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Author Topic: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 7  (Read 2893 times)

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Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 7
« on: July 08, 2010, 08:58:15 am »
Previous chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=513.msg2050#msg2050

Chapter 7.

“Look!”  Brendan pointed excitedly.   He pulled William across to a window in one of the shops and pressed his nose up against it.   “Look at the soldiers.  Mama, come and look!”

Richenda smiled.  At first Brendan had been a little overwhelmed by all the crowds and bustle in Rhemuth streets, so much busier even in winter than market day in the old town of Marbury.   But now, fortified by some sweetmeats they had bought as a treat, he was enthusiastically joining in their shopping, exclaiming over stalls and shop windows that displayed everything from bolts of brightly coloured cloth to jewellery and clothing, boots and saddles, candles and iron pots.

Now he was staring at woodcarver Master Tomson’s premises, its doorway and window gaily decorated with sprays of holly and ivy.   At the back of the display were beautifully turned bowls and platters, along with numerous spoons and small carved boxes.  At the front was a collection of children’s toys – various cleverly carved animals, as well as a dozen sturdier figures of mounted knights.  All the knights rode brown horses, but each figure had different coloured armour.

Murdo raised an eyebrow.  “I think we can take a look inside, don’t you?” and the five of them were soon inside the sweet-smelling shop where the owner was only too pleased to show them his wares.

“Well, seeing your Uncle William is now a knight,” said Richard FitzEwan cheerfully, “would you like one of these to take home?  Look – here’s a nice blue one, like your tunic?  Or that one, in blue with a yellow helmet?”

Brendan examined the figures carefully.  “No, not a blue one.  I like that one.”  He pointed.

“The black one?”  Master Tomson sounded puzzled.  

“Yes, the black one.”

Please, dear” corrected Richenda firmly.  

“The black one – please.”

“Why do you want the black one, Brendan?”  asked Murdo.  “Marley colours are blue and gold.   Or what about a bright red one, like the King?”  He pointed to another figure.  “The King wears red like that – you saw him the other day in his red tunic.”

He’s not a king.  He doesn’t have a crown.  Proper kings wear crowns.”  Brendan looked scornfully at his uncle, and Richenda suppressed a smile at this example of four year-old logic.   You asked him what he wanted, so just get the black one!  Please - it will really be much easier, she sent to her family.

“Well, not many knights wear black, young sir” said Tomson, obviously not understanding the fixations of small boys.  “They usually have nice bright colours on their tunics and shield.  I only painted that one because I had black paint left over from one of those dogs.”  He pointed to several toy animals.

He does.  You know, the nice one who spoke to us.  He wore black.  With red sleeves.  He had special rings.  With a lion and a green - a – giffon.”      

“A gryphon, dear,” Richenda corrected, matter-of-factly.

“Yes.  It was a gryphon.   A very special gryphon,” agreed Brendan.

The FitzEwans exchanged glances, while Tomson looked slightly worried.

“Pardon, my lady, my lords, but, “ he swallowed nervously, “a black knight.  And – er, a green gryphon?   That sounds like - you know - Morgan – the Duke of Corwyn.  The – the Deryni.   But your lovely little boy couldn’t possibly know him, could he?”

Richenda put on her most innocent smile.  “I’m afraid he does, Master Tomson.  We met His Grace very briefly the other day in the castle. The Duke was very kind and talked to my son for a little while.  As the King’s Champion, his shirt that day had red sleeves.”  

The owner’s expression indicated that Brendan may have been conversing with the Devil himself, or at least the Devil’s first cousin, but Richenda ignored it and turned to her father.  “Well Father, it hasn’t got red sleeves, but it seems Brendan wants the black one.  It’s rather a handsome knight, isn’t it, darling?” she said to Brendan, who nodded fervently.

Richard FitzEwan shrugged and indicated that yes, they’d take the black knight.   The owner dusted it carefully, then wrapped it in a length of coarse calico before settling the purchase.  Satisfied that they were wrapping the right toy, Brendan wandered over to the display of animals.  Sensing another possible sale, Tomson handed the parcel to Richard, and crossed to where Brendan was now staring intently at the array of wooden lions, horses, dogs, cats, deer and boars.    “Perhaps the young master would like a toy animal too?” he suggested.  “What about this lovely dog – a mastiff, for guarding the knight’s castle.”

Richenda knew exactly where this was going.  “Thank you very much, Master Tomson, but I think your beautiful knight is more than enough for today,” she said politely, taking Brendan’s hand and marching him out the door.  With all the street noise, she sincerely hoped that Brendan’s parting remark had not been audible: “But Mama, he didn’t have a gryphon!”

