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Author Topic: Kelson Era FanFic Demoiselle in Distress Chapter 1  (Read 6134 times)

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Offline Evie

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Demoiselle in Distress Chapter 1
« on: June 20, 2010, 05:58:53 pm »
[Note:  This is an introductory story for a character who will later end up in "Maidens of Mayhem."]

Tria sunt difficilia mihi et quartum penitus ignore: viam aquilae in caelo, viam colubri super petram, viam navis in medio mari, et viam viri in adulescentula.
"There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden.”     —Proverbs 30: 18-19

Demoiselle in Distress

        Sean Earl Derry smiled in his sleep, dreaming that he was flying across a verdant green meadow on the back of an exquisite roan mare.  He stirred slightly, turning to one side in his slumber, only to come up against a soft, yielding form beside him. 

        He opened his blue eyes to find brown eyes smiling up at him.  They belonged to an equally exquisite chestnut female.  Only, he now recalled with a grin, last night this one had been riding him.

        Derry glanced out the inn window, then leaned forward slightly to brush a swift kiss on the woman’s lips.  “The sun’s higher in the sky than I expected.  I really ought to be going.”

        “Oh, must you?”  She trailed a finger lightly down his arm.  “Can’t you stay a little longer?” she asked, her eyes sparkling up at him.

        He shook his head.  “I’m afraid not.  I sent word ahead that I’d be arriving in Coroth around noon today, and I’ll be hard pressed to make it by that time as it is.”  He stood, reaching for his clothing.  “But I’m sure I’ll be back through here in a few months.  Maybe at summer’s end.”   He nearly offered to send word to her next time his travels took him out this way, but thought better of it.  Delightful as her company was, the innkeeper’s widow had started to show signs of becoming too attached for Derry’s comfort, and he could ill afford to encourage any notions that he’d be able to form any sort of lasting  commitment to her.   Even if he’d been so minded—and he wasn’t—he doubted an Earl would be permitted to marry a commoner.  At least not unless there were extraordinary circumstances to warrant it, and simply enjoying bedding the wench was hardly extraordinary.  Besides, he suspected he wasn’t the only man enjoying the young widow’s charms.

        She pouted, or at least pretended to, though she cheered up readily enough once he was fully dressed and had settled his accounts with her for his own lodging and that of his men.  He added a bit extra to the total, nothing too exorbitant, but enough so that she was nearly as happy upon his departure as she'd been at his arrival.

        “As always, it has been a pleasure doing business with you, my Lord!”

        “Likewise.”  He swept the proprietress a courtly bow, flashing a charming grin at her before leaping into his saddle; then, at his signal, he and his men rode on. 

#
       It was, in fact, shortly after noon before Sean Earl Derry and his men managed to make it as far as the city gates of Coroth, but at the guard tower, it was clear their arrival had been anticipated.

       “My Lord,” one of the guards on duty informed him, “the Duchess of Corwyn requests your immediate attendance on her at the Cathedral.  It's a matter of some urgency, I'm afraid, though once she's spoken with you, there'll be time for rest and a meal for you and your men.”

       Derry nodded, wondering what manner of emergency would have the Duchess Richenda summoning him before he’d even entered the City proper, and to the Cathedral at that, rather than to the Castle.  “Thank you,” he told the guard.  “Do you...ah...have any idea what the nature of the “urgent business” might be?”

       The man scowled.  “I've only heard rumors, m'lord, but from the sound of it, it's a matter of great perfidy.  Poor little maiden....”  This last was muttered under the man's breath, almost as an afterthought.

       This, if anything, left Derry even more baffled.    “Maiden” could hardly be descriptive of the Duchess, despite her relative youthfulness, unless her children had been conceived by other than the regular means.  He considered Alaric's beautiful Richenda in his mind's eye a trifle wistfully.  Not bloody likely!  No, “maiden” undoubtedly referred to someone else...but to whom?

