Author Topic: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 13  (Read 3647 times)

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Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 13
« on: July 30, 2010, 07:48:09 pm »
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Chapter 13.

“My dear Lady Richenda  – I wondered whether you were ill.”   Meraude smiled warmly as she was shown into Richenda’s day room.   “You didn’t appear last night, and when you weren’t down for breakfast this morning, I thought I had better come and see.”

“Your Highness, I’m very sorry you were worried.”  Richenda dropped a hasty curtsy.  “I’m quite well, thank you.   I had a headache last night, and I often like to eat breakfast here with Brendan.  Thank you for being concerned.”

“I think I’d have had a headache too, last night,” Meraude said dryly.  “I’d like to have a talk, Richenda.  Are you free to come with me now?”

“Of course.   Lily, could you finish mending Brendan’s shirt please?”  The girl nodded, and Richenda followed the royal duchess out the door.    Well, this will probably be a right royal dressing down.  After my little outburst yesterday, they’ll have been complaining about me all night.  I’m not at all sorry for what I said, but I’ll have to try to make peace - apologise to everyone, especially Duchess Meraude. She was so nice to me.   Richenda’s spirits sank lower as she accompanied the duchess to her apartments.

To her surprise, they passed through the day room where she’d translated the wall hanging a seeming lifetime ago, and entered a much smaller living area, obviously used by the immediate family.  Two comfortable and slightly battered chairs were drawn up in front of a cosy fire; they settled themselves, and Meraude gave orders that they were not to be disturbed, waiting until the young maidservant had shut the door behind her before speaking.

“Well.  You left several of my ladies in a state of complete shock yesterday afternoon,” she remarked cheerfully

“Your Highness, I am very sorry for my behaviour.   I should not have spoken out like that.   I – I’m afraid I let my temper get the better of me.  I will of course apologise to Kathryn and the others as soon as possible.”

“Apologise to them?  You’ll do no such thing!  Unless of course, you didn’t mean what you said?”

 Richenda stared at her.  She doesn’t want me to apologise?

“My dear,” Meraude was smiling.  “I happened to overhear the last part of the conversation.   Apart from His Majesty, the only two people I have ever heard defend Alaric Morgan like that are my husband, and the late King Brion.   I really wanted to hug you, but you left rather abruptly.”

Richenda swallowed; the world had just turned on its head.  “I meant every word of it, Your Highness.”

“I thought so. You spoke nothing but the truth.”

“Perhaps I should have spoken a little more gently though.”

 “Oh, I think we all sometimes benefit from a little plain speaking.  Which is what I am going to do now.”   Still smiling, Meraude leant forward and took Richenda’s hands.  “Richenda, I’m going to ask you a very simple question.  Please tell me the truth - I only need Yes or No.   Are you in love with Alaric Morgan?”

“You can trust her totally … she’s known me since I was fifteen.”  Alaric’s words came back to her as she looked into Meraude’s eyes.    

“Yes.  Oh yes.”

“Well, that’s a relief.  Seeing he answered exactly the same way,” Meraude chuckled, squeezing her hands.  

“You – you asked him?”  

“Of course.  I was worried when we didn’t see you last night or this morning.   So I took him aside quickly after breakfast, asked one or two questions – and told him to leave matters to me.”  Her eyes twinkled.  “He’s head over heels in love with you – not that he’d ever say it in that way.  But he’d noted your absence too.  He’s busy with Kelson and some of the bishops this morning, so I told him I’d find you and he wouldn’t need to lead a search party.”

“Oh.”  Richenda wasn’t quite sure how to answer that.  Though the idea of Alaric invading the ladies’ solar to inquire about her welfare did have a certain delicious attraction …

“You seem surprised.”  Meraude released her hands and leant back in her chair.  “Did you really think I was going to take you to task for telling those women what they needed to hear?  And what most other people should be told, too.  Oh, and before we go any further, please do call me Meraude – at least in private.   We can save the formalities for public occasions.”

