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Author Topic: Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 3  (Read 3568 times)

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Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 3
« on: June 28, 2010, 10:33:59 pm »
Chapter Three

   Nearly a fortnight had passed since the dinner party in the Duke and Duchess of Corwyn's apartment.  The young ladies-in-waiting had started to settle into both the routine of Rhemuth court life and the more arcane training that the Contessa, with the occasional help of Duchess Richenda, was providing for them. This evening, however, presented an unexpected mystery and some impromptu lessons in dealing with the arcane.

   “Where do you think she's gone?” Ailidh nic Ardry stared at the wood paneling beside the sitting room fireplace, her gray-green eyes filled with puzzlement.

   “I have no idea,” Sophie said, “but what I want to know is, why didn't she just use the door?”

   Celsie walked over to the wall, running her palm over the dark polished wood.  “It tingles!” she informed her roommates.  “I'll bet there's a secret passage behind it.”

   “Well, of course there's a secret passage behind it!  You didn't think she just merged with the castle wall, did you?”   Ailidh began to giggle.  “Where do you think it goes?”  She turned to face Sophie.  “Exactly what did you see?”

   “Well....I'm really not sure,” Sophie said uncertainly.  “I was just about to walk out here and ask her if we could ride out beyond the city wall tomorrow, but when I peeked out the door, the Contessa was standing there looking at the wall with her back to me.  She did something...it looked like she was writing in the air with her hand, and then part of the wall moved!  She walked through, and it closed behind her.”  She shrugged.  “I have no idea what she actually did, though.”

   “But she didn't see you?”  Celsie's sky blue eyes were wide with mingled awe and alarm.

   “No, I don't think so.  She seemed pretty...focused?”

   “And I don't imagine she was expecting any of us to be out of bed,” Ailidh added.  “It was a good two hours after we'd retired for the night.”

   Celsie turned back towards the wall, running her hands over it.  “Come here; you can feel the edge.”  The other girls approached, and she moved back to give them a chance to feel the hidden portal for themselves.  “This is so amazing!”  She looked thoughtful.  “I wonder if Chervignon has any hidden passages I don't know about?  Probably not.  They're probably only in major fortresses, or really old castles.”  She tilted her head, considering that thought.  “I wonder if Coroth has any?”

   “I wonder where the passage comes out,” Sophie said.  “It's got to go somewhere.”

   Ailidh nodded.  “True.  You wouldn't build a secret corridor and have it just dead-end, and if it were just a hidden chamber, surely she'd have come back out by now.”

   Sophie shrugged.  “Well, it depends on why she was in there, I suppose.  I mean, it could be she's in the middle of some sort of Deryni ritual or something.”

   Celsie looked at her curiously.  “I suppose, but what sort of ritual?  And if that were the case, wouldn't she show us what she's doing?  I mean, she is training us.”

   Ailidh snorted.  “True, she's training us, but we're still fledglings.  She'd hardly show us any of the truly arcane rituals yet.  But I don't think that's what she's doing.  Sophie, can you show me what you saw?”

   Sophie's green-gold eyes brightened.  “I think so!”  She reached a hand to clasp Ailidh's, unsure if she could communicate the images to her without the physical link yet, since Ailidh's mind touch was still somewhat unfamiliar compared to the much more familiar mental presence her brother had been, and sent her memory of what she'd witnessed across the link to her friend.  

   The Contessa Constanza, clad in her favorite dark blue-violet satin dressing gown that Sophie had once noticed perfectly matched her eyes , stood before the paneled wall, her sable hair unbound and tumbling down nearly to her waist.  She raised a slender hand, sketching a glyph in the air.  The panel  before her slid to one side, exposing a dark corridor within.  Cupping her hand, the Contessa produced a ball of pale violet handfire and stepped forward into the darkness.  Within seconds, the panel slid closed behind her, sealing the wall so thoroughly there was no sign to show it had ever opened.