        He urged his mount onward, continuing down the cobbled road towards the Cathedral as he pondered the mystery.  A wronged maiden…in a Cathedral…. A sudden thought almost made him pull up short.  Surely not!  Whatever might be said of him—and there was no question he enjoyed the occasional warm comforts of a willing lass!—he was hardly the sort so irresponsible as to leave deflowered virgins in his wake!  And of the women he had kept close company with over the years, most were not of sufficient rank that he’d be compelled to marry one, even if by some chance he’d inadvertently fathered a child on her.  He’d always been scrupulously careful to ensure such a mishap couldn’t happen.  Well, almost always.  As much as such things were preventable, anyway.  All right, he silently conceded, there was perhaps a small chance, but surely that wouldn’t be why…?   He pushed down a spurt of panic, glancing back at his retinue as if to ensure they were all still following him.  The covert speculative looks they were giving him did nothing to ease his mind.

         Forward they all rode until they got to the Cathedral.  Derry dismounted, signaling to most of his men to remain behind with the horses until he could ascertain what the need was, although he nodded to one of his trusted men-at-arms to accompany him inside.  The two men entered the building together, blinking in the sudden darkness of the Cathedral’s interior contrasted to the blazing afternoon sun outdoors.  Once their eyes adjusted to the softer lighting of sunlight filtered through stained glass windows, they spotted their quarry easily enough.

        “Oh, Derry! “  Duchess Richenda spared a grateful glance for the young Earl, her relief evident in her voice, then turned her attention back to the weeping girl in her arms.  “There, there!  Now, hush your tears.  This is Sean Earl Derry, His Grace’s liegeman; I’m sure that he and his men will gladly investigate the matter in my lord’s absence, and will provide any assistance you should require.”  Richenda turned her deep blue eyes up to Bishop Tolliver, who stood nearby.  “My lord, I’ll need a few minutes to update Earl Derry on the particulars.”

        He nodded, extending a hand to the weeping girl, drawing her aside to a kneeler where the two lingered, evidently in prayer.  Derry watched, still baffled.  Whoever the lass was, he had no clue.  He’d never seen her before in his life—to his great relief, given the thoughts that had been going through his head earlier!—and he was certain he’d have remembered a lady who was, despite her currently tear-ravaged features, almost blindingly fair, with a thick cascade of spun-gold curls framing a face like an angel’s, and eyes of pale celestial blue.

       Richenda drew Derry into a nearby transept, Derry's man-at-arms discreetly following them, remaining just out of earshot.  “Sean, I know it’s a huge favor to ask of you, and of course you and your men would be welcome to spend the night at the castle first before venturing back out again, but there’s a matter that has just come up on one of our manor lands which needs to be investigated quite urgently.  Alaric isn’t back from Rhemuth yet, and I’m not expecting him back in Coroth for another fortnight at the earliest. And of course I can’t leave the Princess Morag unattended, or I would look into it myself. “

       He nodded.  “Of course I’d be glad to assist as I can.  What sort of matter, though?”

        Richenda tilted her head, studying him with a slight, considering frown.  “It would be easier for me to show you, if you are willing.”  Knowing a little of what her husband’s loyal liegeman had gone through under Wencit’s hands in the dungeons of Esgair Ddu, although she didn’t know the full details of that ordeal, she swiftly added, “Though if you’d be more comfortable if I simply told you….”

       Derry glanced away from her searching eyes briefly.  His experiences as a prisoner of war had left him more than a bit leery of Deryni workings, although he trusted both Alaric Morgan and his duchess completely.  He took a deep breath, then released it.  “You can show me, my lady.”

       “Are you sure?” she asked softly.

        Blue eyes met blue.  “Yes.”

       Richenda reached out to lay a hand gently on Derry’s arm.  He closed his eyes, forcing himself to relax as the images she sent suddenly flitted through his mind.

       The young demoiselle riding towards the city gates at a gallop, two riders in distant pursuit.  She reined in at the guardhouse, casting a frantic glance behind her as she asked for directions to the Cathedral.  The guard gave them gladly upon hearing her quickly sobbed story, and waved her through.  She rode on, her pace slowed only by necessity as she made her way through the more crowded streets of Coroth until she reached her goal.  Once inside, she cast herself into the bishop’s mercy, pleading for sanctuary.  Bishop Tolliver, in turn, had sent for Duchess Richenda, who arrived shortly thereafter to hear the damsel’s story from her own lips.