“Thank you.“  Richenda started to relax.  “I didn’t really know what you’d think.  My maid Joan – she’s a dear, but she’s been muttering about the dangers of ‘that Deryni’ ever since Alaric took me riding before the hunt.”    She knew Meraude would register the use of his first name.

“She started on the subject again yesterday morning, and finally said that I shouldn’t be talking to him because he’d been involved in Bran’s death.”  She sighed.  “I got cross with her and told her to stop saying those things, especially in front of Brendan.  Alaric’s been – well, very good to Brendan.  And then when I came down to the solar and heard the same sort of thing from Kathryn and Lyndall – I’m afraid I’d just had enough.”

“I don’t blame you.”

The knots in Richenda’s stomach that had been there since yesterday afternoon were slowly untangling.  She took several slow breaths and settled herself a little more comfortably, feeling her composure returning.  There was a strange sense of relief in being able to admit that she loved Alaric.  And to know that he’d said the same.   Meraude allowed her time to gather her thoughts before speaking again.  

“I wanted to talk to you anyway, even before yesterday afternoon – only perhaps it may have been a slightly different conversation.”

“In what way?”

“Richenda, please forgive me for having any doubts about you at all – but let me explain.  I’m very fond of Alaric Morgan.   I’ve known him since I first came to court and he was King Brion’s squire.  He was always closest to Brion of course, but he and Nigel are good friends too – they’re both soldiers and they’re very alike in many ways.  And despite the fact that Alaric’s one of those supposedly evil Deryni, I’ve come to both like and admire him.  Very much, in fact.   I would hate to see him hurt.”

“You think I would hurt him?”  Richenda was baffled.

“As I’m sure you’ve noticed, he is a very handsome man.”  Meraude’s eyes were mischievous.   “But regardless of that, any man who’s the unmarried Duke of a very rich duchy is an attractive marriage prospect.  Some women would be quite prepared to overlook their objections to anything Deryni if it meant being Duchess of Corwyn.  Prestige and a coronet are powerful attractions.  And for all her words yesterday, I suspect Lady Lyndall is one of these.  Alaric of course is well aware of this, and has so far managed to avoid entanglements with such women.  Others aren’t quite as openly ambitious and are simply out to get a husband, any husband.  If he happens to be a handsome duke, so much the better.

“Oh, Alaric certainly hasn’t avoided the attractions of court life,” Meraude continued, chuckling.  “He’s been in and out of love half a dozen times at least over the years and Alaric on his best court behaviour can be quite, er – wickedly charming.”  Another mischievous smile. “Not that he’s known to have had a string of affairs or mistresses,” she hastened to add.   “I’ve never heard even a whisper of scandal about that aspect of his life.  But he’s never been truly serious about any woman.  Until now, with you.  

“Normally I wouldn’t worry.  He can take care of his own romances.  And frankly, it’s about time he settled down.   But this last year – with everything he’s been through, and losing so many people he loved, I wasn’t sure how clearly he would be thinking where a woman was concerned.   I was delighted to see him enjoying himself once again, and being happy in your company, but I was wary.  I didn’t want him to get hurt.”

“You thought I was just out to trap him?”   No wonder Meraude had wanted to talk to her!

“As I said, please forgive me, but it did cross my mind.  Alaric may be Deryni, but he’s also very human, and he is nothing if not chivalrous where defenceless women are concerned.   You’re a young widow with a child, you’re under the King’s protection and completely dependent on the King’s goodwill, you’re alone at court here – and, my dear, you are quite lovely.   A scheming woman might take the chance to get under his guard right now.  And, for all that arranged marriages are to be expected where kings and dukes are concerned, I think Alaric has always wanted – and needed – much more from a marriage than a mere bedmate to provide him with heirs, and a formal consort for state occasions.”

“So do we all,” murmured Richenda.  “Oh, I understand your concerns.  Who better for a traitor’s widow to cast a net for than the King’s Champion, the most eligible duke in the Kingdom?   I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to sound bitter.  My current status is something I’m still learning to live with.”