The rest of the day passed pleasantly.  They ate an excellent midday meal at the inn, after which the four of them settled back upstairs to talk while Brendan had a short nap.  Richenda herself had made several purchases while shopping, so one of the inn’s servants was commissioned to deliver them to the castle during the afternoon.  When Brendan woke, Murdo called for their horses, and they rode out the south gate of the city and turned west then north along the river banks, Brendan happily chattering away to his grandfather and uncles, all of whom took turns in carrying him.  They re-entered Rhemuth by the north gate, and made their way to the castle before the winter dusk closed in.  

As one of the castle grooms came to take her horse, Richenda hugged her father and Murdo a little tearfully.  They would be leaving Rhemuth tomorrow or the next day, depending on the weather, and it was likely to be months before she saw them again.   William would be staying on at Lord Burchard’s request, though Richenda was secretly thankful that he’d be quartered at a nearby manor owned by Lady Maire, rather than in Rhemuth Castle.    Brendan clutched his toy knight firmly as he said good-bye, and they watched the three riders clatter out past the gatehouse before turning towards the warmth of the castle.

Fortunately Joan chose to admire the new toy rather than worry about the colour.  As Joan bathed Brendan, Richenda helped him make up stories about Sir Knight’s brave adventures, and later watched as he was made to gallop his horse around the table during supper.  Brendan was already half asleep as she tucked him in and kissed him good-night before making her way to the great hall.  Sir Knight had been carefully left on guard under the pillow.
*     *     *

It was nearly an hour after dinner that a page wearing Cassan’s livery came to escort her to Duncan’s apartments.  She had told Joan and her other maid Lily that no-one need wait up for her – she had a lot to discuss with Father Duncan, and would get ready for bed herself.  Joan tut-tutted about managing laces and putting on nightgowns, until Richenda pointed out that the gown she was wearing was front-laced and she could easily manage it herself.   But yes, she’d wake Joan or Lily if she needed help.   I’m quite sure Alaric would assist me - but then we’d never get to the nightgown …   She remembered the way he’d kissed her two nights ago and hastily shuttered those thoughts away.  

Duncan ushered her through the main dayroom of his quarters and into a smaller study, where several comfortable chairs were drawn up near the fire.   Alaric was already there; he rose and kissed her cheek gently as Duncan took her cloak and drew up the centre chair for her.  

“Do I need to chaperone you two tonight?” Duncan grinned, handing her a goblet of wine and topping up his own and Alaric’s.

“Not right now,” said Alaric, sinking back into his own seat and stretching his legs towards the fire.  “I can’t answer for later, though.”  He winked at her, and Duncan rolled his eyes.

“As your priest, I should be shocked and admonish you,” agreed Duncan, taking the remaining chair.  “But as your cousin …”

“You will agree that the Lady Richenda is the loveliest woman in the eleven kingdoms, and that I will only be doing my duty if I escort her back to her apartments later.  Who knows what terrible dangers might be lurking in the corridors of Rhemuth Castle to attack her.”

“Some might say that Alaric Morgan himself is one of those dangers,” she said solemnly, sipping her wine and sending him a gentle mind caress.  “And that he can bewitch women with but a single look.”

“Hmmm.  What about the poor man who finds himself helplessly entranced by a beautiful Deryni witch with red hair?”

Duncan snorted.  “You two should start writing love poetry, only they’ll probably have to put warnings on the covers.”

“I hardly think I could compete with Mirro’s Dream Songs of a Lonely Knight,” said Alaric, leaning back and saluting her lazily with his goblet.  She noticed he’d loosened his shirt lacing at the top: he looked very relaxed and comfortable.  

“I thought you’d be thinking more of Troyes’ Heavenly Courts of Love,” she replied innocently, and Duncan nearly choked on his wine.  

Alaric grinned.  “There’s a copy of that in the royal library too, you know.  Carefully hidden away from innocent young eyes, I might add.”

“Which is why you probably found it at age fourteen,” retorted Duncan.

“Twelve.  I had a very broad and scholarly education here at court, as befits a royal squire.  Though I think I have a new appreciation for the poetry now.”   His eyes caressed her.  “And how old were you when you read it, oh lovely witch?”

“My teachers in Andelon believed that young ladies at court should be properly educated in many different aspects of life,” she said demurely.  

“That didn’t answer my question.  Were you an excellent scholar?”