        Her father, the Sieur de Chervignon, dead these five years gone, her mother dead even longer, leaving their young daughter as the ward of the Duke of Corwyn, to whom the Sieur had owed his fealty.  The Duke had accepted the child's oath of fealty with a compassionate smile, though truly she'd not been old enough yet for such a vow, and had given her and her manor lands into the keeping of her father’s steward, for the man had done good service towards the girl’s family, and the Duke had had no reason to believe he’d not continue to do so.  And so he hadn’t, but he’d lived only shortly thereafter, succumbing to a fever only three years later, passing on the responsibility for Chervignon and its young demoiselle into the hands of his eldest son, whose stewardship of Chervignon had been routinely confirmed by the Duke in the following month, as—again—the estate’s management seemed to be in order, the demoiselle herself had no complaint, and there seemed to be no reason not to confirm his direct guardianship of the young inheritrix and her manor lands.

       And so the demoiselle’s years of living hell began, as the young heiress grew more and more beautiful with each passing month, and her guardian became more and more greedy to possess lands—meager though they were—that were not his to own, and to possess the woman who could give him full rights to that land.

       The pressure had begun subtly at first, but escalated by degrees, until that terrifying night when she had awakened to find him in her bedchamber, dragging her downstairs clad only in her night-rail and a hastily donned cloak, to stand before a compliant chaplain paid well to perform his office and remain silent about the circumstances.  She’d been forced into repeating the marriage vows, though unwillingly, but as he dragged her back upstairs and his intentions became clear, she’d become too desperate to care anymore what harm might come to her, if she could at least prevent that fate, and so she’d fought and bit and clawed with all her might, desperation giving rise to unsuspected talents rising up from deep within her, until suddenly, with one abrupt outburst of power, it was all over and he lay, unmoving, still half atop her, the consummation never accomplished.


       She’d panicked, shoving at his inert, slightly smoldering body until finally she’d managed to roll his heavy bulk off her.  The pounding of footsteps up the stairs; one of his men, hearing his master’s final scream, running upstairs to see what was the matter.  He’d unlocked the bedchamber door, bursting into the room as the demoiselle, catching the startled man off guard, dashed past him, fleeing down the stairs and out of the manor towards the stables, hiding in the shadows of a loft, hardly daring to breathe, while her steward’s men searched the grounds.  At long last, as dawn was breaking over the hills and she dared not stay any longer for fear of discovery, she ventured down the ladder, quickly saddling her mare and riding off in search of help, though the men were quick to raise up the hue and cry and follow in swift pursuit, trailing her like hunters on a fox’s scent until she realized she would find no refuge in the nearest village, and so she’d changed her course, galloping for her life towards Coroth, an hour distant, in hopes of finding sanctuary there and justice from the man she’d sworn her fealty to.

       That man, it turned out, was still in distant Rhemuth.  But she’d told her story to the sympathetic bishop, the words pouring out, and he’d summoned the Duchess, who’d heard her story and then, with the demoiselle’s permission, had Seen it as well.

       “Jesú, Richenda!  Alaric will be livid when he learns of this!”  Derry himself was outraged.  “Yes, we’ll go.”

       “Thank you. “  Richenda’s eyes reflected the fire in Derry’s own.  “From the looks of things, Chervignon is seriously due for some housecleaning.  Lady Celsie will need a completely new household staff, to start with—I  wouldn’t trust any of Master Rannigan’s hired men, would you?—and then she’ll need to be trained in how to manage her own demesne.  She's a bright lass, and it appears that her father had attempted to give her some training in household management before his final illness,  and Master Rannigan the Elder had continued in that work, but Master Rannigan the Younger has deliberately kept her shut away from any knowledge of her own accounts over the past two years, seeking to control her that way.   As for the present household, I’ll leave their current disposition to your discretion, although I can assure you that Alaric will wish to question them himself and dispense due justice.”

       Derry, knowing of the Duke’s formidable abilities in that regard, could almost pity Master Rannigan’s hirelings, but having seen what he had of their treachery, he was looking forward to serving as Alaric’s proxy in this matter until the Duke of Corwyn could return to settle the matter himself.
 
       “What’s the lass’s name again?”  he asked Richenda.

       Her blue gaze softened.  “Celeste.  Lady Celeste de Chervignon, but she goes by Celsie.”  Richenda’s eyes darkened with concern.  “Go gently with her, Derry.  She’s been through so much already, and she’s barely seventeen.”

