Author Topic: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 3  (Read 3289 times)

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Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 3
« on: June 28, 2010, 06:31:17 am »
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Chapter 3.

He slipped inside like a shadow of night given substance:  she closed the door softly behind him and watched as he tossed his black cloak carelessly onto a nearby table.   For just an instant Richenda paused, noticing how the firelight behind him turned his hair to molten gold, and then she was across the room and into his arms.

“Alaric! Oh, Alaric!”

She knew he murmured her name, but after that, all coherent thought disappeared.  She was kissing him as she’d never even dreamt she could kiss a man; their minds were linked in a whirling, seething, confused jumble of emotions and sensations.  At last, somehow, they managed to break apart, shaken and gasping.  

“Richenda  … I … Dear God, I’ve wanted … “. His voice rasped, and he took several deep breaths, pushing her away slightly to stand with his hands on her shoulders.   She reached up to stroke his cheek, putting a finger to his lips when he would have spoken further.  

“Just hold me please, Alaric.”  She moved into his arms again, burying her face against his chest and letting herself relax against the soft wool of his tunic.   She tried to still her mind as she’d been taught, tried to quieten her feelings and the images of the last six months which insisted on intruding.  She felt him loosen her hair and start playing with it gently.  It was very soothing, yet her whole body tingled …

Abruptly he released her, stepping back to shake his head as though to clear it.  He crossed to the fireplace and leant against the mantel, staring into the fire.  “If I’d held you in my arms any longer just now, my love,” he said unsteadily, “I wouldn’t be leaving here tonight.  I think we both know that.”  

“Yes.  And I wouldn’t have wanted you to go.   But we also both know that Alaric Morgan is a man of honour.  And that I have my own honour.  So we'll each sleep in our own bed – but at least we will have our dreams.”   She smiled.

“As I have been dreaming every night for the last six months.”

“Five months and twenty seven days since I saw you last.”

“I tried not to count.   Some of those dreams weren’t particularly - restful.”

Richenda tossed back her hair, and moved across to a small side table where she poured two small glasses of wine.  She handed one to Alaric.  “Thank you for the wine.  A royal page delivered it with your note this evening, just before supper.”

“I didn’t use my personal seal, so he’s probably wondering about your secret admirer.”  Alaric’s eyes danced.

“Mmmm – maybe he’s one of those wicked Deryni,” she agreed, sinking into one of the chairs in front of the fire.  “Perhaps I’ll succumb to his charms.”

“I hope so.”  More composed now, Alaric added two logs to the fire and took the chair beside her.   They sipped their wine in silence for a few minutes.

“Richenda, how’s Brendan?  He seemed all right today, but I keep thinking of him – wondering how he’s coping.   You haven’t said very much in your letters.  When I carried him back to you after the battle, he looked so lost and bewildered.   I – I just wished I could grab you too and keep on riding, taking you both a long way away.”

Richenda stared into the flames.  “Telling Brendan what happened was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, Alaric.  I still don’t understand why Bran did what he did myself – so how do I explain it to his son?   I told him his father was dead, but how much does a four year old truly understand about death?  He asked whether his Papa had died bravely in battle with his sword – how could I answer that?  And then he’d ask things like ‘who killed him?’ and ‘why?’  And even whether he was in heaven now.”

“What have you told him?”  Alaric reached out to take her hand.

“The truth – as far as I can.   There’s no point in hiding it, and he’ll hear it from someone or other anyway.  So it was better for me to tell him.”   He squeezed her hand and she continued.  “I told him that his father had broken his promise to the King, had joined one of the king’s enemies, and had helped kill many of the king’s soldiers.   And then there was a special sort of battle where his Papa and some of the enemies had fought against the king, and the king and his men won the battle.    I hope so far he thinks it was a normal duel, though I fear he’s heard people refer to magic.   Little boys sometimes hear things they shouldn’t, especially servants’ gossip.   At first he seemed to accept this, but when we got back to Marley, he spent about a week asking if his Papa was ever coming home.  And we had to go through it all again.”  Her voice shook slightly.


“At first.  Not so many lately.  I’ve checked him a few times when he’s asleep, but I don’t want to touch his memories.  He needs to deal with this himself in his own way, so I’m hoping that with time and love, he’ll settle down like any other child.  Joan says that her youngest had a vivid imagination and for a time he’d wake up every other night with some sort of bad dream.  He grew out of it.”

“I’m glad you brought him with you then.”