Meraude nodded sympathetically. “I know.  And you’re doing it with grace and dignity.   When I was told you were coming to Court for Twelfth Night, I don’t really know what I expected, despite assurances from Nigel and Kelson that I would like you.   Then once I met you, I discovered they were right.  I’ve greatly enjoyed your company, especially as your horizons and interests are a little broader than many women here.   And I must say that your behaviour at court has been impeccable – anything but the desperate and grasping young widow I’d feared.”  Her smile took any possible sting out of the words.

“Of course, I was rather intrigued when Alaric lent you his sister’s horse for the hunt, so I watched you with interest.   A lesser woman would have taken the opportunity to ride near the King and the duke all day.  But you didn’t - you spent time with me and the other ladies, you rode and talked with others, including your uncle Bishop Cardiel, and you and Alaric were openly together only as appropriate.  And with a horse like Ruffian, no one thought it was strange for you to be up with him and the other leaders occasionally.   I knew then that my fears were unfounded – especially when Alaric danced with you three times at the feast that evening!”    

Richenda laughed. “I suppose that was noticed by all the gossips?”

“Of course – didn’t you feel all the green-eyed jealous looks you were getting?”

“Not really.  I was too busy enjoying Alaric’s company.”

“As you should.  And after yesterday, I had no doubts at all.  Only a woman who loved Alaric for himself would have spoken out as you did.”  The two women sat back and regarded each other, a new understanding between them.   Richenda sighed and looked down at her hands clasped in her lap.   There was no real need to say it, but perhaps there would never be a better time …

“Meraude - I am Deryni too.”

“Ah.”   Meraude nodded slowly as if putting together the last pieces of a puzzle.  “That explains a great deal.  Explains everything, in fact.”

Their silence was comfortable:  Richenda watched the flames flickering in the fireplace, thinking back over the events of the last week.  She wouldn’t change anything, though she regretted being so sharp with Kathryn.  Perhaps she would be able to make things up with her in time …

“Excuse me a moment.”  Meraude rose and left the room, returning a few moments later with a squat brown bottle from which she proceeded to fill two small goblets.  The liquid was deep purple-red.   “Blackberries,” she said, handing one to Richenda and resuming her seat.  “An ancient recipe from my grandmother in Rhendall.  My brother supplies me with several bottles each season.  So – what shall we drink to?    You and Alaric, for certain.”   She raised her goblet, smiling.

“Thank you.  And maybe also – to good friends?”  Richenda raised hers in acknowledgment, and together they sipped the sweet, faintly spicy drink.


Next chapter:

« Last Edit: January 13, 2011, 04:13:21 am by Alkari »

Offline Evie

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 13
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2010, 10:25:47 pm »
Very nicely done.  Meraude is quite the astute lady.   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline kirienne

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 13
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2010, 11:24:57 pm »
I really loved this chapter. Meraude is going to be a very good friend for Richenda, and I love the way she wanted to make sure that Richenda was not out to hurt Alaric.

Offline AnnieUK

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 13
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2010, 03:44:51 am »
Wow, didn't this turn out well, after all your stressing? ;) 

Meraude and Richenda are a good mix, and it's nice to get an view of Alaric from someone who knows him well.

Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 13
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2010, 12:29:21 am »
Er - I think you mean Meraude, Elkhound  :D    

Richenda's feelings for Alaric are definitely not those of an aunt or older sister ;)

Meraude is only a year older than Alaric, but that puts her nine years older than Richenda, so yes, very much an older sister.  Richenda herself is the eldest girl in her near family - she has two younger brothers, and several cousins (Sofiana's children). One of them is Rohays, who writes to Richenda and is about 5-6 years younger as far as I can recall.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2010, 07:37:47 am by Alkari »

Offline Elkhound

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 13
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2010, 02:23:38 pm »
I really want those so-called ladies to get their comeuppance, even if Richenda doesn't threaten to turn them all into frogs.


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