#

   They had remained in Coroth that evening and the following morning, resting men and horses and allowing the demoiselle of Chervignon some time to recover from the shock of her narrow escape.  Duchess Richenda had offered Lady Celeste the option of remaining at Coroth until such time as Derry could send word back to her that the manor de Chervignon was fully secured and that it was safe for her return.  But after a fitful night's rest, Celsie had gathered up her courage and was determined to ride out with the men, for—as she reminded Corwyn's Duchess—the manor was her inheritance, and therefore her responsibility, mismanaged though it might have been against her will in the past.  While a return to the home which had served as her prison for the past two years filled her with some trepidation, she was determined to be a good steward of the demesne entrusted to her and her father and grandfather before her by the Dukes of Corwyn.

   They rode out at mid-afternoon, after the hottest part of the day had passed, yet sufficiently early to allow for their arrival at Chervignon with enough hours of daylight left to see clearly by if they ended  up needing to quell any resistance by Rannigan's men.  To ensure that the men of Derry would be sufficient in number for the task at hand, for Sean Earl Derry had been traveling with only a small—though seasoned and well-armed—retinue, Richenda had also sent along some men of Corwyn, the latter to return to Coroth once Chervignon was secure.

   In the middle of the entourage rode the demoiselle, her golden hair now bound into a more practical braid and pinned into a coronet around her head, her tattered night-rail and travel-stained cloak replaced by a simple gown borrowed from one of the ladies of Richenda's household.  Derry spoke quietly to an aide, asking the man to take the lead for a short while, then dropped back in the formation of riders until the lady's mount had drawn alongside his.

   She was looking far more composed than she had the day before, although her face still looked a bit pale and strained.  Lady Celsie glanced at Derry as he rode beside her.
 
   “Are you all right, my lady?”  he asked her.

   She gave him a strained smile.  “Yes.  For now.”  She rode beside him in silence for a few moments, then blurted, “Do you think I'll burn for it, though?”

   Derry was startled.  “For what?  For defending yourself?  I should think not!”

   She averted her eyes, studying her horse's mane, her lips trembling.  “For killing him.  For doing so the way that I did.”  She risked a nervous glance at him.  “I didn't mean to kill him, although I'm glad he's dead!  And I certainly didn't mean to kill him that way!  I didn't even know....”  Her voice faltered as a thought belatedly occurred to her.  “Duchess Richenda did tell you...didn't she?”

   Derry glanced around to gauge if anyone else was listening to their conversation, but the other men seemed not to have noticed, or if they had, they were discreetly pretending they hadn't.

   “She did,” he said, “but it might be best if we discuss that matter more privately.”

   Celsie nodded, biting her lip worriedly as she looked away.  After another moment, she glanced back at him.

   “Do you think the bishop will grant me an annulment?”  Her blue eyes looked fearful.

   Derry was startled.  “My lady, it shouldn't be necessary!  Master Rannigan is dead.”

   She blushed, looked away from him.  “Yes, but...I wouldn't want anyone thinking I was ever married to him, in any way!”  She shuddered. 

   “Well...I suppose if it would put your mind at ease, it might be possible.  I'm really not any expert on matters ecclesiastical.  But the vows were made under duress, and Rannigan died before they were even consummated, so I can't imagine any impediment.  As far as the law is concerned, I don't think you ever really were married.”

   Relief flooded the girl's blue eyes.  “Good, then!”  Her eyes dropped.  “I know I shall have to marry someday, but not like that.”  She swallowed.  “Do you know....do you think the Duke will make me marry now?  Or will he just find another steward for me?  Or will you?”  She patted her horse's neck, smoothing its mane with nervous fingers.  “I know my duty, and I'll wed if I must, but I'd just as lief not marry a man I've not even met, or one I've not yet learned to trust, if not actually to love.”  She glanced at Derry again.  “Are you married, my lord?”

   He shook his head.  “No, my lady.”

   “Then I suppose you wouldn't know what that would be like, being forced to wed where you don't love.  Though I suppose men have a bit more of a choice in such matters, anyway.  You're quite fortunate.”  She sighed.

   Derry's heart went out to the young heiress.  “I can't speak for His Grace in that, but my guess would be that he won't force you into a marriage unwilling.  He chose a heart-match himself, even though I'm sure he must have been under some pressure to wed and sire an heir sooner than he did.  I don't think he would deny you that same choice, unless there were some reason it became truly necessary.”

