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Author Topic: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9  (Read 4117 times)

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Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« on: July 14, 2010, 07:37:56 am »
Previous chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=515.msg2123#msg2123

Chapter 9.

Lily announced Meraude’s arrival just as Richenda had finished brushing Brendan’s hair.  She was surprised by the Duchess’s visit, and even more surprised when the reason was made known: an invitation for Brendan to attend lessons in the palace schoolroom, where Payne and children of a few highly favoured families were educated.  Meraude even apologised for not having invited him sooner.

Educate Brendan in the palace!  Richenda swallowed, remembering how she’d worried about protecting her little Deryni son as he grew up.  “Your Highness, that is very generous of you, and I accept most gratefully.  Brendan will enjoy the company, if not always the lessons.”  

Meraude laughed.  “Oh, we make sure they don’t spend all their time with books.  The boys do basic arms training and have riding lessons, so he’ll be outside for some time each day when the weather permits.  And you needn’t worry about ponies – there are several patient animals in the stables which have taught many a child to ride.”

Ten minutes later the three of them, accompanied by Joan, had made their way to the schoolroom, and Brendan was soon happily sharing a table with a boy of around his own age, Robert Sinclair.  After a short discussion with the tutor, Master Tremayne, Richenda left the room feeling an unaccustomed sense of freedom.  She’d anticipated spending much of her time in Rhemuth attending to Brendan’s education.

“Now,” said Meraude as the schoolroom door closed behind them, “were you going down to the solar?”

“Actually, your highness, I was thinking of going to the library.  Father MacLain was kind enough to arrange access for me, and I am looking forward to finding something interesting to read.”

“Then we are headed to the same place.  I want to check up on one or two of our newer knights, who seem to be rather interested in one of my young charges.  I think they are both from suitable families, but a little careful checking never goes astray. So,” she chuckled, “I shall consult the famous ‘stud book’ of Gwynnedd!”

Richenda offered to assist.  The two women were soon settled at a table near the single small fire, with Master Donagal casting a wary glance at Richenda as he deposited the necessary volumes in front of them.

“What have you done to Master Donagal?” whispered Meraude.  “The poor man looks as though you might bite him.”

“Oh dear!”  Richenda waited until the librarian was safely out of earshot and briefly explained about ‘translations’, carefully avoiding any mention of Alaric’s name.  Meraude stifled her laughter.

“I know the woman concerned.  Her husband is twenty years older, and is more interested in his dogs and horses than her.  I think she hopes to prod him into jealous interest by her behaviour, but,” Meraude’s eyes twinkled wickedly and she kept her voice low, “I’m reliably informed that neither of his swords is working well enough for that to be successful!”

Richenda snorted, and suddenly found she and Meraude were giggling like schoolgirls.  The discussion of the stud book proceeded happily, with Meraude eventually satisfied that both of the ‘young stallions’ might at least be permitted to look over the fence, as it were.   Richenda herself borrowed two books, though the titles caused Meraude some surprise.

“Basic heraldry?” she inquired as they left the library.  “And ‘The Duchies and Earldoms of Gwynnedd’? “

“Brendan was interested in the banners in the great hall,” explained Richenda, “so I wanted a book that we could read together at night.  It’s a little too advanced, but we can start on the basics together.    And last night I sat next to the Duke of Corwyn at dinner.  We talked about Lendour – I’d forgotten it was one of his titles, and I really don’t know anything about the area or its history.”

“Indeed. Well, I rather think you had the better of the conversation at dinner, sitting between Bishop Cardiel and Alaric Morgan,” said Meraude dryly.  “Ewan MacEwan is a fine old warrior, whom I’ve known since I first came to court, but his conversation at dinner can be a little – limited – at times.  Though Denis Arilan is always interesting, and he was on my other side.”   She looked sideways at Richenda.  “You’re not afraid to sit next to our Deryni duke?”

“No.  I’ve met him several times since coming to court, and find him courteous and excellent company.  I think my uncle enjoyed talking to him as well last night.  I doubt he’s about to demonstrate magic while we’re eating roast beef.”

Meraude nodded, but said nothing more until they stopped on reaching the junction of two corridors where their ways parted.  “Alaric Morgan is good company,” she said quietly.  “Most people never get past their fear of the Deryni bit to discover that.  I think he probably enjoyed your conversation too.”

“Thank you,” Richenda smiled, wondering just how much Meraude had sensed or suspected. But the duchess gave no sign of anything, so Richenda took her leave and promised to join the other ladies later.