“I couldn’t have left him, Alaric, even with Joan and the others he knows.  It wouldn’t matter how much they reassured him - he’d be terrified that I’d died too and he’d been left alone.”  She turned to look at him.   “I don’t think he really connects your name with what happened, and I hope it’s a while before he hears any of that.  We’ll just have to explain when the time comes.  And hope he’ll be able to understand that - that you had to do what you did.”

He reached across to brush back a strand of her hair.   “I was just his age when my mother died. I remember going to see her in her coffin, and – and I left her my toy cat.   So she’d have company.   And two feathers I’d found.  So she could have wings like the angels.  I think my father hardly let me out of his sight for a week or so.  I remember sleeping in his bed with him, and being carried all the way to Rhemuth wrapped up in his cloak.  Looking back – I was old enough to understand some things, but too young for others.”

No wonder he understands Brendan, she thought.  There’s so much about each other we don’t know yet.   “Brendan loved your magic gryphon this morning,” she said.  “He asked me about it at bedtime, whispering so Joan wouldn’t hear.  He feels very important having a special secret like that.  Though you’d better be prepared for more questions as he can be very persistent.”

“I hope your family weren’t too startled?”

She laughed. “They were surprised to meet you anyway.  I don’t think they believed you would dare do that so openly.  At home, we were always so careful.”

“I used to have fun doing things like that when I was a young squire.  Sometimes standing at court for long periods got rather boring, so I used to play tricks.  Only when standing next to my good friends though!”  He grinned.  “One day I turned the dancing horse of the Mallorys upside down and made it kick its legs as though stuck.  Cuthbert Mallory hated me, but he couldn’t do anything about it – if he reported what he thought he’d seen, they’d think he’d been at the wine again.  He’d had a good beating the previous week because he’d been sipping the leftovers and got quite drunk.   And no one would ever believe I would dare to do something like that in front of King Brion and Duke Richard!”

“Of course not.  Life here at court must have been rather – interesting – when you were a squire.   How old were you when you came here?”

“Nine.  I came as a page just after my birthday, only two weeks after my father died.  I’d been a page at Duke Jared’s court before then, along with Duncan.”

She’d almost forgotten that Duke Jared MacLain had been Alaric’s uncle as well as Duncan’s father.  “Did you grow up in Cassan?” she asked softly.

“Yes, in a way. My mother died after giving birth to Bronwyn, and my father was away much of the time on Brion’s business.  There was a regency council in Corwyn, and as Jared and his wife were our next of kin, the two of us were mainly raised in his household.   Duncan and I are distant paternal cousins, but Duncan’s mother Vera was also my mother’s sister, though most people never knew that."  He smiled ruefully.  “The MacLain family is a little complicated.   Jared’s first wife was Elaine, who was Kevin’s mother.  She died in childbirth, and a few years later Jared married my aunt Vera.  So the four of us grew up together – Kevin the eldest by around four years, then Duncan and me who are almost the same age, and then Bronwyn, four years younger.  We also spent a lot of time in Culdi.  It was fun.  When my father died, Jared became our legal guardian.”

His next words were almost inaudible.  “And now they’re all dead – except Duncan and me.”  

She reached out to brush his mind in comfort, but his shields were suddenly rigid and he was staring through the fire, a lost and distant look on his face.  She waited, but still he didn’t speak.

“Alaric, what really happened?” she asked gently.  “I heard they died – an accident, they said.”

He rose to his feet and paced to and fro in front of the fire.  His words came out in broken, bitter phrases – Bronwyn and Kevin growing up together and being in love, planning their wedding - the architect Rimmell who fell in love with Bronwyn – the old woman’s jerraman love charm that backfired – the two deaths.  Bronwyn herself - beautiful and loved – the Deryni powers which she had used only occasionally, being content to marry a human and let her brother follow those other paths …

And then he came and sank to the floor beside her, leaning against her as if for comfort, head on her knee.   She caressed him slowly as he told the other part of the story, the bit she already knew from her uncle Cardiel but had never heard from Alaric himself – the bishops and the threatened Interdict in Corwyn – Duncan and Alaric trying to reach Dhassa to plead with the bishops – the affair at St Torin’s – Warin and Gorony wanting to burn Alaric alive and Duncan’s wild rescue – the dreadful merasha-muddled ride back to Culdi, only to find they’d come for a funeral and not a wedding – excommunication for them both – the split in the curia –  eventual reconciliation with the Church and recapture of Coroth Castle …

“And then in Dhassa we got the news of Bran and Rengarth Plain.  You know what happened after that.”

