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Author Topic: Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 4  (Read 3806 times)

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Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 4
« on: June 29, 2010, 11:12:21 pm »
Chapter Four

   All right, she’s been gone for about a quarter of an hour; unless she’s returned without me detecting her, I think we’re safe, Ailidh mind-spoke to her sisters in conspiracy as she cracked the sitting room door open slightly to make sure the chamber was empty.  Seeing it was, she ventured out, mentally preparing an excuse for being out of bed in case she was mistaken and the Contessa emerged from her bedchamber or, possibly worse, from the secret passageway.  She walked quietly across the shared chamber to the Contessa’s private rooms on the other side, and listened at her bedchamber door.   There was complete silence on the other side.  Bracing herself, she opened the door quietly, extending her senses into the room.  Nothing.  The bedcurtains were open, showing quite clearly that the Contessa was not simply sleeping, despite the lateness of the hour.  Neither was she in the garderobe Ailidh passed as she returned to her friends awaiting her in their shared bedchamber.

   “I was right; she’s gone."

   The other two girls eagerly sprang out of bed, ready to put their recent furtive experimentations to a final test.  “All right, it’s time to practice first,” Sophie said, standing before the hidden door.  Thinking back over what she and her friends had discovered over the previous few days, she centered herself, using the shiral in her ring to help her focus her mind beforehand, and then, once she felt the moment was right, she transferred her concentration to the door, signing the glyph in the air and willing it to open.  A split second later, there was an empty space in the wall where one panel had been.   It lingered for a few seconds before sliding shut again.

   Celsie suppressed a squeal of glee.  “All right; my turn!”  She tried her hand at the spell.  The door opened for her also, more slowly at the outset, but once it closed again she gave it a second attempt and this time the response was more prompt.    She turned to Ailidh.  “And now you.”

   Ailidh stepped forward, summoning up her concentration, and worked the spell.  The door opened without any hesitation, surprising no one since, of the three girls, she’d had the most practice with it.  “All right then, now that we know we can do this part of it, who wants to go in first?”

   Sophie hesitated, then drew a deep breath.  “I’ll go.  Should I just wait for you to let me out after, or do you want me to go ahead and see if I can get out the same way we get in?”

   “Oh, go ahead and try,” Celsie said.  “Might as well, since it won’t do us any good to know we can get in if we can’t figure out how to get back out after.”

   Ailidh nodded.  “She’s right.  Go in, and once the door closes, we’ll wait for a short while to see if you can open it from the inside.  How long should we wait, about a minute?”

   Sophie nodded.  “That sounds about right.  Or if you hear me knocking.”  She looked a little panic-stricken suddenly.  “If the Contessa starts to come back, I doubt I’d be able to summon up the focus I need to do the opening spell, so please listen for a knock, just in case!”

   “We will.”  Ailidh gestured towards the wall.  “No time like the present, though.  If the Contessa stays gone as long as she’s done the last two times, she’ll probably be away for another hour at the very least, but there’s nothing to say she won’t come back sooner this time, and we don’t want to get caught at this.”

   Sophie took a bracing breath, released it, then worked the spell again.  This time, as the door opened, she slipped inside, turning to face her friends as the door slid quietly shut again.  Ailidh and Celsie waited for several long moments, growing more concerned as time passed and Sophie didn’t re-emerge, although neither of them heard her knock from the other side.  Just as Ailidh was about to use the opening spell on the panel to let her back into the room, it slid open again and Sophie quickly stepped back out, breathing quickly and looking a little pale, but with excitement shining in her eyes.

   As soon as the panel shut behind her, the words came tumbling out.  “All right, the first thing to keep in mind before you try this yourself is that once that door shuts, it’s dark in there!   I mean the sort of dark that’s so complete, you can’t see something directly in front of your face!   I had a brief moment of panic, and couldn’t summon handfire at first, even though I’ve done it lots of times, but once I calmed myself and focused, I was able to call some up. There are some torches in the corridor, but the closest is several feet away, and of course they’re not lit, so you’ll want to be prepared to use handfire.  But the good thing is, I got out exactly the same way I got in—once I managed to calm myself enough to do it, that is.  And you can feel the door tingle from that side also.  I figured we’d be able to, but it’s good to know for sure, if we ever have to find our way back here in the dark.”  She looked thoughtful.  “I wonder how many other doors there are, and if they all feel the same way or if they each feel a little different.   If they feel the same way, we’ll want to mark ours somehow so we’ll know the right one to come back to.  But we can’t do it any way that’s obvious, or the Contessa will notice.”