The rest of the day passed pleasantly.  At the midday meal, Duke Ewan announced that there would be a hunt the day after tomorrow, as a number of deer were finding their way nearer the city.  This produced a flurry of excitement in the great hall and some animated discussion later amongst the ladies.   Most of them would be riding at the hunt: after much pleading, Meraude determined that both young girls could attend, but warned Lady Meaghan Jarrett very sternly about unseemly behaviour and the fact that she should not be seen riding alone with young Sir Edwin Norbury.    Richenda hid a smile: from what she’d already observed, chaperoning this particular young lady was likely to prove a challenging task.

“I might be able to assist you, if you would like,” she offered quietly to Meraude later.  “My own horse is not well-suited to the hunting field, so I doubt that I will be up with the more dashing young riders and their suitors.  I will enjoy the outing though.”

Meraude suggested that her husband would be happy to find a better horse for Richenda, but she declined the offer.  “Thank you, Your Highness, but that’s not necessary.  I am happy with a more leisurely pace and will find as much enjoyment in observing and talking to others as I would in any faster riding.”   Meraude raised an eyebrow at that, implying that Richenda herself would perhaps enjoy some suitors, but again said nothing.    

There was no sign of Alaric at Vespers, and neither he nor Kelson were in the great hall for dinner.  Brendan was fascinated by the book she’d borrowed, and eventually fell asleep clutching Sir Knight and mumbling about dragons, gryphons and unicorns.  Richenda herself was glad of an early night, and luxuriated in a long bath before bed.
*     *     *

By breakfast the next morning, the castle’s population was buzzing with anticipation of the hunt.  If successful, it promised a great feast and evening’s entertainment; but no matter what game was brought down, a hunt was always a great social outing, where young men could show off their horsemanship to admiring ladies, and where those ladies could equally impress young lords.  

After taking Brendan to the schoolroom, Richenda joined the other ladies, quietly stitching a new feather onto her blue cap, and renewing embroidery on her gloves.  Around her bubbled excited chatter and occasional girlish laughter; judging by the comments, it wasn’t just the two younger girls who were eyeing several lords with more than casual interest.  Kathryn teased her about her composure and apparent lack of enthusiasm, but Richenda just laughed and said she’d let others have the fun.  

She let the conversation flow around her, lending the occasional comment, but inwardly smiling and hugging herself at her own romance.  She was surprised and grateful that no-one seemed to have remarked on it yet.   Alaric would be certain to find an opportunity to ride beside her so they could converse in the open, and there was surely no harm now in letting people see that she enjoyed his attention.  No matter that they already knew each other’s hearts, it was still rather fun to be wooed and courted by the most wickedly handsome and desirable man in Gwynnedd.  There’d been no opportunity for any of that in her betrothal to Bran …

The door to the solar burst open, and a gasping and flustered young lady almost fell over herself in her haste to reach Meraude.

“M’Lady – Your Highness –“ she panted, looking as though a thousand devils were outside the door.

“Yes, Lady Elvira, what is it this time?”  inquired Meraude patiently.

“It’s the Duke.  It’s him.”  Her voice was almost a squeak.

“Which Duke?  Apart from my husband, there are several dukes in the castle at present.”  Meraude sounded exasperated.

 “The – the Duke of Corwyn!”   All chatter ceased.

“Alaric Morgan’s here?”  Meraude put her sewing aside and rose swiftly.  ”Honestly, girl, did he say what he wants?  Did you just leave him standing outside?”

“He said – he said – his compliments and he would be grateful if he could speak to you and – and the Countess of Marley.”    Elvira’s face clearly indicated that their souls were in danger if they so much as said hello.

Richenda hastily folded her own sewing and rose to accompany Meraude.  The murmurs and whispers started behind them.  What had brought Alaric down here to the ladies’ solar?  

He was standing at ease in the anteroom, dressed in everyday black riding leathers and looking highly amused at the reaction his arrival had obviously caused.

“Meraude,” he said, kissing her cheek affectionately.  “Can’t you marry that wretched girl off to someone?  Someone nice and dull and ordinary.   She’s far too excitable for Court life.”   He smiled at Richenda.  “Lady Richenda, good morning.  I trust you are not alarmed at my presence?”

“Surprised, but so far not alarmed, Duke Alaric.”  

“Thank you.  I came about the hunt tomorrow.  I understand that your own horse may not be entirely suitable for a day’s hunting?”  

Richenda glanced at Meraude, startled.  “I brought two palfreys from Marley, Your Grace, but both of them were chosen for smooth and reliable travelling rather than for hunting.  We were talking about the hunt yesterday and I mentioned to Lady Meraude that I was greatly looking forward to it, but would definitely not match the more dazzling ladies at court.”