   “From all I've heard about His Grace, he sounds like a just man.” 

   “He is.”

   They rode alongside each other for a short while longer, until they reached the small village that lay on the near side of the manor of Chervignon.  “You should move to the rear of the entourage now, my lady.  There'll be a handful of men who will stay with you just outside the village until I send word back that Chervignon is secure, then they'll escort you the rest of the way home.”

   She nodded.  “Thank you, My Lord.”

   Derry gave her a reassuring smile, bringing closed fist to chest in a quick salute, then urged his mount to the head of the entourage to confer with his aide before re-taking the demoiselle's demesne.

#

   Most of Rannigan's men had already deserted the manor house by the time the relief from Coroth arrived; the few stragglers who had remained—a few desperate men willing to fight to hold Chervignon despite their leader's death in hopes they could somehow secure their hold on the lady and her inheritance again—were quickly subdued and captured, for Derry, mindful of Richenda's instructions, had issued orders to capture rather than kill unless absolutely necessary.  These men, after being interrogated by Derry and his aide, were given into the custody of the Coroth men whose job it would be to escort the prisoners back to Coroth for trial.

   The sun was already low on the horizon by the time the manor was declared fully secure, the men and horses tended to, billets prepared, and the demoiselle escorted back into her demesne.  Sean Earl Derry sat in the manor's study, which doubled as the counting room,  going over the estate's account book as Lady Celsie entered the room.

   He looked up as her arrival was announced.  “Master Rannigan appears to have kept the accounts in order,  and so far the numbers seem to be adding up, but still....”  He tapped a finger thoughtfully on the table.  “My gut says he's been skimming from the income.  Would you know if these numbers are correct?”

   Celsie approached the Earl shyly, her head tilted curiously as she took the book from him.  “I'm not certain if I would; I've not been allowed inside this room for the past two years.”  She glanced down at the pages, skimming them quickly, an indignant frown growing as she continued.  “Wait....These are wrong, my lord!”  She paled.  “He's been cheating His Grace of his due.  I swear, though, I didn't know!”

   Derry nodded, unsurprised.  “Can you show me?”

   “Well....”  She flipped a few pages back.  “Here's one place.  See where the book shows a loss of income because we had a fire in one of our fields right at harvest time, and lost a fourth of the harvest?”

   “Yes?”

   “We did have a fire.  But it happened a week after the harvest, and Rannigan told me, when I noticed the smoke from my chamber window, that he was burning off what was left of the old crop detritus in order to prepare the field for next spring's planting season.  It's common practice; I thought nothing of it at the time.”

   “Ah.  So Master Rannigan probably harvested the full crop, burned the field after, but then claimed in the books that he'd lost a fourth of the harvest so he could keep the full profits from that part of the sale for himself.”  Derry nodded, looking grim.  “A good eye, my lady.  Let's see what else you can find.  I don't imagine you'd know where he might have kept a more accurate record?”

   Celsie thought for a long moment.  “There's a safebox, but he always wore the key.”  She looked up suddenly.  “He's...not still in my chamber, is he?”

   “Rannigan?  No, my lady, his body was removed before we got here.” Jesú, Derry wondered, was she picturing him still lying cold on her bed?  No wonder she looks like she's seen a ghost! “Well, no matter; we can look for it later, if it's still here.  It's likely one of his hired men took the key, though, if they knew what it opened, especially if the safebox contained other valuables.  Hopefully they'll have left the second book behind, if it contained one.  It wouldn't have been of much use for anyone else.  In the meantime, I suppose we should send someone into the village to let your ladies know it's safe for them to return home.  I imagine they all fled during the chaos two nights ago.”

   Lady Celsie looked uncertain.  “My...ladies?”

    “Yes.”  Belatedly remembering he was talking to a simple landed knight's daughter, and not the heiress of a high-ranking nobleman, he amended the question.  “I mean your maid-servants, or the housekeeper...whatever women you had to assist you in your daily tasks....”  Derry's look turned into incredulous dismay as he noticed Celsie's expression turn shadowed.  “You have such staff, do you not?”

   She shook her head, not meeting his eyes.  “No,” she whispered.  “I used to have, but...I sent them away three months ago.”