   Ailidh withdrew from the mental link with a knowing nod.  “Aye, I thought as much.  It's a man.”

   Celsie looked torn between shocked and intrigued.  “Why do you say that?”

   Ailidh re-examined the mental images more closely.  “Well...she's not exactly dressed in outdoor clothing, so she's clearly not going outside.  The direction that wall runs, one end of the corridor probably ends up outside in that courtyard near St. Hilary's, if the corridor runs straight rather than turning.  So she's likely headed in the opposite direction, which means she can only come out someplace within the Castle itself.  I'd bet that there's more than one of these apartments that open up into that passageway.  I think maybe it was once a secret escape system, maybe built so that residents could escape in case of a fire or a siege.”

   “Or so Deryni could escape, you mean,” Sophie amended. “I don't think a human without powers could find their way into the corridor.”

   “Or maybe it was just built to allow the Haldane Kings easier access to women they fancied?” Ailidh mused.  “I'd not put that past some of them.”

   Celsie laughed.  “Oh, surely not!”  She shot a look at Sophie.  “Though if King Kelson ends up walking through that wall some evening, should Ailidh and I disappear for an hour or two and leave you two to get better acquainted?”

   Sophie turned scarlet, but giggled.  “You'd better not!  I just like to look at him; I wouldn't have a clue what to do if I actually caught him!”

   Ailidh looked like she was about to make a suggestion, but thought better of it.  Instead, she said, “Getting back to the Contessa, she probably exited the corridor into someone else's apartment.  And given that she was dressed in her very nicest dressing gown, and probably wearing nothing but her nightshift beneath it—unless she laced herself into something....”  She paused to allow her fellow ladies-in-waiting time to recognize the unlikelihood of that, given the wardrobe the Contessa had brought to Rhemuth.  “Now, who would she be visiting while dressed in her nightclothes?”

   All three girls were stumped.  Finally, Celsie ventured, “Duchess Richenda?  We know they're cousins, and they seem quite close.  Maybe she was just in the mood for some lady chat.”

   Sophie giggled and shook her head.  “Oh, I'll grant she might be missing some girl time with Her Grace, but really, Celsie, she can hardly be visiting Richenda in her nightclothes with Duke Alaric in residence in the same apartment!  At least I'd hope not!”  

   “Oh.  Oh dear.  You're right!”  Celsie laughed.  “I'd forgot about that.”  Her cheeks turned pink.

   “Yes,” said Ailidh, “unless the new motto for the Ducal House of Corwyn is 'The more, the merrier,' I think we can safely surmise she's not with Duchess Richenda.  No, as I said, it's a man.”

   Sophie looked uncomfortable.  “Well, I suppose it's none of our business, really.  I mean, she shouldn't be slipping out to meet with a man, especially in her night clothes, but if she is, then that's between her and her confessor, isn't it?  It really would be best if she remarried, but she’s already buried three husbands, which has got to be heartbreaking, and she told my mother once that she can't have children.  Maybe she's afraid no one would want her anymore, since she’s barren and her courtship years are behind her?”

   “Well, someone evidently does.”  Ailidh shook her head.  “Men!”  

   “Hm.  I wonder…..”  Celsie mused.

   Sophie glanced at her warily.  “You wonder what?”  A sudden thought had just struck her as well, and she wondered if Celsie were thinking the same thing.  No, she decided after a moment, probably not.  Celsie would look far more distressed than intrigued if she were.

   “I wonder if we could get the door to open?”  Celsie asked, her blue eyes brightening.  “And I wonder how far the secret passage goes, and if there are more of them?  Imagine how much faster we could get through the Castle if we only knew the short cuts?”

   Ailidh raised her eyebrows.  “Oh, aye…and the ways in and out of the passage, and if the same method for getting into it works for getting someone back out again!  It would be a sorry fate, to be trapped in a dark secret passage for hours on end, or even days, until the next time La Contessa decides she’s up for another kiss and a cuddle, now wouldn’t it?”  Still, Ailidh was looking increasingly more intrigued herself.  “Though I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try, as long as we all stuck together, and no one went in before we all know for certain how to get the door open again from the outside.”