“The more dazzling ladies?”   He raised an eyebrow.  “I beg to differ on that.  However, perhaps then you will allow me to provide you with a suitable horse?” he said.  “One of my squires – a very gentle lad – has been riding one that was my sister’s favourite when she went hunting.  I would be most pleased to lend him to you, my lady, if you would like to try him.”

“Bronwyn’s horse?  Meraude was staring at him.  “Alaric, you don’t mean Ruffian, do you?”

He nodded.   “When I got home after last summer, I  - I just couldn’t bear to sell him or give him away.  I didn’t think – well, Bronwyn would never forgive me if I let anything happen to him.”  He paused, and Meraude put her hand on his arm briefly.  “Anyway, Rogan, the Hort of Orsal’s second son, is serving with me as a squire.  He’d much prefer to read a book than practice swordsmanship, so he’s been riding Ruffian lately just to keep the horse in work.  And besides,” he rolled his eyes, “Ruffian is the only horse he doesn’t fall off!”  He glanced from Meraude to Richenda.  “Lady Richenda, would you care to try him?  I assure you, he is very well-mannered and is excellent in the hunt field.”

“Of course she’ll try him,” said Meraude firmly.  “When?”

“When would it suit?  We could ride this afternoon, or perhaps even this morning.”

“It’s a fine morning, so I think now would be a good time, don’t you?” said Meraude, giving Richenda a shrewdly assessing look.

“Yes, of course. But I’ll need to change into something more suitable,” Richenda said, feeling that matters had somehow been taken entirely out of her hands.

“Good.  Then perhaps at the stables in – half an hour?  I will arrange a small escort – would you like to come along, Meraude?”  

“No thank you.  I think a few of your men will be chaperones enough!”  Meraude had a definite glint in her eye. “Come along, my dear – let’s go and find your maid.”

Alaric was waiting for them at the stables: a squire in Corwyn livery and an escort of six men were already mounted nearby, and Richenda was surprised to see Giles and two of her own men included.    “Lady Meraude, I thought it prudent to request several of her ladyship’s own men to accompany us, so they can assure themselves of her welfare and my honourable intentions,” Alaric said politely, and Meraude smiled knowingly.

He beckoned and a groom led out a grey horse, walking him around for her to see.  He’s beautiful!  thought Richenda, watching the easy swinging walk and elegant carriage.  Ruffian’s finely chiselled head, large dark eyes and black points proclaimed R’Kassan ancestry, though the dark body dapples of a younger horse were fading with maturity.  

“Well?”

“Oh, I’d love to try him!” she said softly and next thing she was being boosted easily into the saddle.  As she gathered up the green leather reins, the groom adjusted her stirrups and Alaric helped spread her skirts and cloak to either side.  She nodded, not trusting herself to speak; Alaric mounted his own horse and they clattered out through the main gate, their escort keeping several lengths behind them.

They were soon in open country, Ruffian moving easily underneath her, relaxed but alert.   “Do you want to try a faster pace?” Alaric asked as the long slope of a low hill stretched in front of them.  She smiled, and they let their horses go.   There were still some patches of snow, and the grass was dull green and brown from winter cold, but the going was good and Ruffian glided along in the smoothest of canters.   A ditch appeared in front of them: Ruffian merely pricked his ears and sailed over in an easy leap that was really more of a longer stride than a jump.   The pace quickened to a gallop, and Richenda was flushed and laughing as they drew rein at the top of the hill.   They sat for a few moments looking out over the river and farmlands to the north, where a thick roll of clouds had settled on the horizon.

“Thank you,” she said, patting Ruffian’s neck.  ‘I can see why Bronwyn liked him so much, and I’d love to ride him tomorrow.  But why is he called Ruffian?”

Alaric laughed as they turned east along the crest of the hill.  ”That’s what he was as a youngster!”  They cantered along for a while, before slowing and starting down a lightly wooded slope, their escorts still half a dozen lengths behind.  “He was a scruffy little foal, and was very ugly and awkward as he was growing up.  Everything looked slightly out of proportion, and one end always grew faster than the other.  The stud master said he used to hide Ruffy away when people came to look at other horses!”   He grinned.  “And then there’s the fact that he loved the mud.  Still does!”

“Mud?”

“Turn him into a field, and he will find mud.  Doesn’t matter if it’s only a tiny puddle – Ruffy digs it and rolls about in it until he is covered from head to toe in the stuff.  All the better if it smells revolting!”   Alaric was laughing.  “It’s been used as a punishment for young stable-lads or pages – bring Ruffy in from the field and brush him properly.  Especially in spring when he is shedding his winter coat!   For some reason Bronwyn just adored him from the moment she set eyes on him – she said it was because he was foaled on the day I was knighted.”   He was suddenly silent; their horses were walking side by side and she reached out to touch his arm briefly.