Scholar.   She remembered the books and scrolls in her aunt’s library, the lazy days spent reading in shady courtyards, the debates with her teachers, the stimulating discussions, the delight of finding new ideas, of researching little pieces of knowledge …   It was a world away, an all but forgotten dream.

“Alaric.”  He looked surprised at the sudden change in her tone.  “Alaric – Father Duncan – do you think it would be possible for me to use the royal library here in Rhemuth?  Would His Majesty allow me to read there, maybe borrow some books?”

Allow you?”  Alaric sat up, sounding astonished.  “Of course Kelson would allow you.  He’d be quite delighted, in fact.   Brion put a lot of work into the library you know – he may not have always been the complete scholar himself, but he believed in knowledge as such, and collected a wide range of books and scrolls.  He was determined that the library here would become known for its collection.  Of course you can use the library.”  

“You sound as though you enjoy reading,” said Duncan gently.  

“I do – I always enjoyed it.  But – well, there wasn’t much of a library in Marley, and many of the volumes were concerned with military matters and hunting, things like that.”   Not that Bran ever wanted me to read much, she thought.

“I don’t imagine Bran Coris would have appreciated a scholarly wife.”  Alaric echoed her thoughts with uncanny accuracy.

She considered how to reply.  “We - had different areas of interest, Alaric,” she said, “and of course, with all the estate matters when he was away, and looking after Brendan and such – well, there wasn’t much time, I suppose.”

The two men regarded her thoughtfully.   “We’ll have a word to Master Donagal in the morning,” said Duncan.  “There is a large general section in the library, but also a smaller one where certain books are hidden away – mostly to do with the Deryni or with magic.  Brion decided that it was too dangerous to have them on the open shelves, so he put them in an alcove down one end, which can only be accessed by those on a list approved by the King.”

“Or Nigel or me,” added Alaric.  “And even some of those are hidden behind charms – Nigel really doesn’t know half of what’s there, because some are disguised and some are hidden in a cupboard that can only be opened by a Deryni or Haldane spell.   Brion wasn’t that interested in them, so I put many of the protections on.  We can show you those, though.  And you’ll pick up the ones under charms.   Just be aware of them.”

“Thank you,” she murmured.  “But will you please tell Master Donagal that – I do not require, er, ‘translating’?”

Both men roared with laughter.  “I’ll let him know that his amorous exploits will be permanently and painfully impaired if he so much as looks at you the wrong way,” Alaric said.  “Besides, I imagine that a Deryni witch has certain defences of her own?”

She smiled.  “Perhaps.  Do I need them against the Duke of Claiborne?’

“Ewan?”  Alaric looked surprised at this change of direction.  “Why – what’s the matter?  Has he said anything to you?”

“No, no,” she hastened to assure them.  “It’s just that – when I was introduced to him before dinner, he looked at me rather – well - as though he was assessing a mare or prize cow.”

Duncan sighed.  “Ewan’s – well, Ewan.  He’s an old Highlander, and he speaks his mind, often very bluntly.  There’s little polite court chat with Ewan, but sometimes he’s got the knack of cutting through to the heart of things.”  

“It’s one of the things we wanted to warn you about,” said Alaric, becoming serious.  “Ewan will be at the Council meeting, and he is quite likely to say something about you being married off again, or something like that.  He doesn’t mean to be offensive, but he’s a tough old warrior and he will see your situation now as a political matter that can be resolved by, if you will excuse me for saying it like this, a suitable ‘wedding and bedding’”.  

“Just like that?”   She stared at him.

“Yes.  Ewan will see things very simply.  He doesn’t like regency councils, and he’s nervous enough about Cassan and Kierney with Duncan as duke, and no direct heir likely.   The men of Marley have been branded as traitors, so for that earldom to be governed by a Dowager Countess and a regency council for her young son over the next ten years … well, he’s likely to view that as potential trouble.  With Kelson insisting that Marley passes to Brendan in future, Ewan is more than likely to suggest that you be married off at the first opportunity, so your husband can administer Marley, with Brendan fostered to some suitable household as soon as possible.”

Richenda swallowed.  “Does he really think that?”

 He reached out and took her hand.  “Dearest, whatever Ewan says, there is no danger of the Council agreeing with him on this.  Besides, it’s Kelson who has the final say, and you know Kelson’s feelings.   Ewan may not say anything to your face – he may wait until you have left the meeting.   But we wanted to warn you, just in case, so you could be prepared.  “

“Thank you.  I think.”  She smiled ruefully.