   “You mean, if we can figure out how to open it again, one of us can go in and see if the same way works for getting back out?”  Celsie asked.

   “Aye.  And if it doesn’t, there’d still be someone on the outside who could let you back out,” Ailidh said.

   “Me?!” Celsie squeaked.  The other girls giggled.

   “Well, whoever goes through first,” Sophie said, slowly beginning to warm up to the idea, at least as long as proper safety precautions were to be taken.  “But we wouldn’t want to be caught at it,” she added. “What if the Contessa comes back and sees us?  She’d know we know her secret!”

   Ailidh considered this.  “We could still try it in twos,” she ventured, “and the other could find some reason to get her out of the apartment for a specified time.  Or maybe just serve as a lookout while she’s gone.  She does leave us by ourselves in the apartment from time to time, after all.”  She shrugged.  “Of course, it’s all a moot point if we can’t figure out how she got that panel to open in the first place.”

   Sophie nodded.  “Or, you know, we could just ask her how she does it.”

   Ailidh and Celsie both stared.  “Are you mad?!” Ailidh finally answered, laughing uproariously.  “Oh, Contessa Constanza, we saw you walk through a wall in your best night-rail late last night.  Would you show us that trick, so we can go walking about Rhemuth Castle at all hours too?  We promise not to get up to any mischief, and we’ll certainly swear not to end up in any handsome squires’ bedchambers….”

   Sophie burst out laughing.  “Well, if you’re going to put it like that!”

   Celsie stared at the wall for a long moment, then tentatively raised her hand and sketched out the glyph she’d seen Constanza draw in the air.  Nothing happened.   “Oh well.  It was worth a try,” she said, looking disappointed.

   “There’s probably more to the spell than just drawing the symbol,” Ailidh said, patting Celsie’s shoulder.   “Let me try.”  Ailidh took a deep breath, then closed her eyes, centering herself.  Once she felt ready, she opened her eyes again, fixing a focused gaze on the panel, imagining it sliding open and then, as she raised her hand to sketch the secret glyph, willing it so.  The door didn’t open, but just at the edges, it seemed to shimmer just a bit.

   “You did something!” Sophie said excitedly.  “I think whatever you did, you were on the right track!  What did you do?”

   Ailidh, grinning widely, took both of her friends’ hands, mentally sharing what she’d done to affect the door panel.  They both nodded understanding of the basic process, but before they could attempt it themselves, Sophie heard a muffled sound from the other side of the paneling.

   She’s coming back!  she mind-spoke.  

   The girls went scurrying back to their bedchamber.  A few seconds later, they heard a faint sliding noise, then soft footfalls walking through the apartment’s shared sitting room towards the Contessa’s private rooms.  Her door closed quietly.

   Maybe we can try again tomorrow, when she leaves.  I think she was planning on visiting Duchess Meraude tomorrow afternoon, Ailidh shared.

   Sounds good!  Should one of us ask to go with her, so she can send a warning to the others when we’re heading back this way?  Sophie asked.

   Probably a good idea, Celsie agreed.  I’ll ask to go.  Ailidh nearly got the door to work when she tried, so she ought to stay here, and you’re the one who saw how it worked in the first place, so you probably should stay with her, in case she needs to take a closer look at that memory again.  Just please, if you figure out how to do it, show me how it’s done later?  And do be very careful!  Don’t either of you try going into the passage until you’ve both practiced opening it lots of times and know for sure you can do it again, all right?

   We won’t,  Ailidh assured her.  We promise.  

   Yes.   Absolutely!   Sophie mind-spoke with a decisive nod.  We’ll wait until you can be here and we’ve taught you what we’ve learned before we try that.

   All right, then!  In the darkness of the bedchamber, Celsie hugged herself under the bedsheets with delighted glee, and fell asleep dreaming of discovering the hidden mysteries of Rhemuth Castle.