“Meraude knew the horse.”   A statement, not a question.

“Yes.  Bronwyn brought him to Rhemuth whenever she was at Court.  Several people wanted to buy him.  I was going to take him up to Culdi with us when we went for the wedding – leave him there with her.”   He shrugged.  “Anyway, he’s not for sale.”   Of course, if a certain beautiful lady I know ever happened to come and live in Coroth ...    

They arrived sedately back at the castle, handed their horses to grooms, and Alaric escorted her to her quarters, bowing formally and kissing her hand as Joan opened the door.

Until vespers.  Will you sit with me at dinner?

Of course.  

Richenda spent the next half hour reassuring Joan that no, the Duke of Corwyn had not put her under any sort of terrible Deryni spell.  It was extremely kind of him to offer her the horse; they had been properly escorted and in full view at all times; yes, he had behaved most honourably.  He has his own special magic, thought Richenda, trying not to laugh as Joan brushed and re-pinned her hair and continued muttering about the many dangers of ‘that man’.  I wonder what she’ll say when she finds out we are in love, and that I’m Deryni too?

_________

Author's note:  Yes, it was  that Lady Elvira - more than a year later she still has rather disturbing memories of Alaric, Kelson and a stenrect. :)

Next chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=517.0
« Last Edit: January 13, 2011, 02:54:17 am by Alkari »

Offline Evie

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2010, 08:58:45 am »
Ah yes, Alaric Morgan...the man who risked his own life to save his young King from the stenrect, not to mention from numerous other dangers.  Clearly an unsuitable suitor for any lady!  *eyeroll at Lady Elvira*
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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

Offline AnnieUK

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2010, 09:19:27 am »
Nice that they are getting some time together, and that Meraude has them rumbled. ;)

Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2010, 09:26:25 am »
Meraude is saying NOTHING at present :D     But she has her eyes open, and she has hit it off with Richenda very quickly ...  they are going to have a 'quiet little chat' in due course  ;)



Offline Elkhound

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2010, 10:02:16 am »
Meraude is saying NOTHING at present :D     But she has her eyes open, and she has hit it off with Richenda very quickly ...  they are going to have a 'quiet little chat' in due course  ;)

Nigel would never marry a nitwit.

I feel a little sorry for the Orsal boy; a young noble who has no talent for the martial arts and no calling to the religious life really has no niche in that society, does he?

Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2010, 10:08:53 am »
Yes, it is very sad when the kids are pushed into a particular role like that.  Fortunately as we see, he does end up back in his father's court with a more scholarly upbringing, but it would be difficult for a kid to have intellectual leanings rather than martial ones unless he was destined for the Church.   I'm not sure that real pacifists got much of a look-in. 

Offline Gyrfalcon64207

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2010, 11:40:37 am »
Kid's lucky he's fostered at a rather progressive court, with a mentor who'd notice, and wouldn't just force him to be a warrior.

Offline Elkhound

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2010, 11:55:29 pm »
Careful there - he'd likely take them as gestures of love, and then you'd be in trouble!!   Ewan may lack tact, but he is voicing views and concerns that would be held by many, alas. 

Sort of like Sophie on "The Golden Girls."  He says what everyone is thinking but doesn't dare put into words.

Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 9
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2010, 12:16:25 am »
Sort of like Sophie on "The Golden Girls."  He says what everyone is thinking but doesn't dare put into words.

A little like that in many ways - as we see in that scene in TBH, it's Ewan who comes right out and says in fairly basic language that Kelson should just marry Sidana and start having kids.  Sometimes you do need someone who can call a spade a spade, even if Ewan may occasionally call it a *$%#* shovel!  Ewan's comments about Richenda had an element of truth.  Whatever Kelson intended about keeping Marley for Brendan, there was always a chance that he could die from a childhood illness, or have a riding accident or whatever (quite genuine), and thus throw the Marley succession into doubt again.  With Richenda quickly married to a 'suitable' person, that doubt would be removed, as it would be likely the earldom would go to her new husband, or probably any son by her second marriage.

So although a number of people understand that Richenda and Alaric marry out of love, their marriage would also appear to be extremely politically convenient in a number of respects (even though some of the men in Corwyn had their doubts at first).  Get the Countess safely married off, and also hopefully get some heirs for a duchy that's already had a regency for more than 40 years.  As Ewan would undoubtedly say/think: "well, at least the woman has shown she can breed - no need to worry about that when it comes to Corwyn!"



 


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