06, 2010, 03:51:40 am
Or what was that line in Inception?  "Dare to dream big" or something?  Never mind the AK-47, a stonking great rocket launcher should do it.
Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Alkari on August 06, 2010, 08:12:24 am
The trouble is, if you threaten characters with rocket launchers or whatever, they tend to take offence.  Can't imagine why.  :(   But they disappear, and then won't talk to you for days or even weeks ... plays havoc with your fic.
Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Evie on August 06, 2010, 08:53:02 am
The trouble is, if you threaten characters with rocket launchers or whatever, they tend to take offence.  Can't imagine why.  :(   But they disappear, and then won't talk to you for days or even weeks ... plays havoc with your fic.

Yeah.  What she said.  If I'd tried that tactic, this is how it would have gone:

Derry:  "So, what happened that Twelfth Night?"
Me:  "None of your beeswax.  Let me sleep."
Derry:  "Nope, if I can't sleep, you can't sleep.  So, what really happened?"
Me:  *pulls out rocket launcher*  "Consider this a catapult for a more modern era, Derry."

Next morning:

Me:  "OK, Derry, I'm ready to write!  So, about Twelfth Night...what were you wanting to know?"

*loud crickets*

Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Evie on August 06, 2010, 12:36:09 pm

Possible Derry, except the eyes definitely need to be bluer, and the hair possibly a darker brown, though KK doesn't really specify a particular shade.  I like the mischief in this smile, though; that's definitely Derry-like!
Title: The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 6
Post by: Elkhound on August 07, 2010, 09:03:27 pm
Possible Derry, except the eyes definitely need to be bluer, and the hair possibly a darker brown, though KK doesn't really specify a particular shade.  I like the mischief in this smile, though; that's definitely Derry-like!

Features are a little too 'puffy'; Derry would have a little more of a 'lean and hungry look'; also, after his experiences with Wencit, he should have a little grey hair.