    Derry rubbed his face, suddenly feeling tired.  I am spending the night in an isolated manor with a vulnerable young virgin who has the face of an angel and the form of a succubus, and no chaperones, and she's Alaric's ward.  Sweet Jesú, Richenda, do you hate me? He sat back in his chair, staring up at Celsie.  “You sent them away?  You mean, you've been living here at Chervignon with only Master Rannigan and his hirelings for the past three months, and no staff of your own?”

   Her eyes filled with tears.  “I had no choice.  They...weren't safe anymore.”

    He regarded her quizzically, not entirely certain of her meaning.  “You mean, because they were more loyal to Rannigan?”

    “No!  My household loved me!”  The tears started to spill over, much to Derry's alarm.  “But once Old Rannigan died, his son dismissed most of the former staff and replaced them with his own.  My chambermaids, of course, refused to be dismissed,  fearing for my safety if they left me here alone with him, and I refused to dismiss them, because they were mine to hire or let go.  But one day he.... Oh, God!”  She shook her head, sobbing, unable to go on for several minutes. 

   Derry glanced up at one of his men, uncertain how to respond, wanting to comfort the girl but afraid of scaring her, given the trauma she'd endured just two nights before.  Finally, he stood, crossing the room to draw her to himself a bit uncertainly, allowing her to cry into his shoulder.  At last she recovered enough to realize what she was doing, and she stepped back, her cheeks flushed, although at least he didn't seem to have frightened her.  At least he hoped he hadn't.

   “One night Rannigan told me I couldn't ride out with my companions anymore, that I must keep to the house,” she told him, her voice almost a whisper,“ and he said I must dismiss all of my ladies except for a chambermaid and the cook, for he liked not that they were disloyal to him.  I refused him.   So he gave my tiring maid Miriel to his men, and when they were done with her, he told my household that if they stayed, the same would happen to each of them in turn.  So I sent them back to their homes.”  The blue eyes stared up at him, somehow still childlike in their innocence despite the horror they'd seen.  “Miriel killed herself after.  They said she'd damned herself, but she didn't, did she?”

    Derry shook his head, unable to reply.  In truth, he knew some priests would argue otherwise, but damned if he'd be one to parrot them and crush this lass's broken heart further.

“All right.  We'll look to hire new household staff first thing tomorrow, and then a steward.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

#

       A light supper was brought up, and the two ate the meal in near silence as Celsie pored through the false account book, occasionally pointing out discrepancies between what it claimed and what she believed the truth to be, Derry making notes for Alaric's study later.  They worked until night fell and Celsie's more frequent yawns heralded her need for rest.  Derry eventually closed the book, telling the demoiselle that they could continue their work in the morning, escorting her to the door of her bedchamber and bidding her a good night before going down to the Great Hall, where he and his men were billeted for the night.

   The early part of the night passed peacefully enough, but sometime in the wee hours of the morning, well before dawn, Derry was awakened by the sound of a loud scream.  Pausing only to grab his sword, he bounded up the stairs along with one of his men-at-arms, stopping briefly at the top landing to ascertain where the sound had come from.  He heard a muffled wail coming from the room where Lady Celsie had retired to earlier.

   He knocked on the door.  “My lady?  Are you all right?” 

   There was a long pause, during which Derry tried to decide whether to wait for a response or simply enter.  Then the door opened.  The demoiselle stood on the other side of the threshold, looking shaken, the fear in her eyes making her look much younger than her scant seventeen years. 

   “I beg pardon, my lord.  'Twas but a nightmare.”

   Derry could certainly understand that.  He'd had enough nightmares of his own, especially after Esgair Ddu.

   Every candle and lamp in the room blazed with light.  Derry glanced around at the open flames in concern.  “Lady Celsie, I know it's hard sometimes to learn how to sleep well at night after a great fright, but it's not safe to leave unguarded flames alight throughout the night.  The manor could catch fire.”

   “I...I know.  I'm sorry.  I'll put them out.”  She didn't move though, appeared unable to do more than stand there, staring up at him, petrified. 

   Derry glanced at his man-at-arms, who shrugged helplessly back.  “All right, then.  If you like, we'll sit vigil here until you've fallen back asleep.  Will that help?”

   “I don't wish to put you to any trouble, my lords.”  She regarded them both with an apologetic blush.  “I thought I'd been tied up, but when I awakened fully, I realized it was just the ties of my gown being pulled too tight by my tossing about.”