It was a long time before either of them spoke again.  She discovered he’d lowered his shields slightly, and tried a tentative touch of comfort.  He sighed, letting her feel the edges of his grief.  

“Duncan looks exhausted, Alaric.”    

It brought him out of himself, as she hoped it would.  “You noticed that?”  

“Yes.  Not so much at court today, but when he showed me the chapel.  We talked for a while.”

“We never thought he’d be the duke.  I mean, Jared was getting older of course, but he was in good health, and then there was Kevin.  The duchy was supposed to pass to Kevin and Bronwyn’s children.   Now Duncan’s the duke – and the same thing’s happened to dozens of other families.   I don’t know how many under-age children have inherited titles …   Duncan’s been trying to put the pieces back together these last few months and sort out some way he can administer things through a council.   He’s only come to Rhemuth for a week or so because he wants to see what happens at the Synod next week – and because of the three young men who were knighted.  He wanted to be there for them.”

“Maybe it will do him good to be away from things for a while and be with you and the King here in Rhemuth.  Is he going to return as the King’s confessor?”

“He wants to.  And depending on who they put in as Bishop of Rhemuth, Kelson will certainly need Duncan back as soon as possible.”

“You know, I’m sure my uncle Thomas would prefer life in Rhemuth to Dhassa.  And although he would never admit it, I believe he is rather fascinated by what he’s learnt of the Deryni.  It’s been an enlightening summer for him.”

Alaric chuckled.  “You mean he enjoyed being nearly drowned when we snuck into Coroth?  How would I have explained that to Arilan and the others?  ‘Sorry Your Excellencies, afraid I’ve lost one bishop. It was very careless of me – mea culpa - send me one who can swim next time.’ ”    Richenda had begun to laugh.   “Well, maybe His Majesty might have to give the synod a little nudge in the right direction before it meets.  Cardiel would be ideal, but there are a couple of others who’d be acceptable.”

“Yes.  With the King himself part Deryni and two Deryni dukes, one of them a priest, it’s rather going to force them to examine the Deryni question, isn’t it.”

Morgan sighed, then reluctantly climbed to his feet and collected his cloak.  “That, my darling, is a question for another day.  And if I am to make early Mass this morning, I think I should get some sleep. And so should you.  Duncan expects me to sleep in, so I shall take great delight in appearing.”

“Suitably penitent of course.”  She rose too, smiling and coming to kiss him.

“Penitent?  What exactly for?”  

“Oh, for coming here to talk to me at this hour.  And probably this ...  and this ... and this.   And maybe this.”

“Mmmm – I don’t regret any of that.”  

“Neither do I.”

He moved to the door, then paused.  “Don’t forget the wine glasses.”

“The …? Oh.”

He grinned.  “Receiving a bottle of wine from an unknown admirer is one thing.  But your maid might start to wonder if she found two used glasses in the morning.”

“I’ll deal with the evidence.  Now go, Alaric – before both of us have cause to be more than merely penitent!”

He blew her a final kiss, and vanished as silently as he’d arrived.  


Next chapter:
« Last Edit: September 02, 2011, 10:20:49 pm by Alkari »

Offline Evie

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 3
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2010, 08:59:55 am »
Poor Alaric!  Yeah, when you lay out the whole first trilogy in the Reader's Digest Condensed Version like that, he has been through quite a lot lately, hasn't he?   :(

And yes, do clean up the evidence!  I can just hear the conversation the next morning....

"My Lady, two wineglasses?"

"Erm...yes...I was quite thirsty...." *blush*

"Oh, really?  In that case, what's this short golden hair doing on the edge of your chair?"

"Uh....All right, I'll admit it!  Alaric Morgan came by for a little while last night.  But really, nothing happened."

"Umhmm.   One of the most eligible bachelors in the Eleven Kingdoms--despite his highly wicked reputation--came by very late at night, while you were unchaperoned, and you two just...talked?"

"That's right."

"Riiiiiiiiight.  So, early Mass it is, then.  I'm sure you'll have a lot to confess."

Yeah, that second wine glass really needs to go!   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline AnnieUK

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 3
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2010, 04:16:21 pm »
LOL @ send me one who can swim!

So then managed to behave themselves then.  Only another 4 months to get through till they are legal!

Offline kirienne

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 3
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2010, 08:23:01 pm »
This one made me smile lots and made me very happy for Alaric (well for Richenda too, but he is after-all my favorite character so I have more sympathy for His Grace.)
Can't wait to see the look on Duncan's face when his cousin comes to early mass looking rested.


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