   And not all that far away, the Contessa also dreamed, her sleeping mind reliving heated memories of a most delightful evening.


Chapter Four: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=548.0
« Last Edit: January 10, 2011, 02:53:13 pm by Evie »
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Offline Alkari

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 3
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2010, 07:16:21 am »
Quote
“Though if King Kelson ends up walking through that wall some evening, should Ailidh and I disappear for an hour or two and leave you two to get better acquainted?”

   Sophie turned scarlet, but giggled.  “You'd better not!  I just like to look at him; I wouldn't have a clue what to do if I actually caught him!”
LOL - well, I'm sure Kelson would enjoy a mutual learning experience.   Love the interaction with the girls, and also that Sophie is broadminded enough where the Contessa and any lover are concerned.



Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 3
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2010, 09:16:17 am »
Ah, well, alas for poor Sophie, it's already pretty well established in canon that Kelson's future "mutual learning experience" is going to be with Araxie.  And given the problems he's had with putting down a rebellion in Meara, and three previous generations of Haldanes having to prune back offshoots in that line of succession, I can quite understand the lad's desire to keep all of his potential heirs both legitimate and fully accounted for.

Granted, being in his late teens by now, he's probably longing for a few learning experiences, even if they have to stop short of the ultimate goal.  I can't imagine Sophie could be persuaded to allow anything more than a few kisses, though.  She'd be too worried about ruining her chances for a good marriage, and she's a fairly devout lass.  Maybe not as much as Celsie, but then again, Derry probably requires a lot of praying for....   ;)

As for the Contessa, I couldn't help laughing at Sophie when she was basically writing off poor Stanzi as being probably too old to catch a husband anymore, given that Stanzi and Derry are in roughly the same age bracket, and yet my girls all see him as being in the prime of life.   :D  But her sympathies with Stanzi are also partly due to their relationship.  The Contessa was her mother's best friend, and is Sophie's godmother, so Sophie is feeling a bit ambivalent.  On the one hand, she doesn't really condone what Stanzi is doing, since it flies in the face of everything she's been taught about how to behave--not to mention she knows full well that Stanzi would never allow her to engage in similar behavior, so the double-standard would rankle--but on the other hand, as a loyal goddaughter, she's trying to be understanding and accepting.  So she's rationalizing, trying to come up with a good reason why something she knows it would be unacceptable for her to do is somehow fine for Constanza to do.
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Offline Elkhound

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 3
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2010, 11:39:55 am »
I think it would be amusing if one or more of the girls get stuck in a passage unable to open the door from the inside and have to be rescued.

Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 3
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2010, 12:26:25 pm »
Heh.  Yes, that's occurred to me as well.   :D

I'm already halfway through the next chapter, and so far my girls are proving themselves too bright to let themselves get stuck in a secret passage before they've ensured that they know how to get back out.  However, they've only had a chance to test their knowledge under fairly optimal conditions.  Who knows what might happen if they ever have to get out of the secret passage in a hurry someday while fleeing in a blind panic, or under some other condition in which they have more trouble summoning up the requisite focus to work the spell properly, at least on the first attempt?   ;D
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Offline Alkari

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 3
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2010, 03:14:48 pm »
Well, it would depend on who was doing the rescuing too.  ;)   I mean, there are only a limited number of Deryni in the castle (or Haldanes with magical power), and although Derry has shown a willingness to be involved in magic, I'm not sure that he would be able to do the necessary charms to open these hidden doors.   

Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 3
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2010, 03:23:33 pm »
Derry pre-Wencit was also a lot less squeamish about magic than Derry post-Wencit.  After HD, he's rather leery of Deryni powers, although he still allows Alaric access to his mind because of their longstanding relationship having established that level of trust.  Derry isn't fully cured of his squeamishness until KKB, when the last of Wencit's controls are sifted out of his mind.
"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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