   Derry blinked sleepily at her, belatedly realizing she was still in her borrowed gown.  He frowned, wondering why she hadn't changed out of it, and then suddenly realized that, without a tiring maid, she probably couldn't.  “Turn around, my Lady.”  She did so, and as he suspected, he saw the gown's bodice was back-laced, the tied ends snarled in a tangled knot rather than lying neatly tucked into the laced opening of the outer gown.

   She glanced over her shoulder at him, her eyes wary.  He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. 

        “If I loosen the lacing, can you manage the gown by yourself?  How have you managed to dress and undress these past three months without maidservants?”

   She blushed.  “By wearing front-laced gowns.  I wasn't thinking clearly when I borrowed this one.”

        Derry glanced at his man-at-arms, who had averted his gaze, valiantly attempting to suppress a smirk at his lord's predicament.  Sweet Jesú, I didn't sign on for this when I accepted the position as Alaric's lieutenant! “Well, by your leave, let me see if I can unsnarl this mess for you, so you can have a proper sleep.” 

       She regarded him somberly, then nodded her agreement.  He worked at the knot for several minutes, finally managing to untie the rat's nest and loosen the laces enough to create a gap a hand's width wide, exposing a glimpse of snowy chemise beneath but otherwise still perfectly modest. 

        “I think you should be able to work your way free from there.  Now...the lights?”

        “Yes, my lord.”  She turned to face him, beaming her gratitude up at him.  “I'll put them out before I sleep.  Thank you, my lord.”

   He sighed.  “It's Sean.  Or Derry, if you prefer.  I think, if we're going to be working together for the next few days re-establishing your household, we can dispense with ceremony.”

   She smiled shyly.  “Thank you.  It's a nice name, Sean is.”  The long lashes fluttered downward, butterfly-like.  “Good night, Lord Derry.”

   “Good night, Lady Celsie.”

   The door closed softly.  Sean Earl Derry exchanged a wry smile with his man-at-arms, then returned to his bed to dream uneasy dreams about maidens in peril and perilous maidens.
#
   
Chapter 2: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=578.0
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 03:22:31 pm by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline Alkari

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Re: Demoiselle in Distress
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2010, 08:53:52 pm »
This is wonderful!  Only you have me wondering already - why / how is Derry NOT happily married to this gorgeous young lady by the time of KKB?  :(


Offline Evie

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Re: Demoiselle in Distress
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2010, 09:27:44 pm »
LOL!  Um...commitment shy?   ;)

Trust me, you'll see Celsie again, often gazing wistfully at poor uncomfortable Derry from afar.  Or not so afar, really, given that she's Alaric's ward, and now that he and Richenda know she's Deryni--and untrained at that--I'm sure they'll be seeing to her education as soon as they get her household under proper stewardship.

You know, the whole "she's a Deryni" thing could be one reason Derry might hold back.  He's not fully over his fear of Deryni powers until after Azim does a more complete mind-sifting of the damage Wencit did in Derry's mind, and that won't happen until KKB.  Maybe after that, he'd be more open to the idea of a relationship with a sweet young Deryni lass who's besotted by him?
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline kirienne

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Re: Demoiselle in Distress
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2010, 09:37:31 pm »
My goodness what a prediciment poor Derry is in. This is a marvelous tale and I look forward to reading more. :-)

Offline Evie

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Re: Demoiselle in Distress
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2010, 10:16:21 pm »


Here's Celsie, or as close as Morphthing will let me get, anyway.   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Demoiselle in Distress
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2010, 11:14:45 am »
Loving this, as ever, Evie.  Poor Derry, you weren't kidding when you said you were torturing him, were you?

And he does get some interesting jobs in Alaric's service, but then he can't say Alaric didn't warn him.

Offline Evie

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Re: Demoiselle in Distress
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2010, 11:47:50 am »
Loving this, as ever, Evie.  Poor Derry, you weren't kidding when you said you were torturing him, were you?

And he does get some interesting jobs in Alaric's service, but then he can't say Alaric didn't warn him.

Oh, I'm doing my best to torture Derry.  It must be the Wencit in me.   ;)  There's more in store for him too; I woke up this morning imagining another scene in this continuing story.... 
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

 


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