 “And there’s one other thing,” said Duncan quietly.  “Richenda, we probably shouldn’t be telling you this, although you may already know.”  He and Alaric exchanged looks.  “Denis Arilan … what do you know about him?”

She studied them both, but they were unreadable.  “I know what most other people know – he is Gwynnedd’s youngest bishop, he’s clever and rose through the ranks quickly, he and my uncle were responsible for leading the breakaway bishops and reinstating both of you, and they led the loyal bishops to assist the King last summer.”

“And?”  

“I suspect that he may be Deryni.  I may be wrong of course – but if he were, a lot of things would make sense.”

‘Such as?”

She frowned: when had she first had those suspicions?  Nothing definite – nothing until …

“The night before the battle.  When Derry came and took Brendan.”  She took a deep breath.  “The transfer portal – I was too upset to think about it at the time.  How did that get constructed, out there on the eve of battle?   I think I remember hearing Arilan say something about it – about closing it – and you went over to him, Alaric, but … that’s all I remember then.  I was so worried about Brendan, and – how I’d tried to get him back. “  She paused to look at Duncan.  “But next morning, it was Bishop Arilan who rode with the three of you, not my uncle.  If you’d just wanted church protection, surely you would have taken my uncle?

“And then there were the white riders.”  She looked from one to the other.  “I’ve never seen any members of the Camberian Council officially, but I know of the Council.  They are supposed to arbitrate formal duels.  And those riders – humans would not have seen exactly what they were doing, but I saw.  And I know what was involved.  Wencit would not have brought the Council there, and I very much doubt that the Council regard you two, as half-breeds, as worthy of their attention.  But if Dennis Arilan was Deryni …”  She paused.   “Am I right?”

“I think your studies in logic must have been exemplary, Richenda,” said Duncan, sitting back and grinning at Alaric.   “Does Arilan have any reason to know or suspect you are Deryni?”

“No.  Apart from my family, only you two and the King know.  Even Uncle Cardiel doesn’t.”  

“Good.  Then let’s keep it that way, at least for a while,” said Alaric firmly.  “But whatever you do, don’t use your powers tomorrow in any way or try to mind-speak to us, even if someone says anything awkward.   I don’t know what he can or can’t detect, but don’t give him any reason to suspect you or try to read you.”

She smiled serenely.  “Oh, I think I have enough training to cope with Denis Arilan,” she said softly.  “At least as far as that goes.  But thank you for the warning.  Is he likely to try and Truth–read me?”

”Doubt it.  He’ll assume Kelson would do that if it’s necessary, or possibly Duncan or me.  And frankly, I think any questions will be routine, and nothing you can't answer very easily.”    

“So – one secret Deryni bishop, one highland duke who’d like to see me married off safely for political reasons – anything else I should know about the Council tomorrow?”  

“Hmmmm – well, I suppose I could start telling you deep dark secrets about my wicked cousin here,” Duncan mused.  “Although you will probably have much more fun finding them out for yourself!”

“Does that mean I don’t get chaperoned back to my apartments?”

“Escorted yes.  Chaperoned, no.”  Alaric’s grin held the promise of certain unavoidable delays on their return journey.  He rose and took her hand, drawing her to her feet.  “My lady, it is getting late and it may take me a while to fight off those dangers in the corridors.  Perhaps we should start without delay.”

Duncan laughed, kissed her cheek and wrapped her cloak around her.  “Good night, Richenda.  Sleep well, even if it takes you a while to reach your bed!”

Alaric cuffed him, shrugged into his own black cloak and ushered her out the door.

_____________

Next chapter:    http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=515.0


« Last Edit: September 03, 2011, 01:15:53 am by Alkari »

Offline Evie

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 7
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2010, 09:31:21 am »
Well, now, wasn't that a chapter chock full of goodies?  I think Alaric should tell Master Donagal that, if Richenda should require any 'translating,' Alaric will be all too happy to turn scholar and do the job himself.   :D

I enjoyed the whole thing, but especially the dialogue between Alaric / Duncan / Richenda (because, you know, you can't possibly write too much Duncan into a story for me!  ;) ), and hearing Richenda's reasoning behind suspecting Denis Arilan is Deryni.
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Offline kirienne

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 7
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2010, 10:46:04 pm »
I love little Brendan's choice in toy knights. He certainly is warming up to the Black Knight who will soon be his step-papa. I loved the scene in Duncan's study too, and alll the fun dialogue.

 


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