   “Hm.”  Ailidh glanced at the fireplace.  “I imagine it’s rather dusty in there.  Maybe a smudge of soot just at the base of the door, someplace where it’s not likely to get rubbed off, but low enough where no one is likely to notice it, or think it’s anything more than a bit of old grime if they do?”

   “That could work.”  Sophie walked over to the fireplace, finding a bit of charred tinder that would do for leaving such a mark, and grinned.  “Who wants to come with me?”

   Ailidh and Celsie both made an eager rush for the secret door.

#

   “Let's see...I have some Vézairi port, or would you prefer some of your father's fine vintage?”  Derry glanced back over his shoulder at Constanza, who was leaning back against one of his pillows.

   She made a slight moue of distaste as he mentioned the latter option, her eyes flitting away briefly.  “The port, I think.”

   He poured her a goblet full of the dark liquid, bringing it to her.  “I'm sorry.  Did I touch on that old wound?” he asked softly.

   She shrugged, taking the drink from him and sipping it slowly, then offered up an apologetic smile.  “Sorry about the reaction.  My father and I are not on the best of terms these days, so I prefer to avoid any reminders of him.  It was bad enough he saddled me with that ghastly excuse for a husband, Aumeric, but now he's after me to marry another man of his choosing.”  She rolled her eyes.  “I don't think it's occurred to him that I'm not a biddable young fifteen year old anymore.”

   “Personally, I find that one of your more charming qualities,” Derry teased.  He returned to his side of the bed with his own goblet of port.  

   Stanzi laughed.  “What, that I'm not fifteen, or that I've a mind of my own?”

   “Both.”  He grinned.  “So, what's the problem with this suitor?”  He stretched his long legs out before him, sipping at his port.

   “Well, this one at least fancies women.  At fifteen, I suspect I was a trifle overripe for Aumeric's tastes.”

   Derry choked slightly.  “Good God!”

   “Let's see...I don't know all that much about this man, except that he's quite wealthy, politically advantageous enough to make my father drool, he's close to twice my age, and has seven sons and five daughters, so my barrenness isn't exactly an issue.”  She shrugged.  “Apparently he met me once and took a liking to me.”

   “Well, I can't blame him for that.  At least he has good taste in women.”

   Stanzi gave Derry a wry smile.  “Granted, my Giovanni was also an older widower with an heir and several spares, but there was a huge difference—I adored him.  But I am not going to be wrangled into marrying a man on the basis of having shared a trencher with him once at a state feast.  Would you suddenly develop an overwhelming desire to wed and bed on the basis of one shared meal?”

   Derry laughed.  “Bed, maybe, if my dinner partner were charming enough, but that would have to be one hell of a feast to induce me to marry!”

   “So heavy a feast, you couldn't run afterwards?”  Stanzi chuckled.  “That's what I thought.”  She reached behind her to fluff up the pillow she was reclining upon.  A small folded square of fabric fluttered out from the pillowcase.  She picked it up to replace it, but as her fingertips contacted the embroidered corner, she nearly dropped it again, startled.  She unfolded the handkerchief, her eyes curious as she studied the Derry arms neatly stitched on the corner.

   “This is lovely work, Sean.  Did Richenda make this for you?”

   Derry looked slightly sheepish as he glanced down at the almost forgotten gift.  “Actually, no, it was a present from Lady Celsie.”  He looked a bit self-conscious as Stanzi's startled gaze flitted back up towards his face.  “She said she made it to thank me for helping her re-establish her household at Chervignon.”

   Constanza stared.  “Celsie made this?”

   He nodded.  “That's what she said.”  He shrugged.  “I was surprised too.  It looks like very highly skilled embroidery.”

   “Yes, quite, but that's not where the true talent lies.”  She studied the stitchery intently.  Derry sat up, considering her interest with a thoughtful frown.  At last she looked up to meet his gaze.  “You have no idea what this is, do you, caro?”

   He stared at the handkerchief.  “No...I suppose I don't.   What do you see?”

   She lifted the square of fabric.  “This is a highly elaborate spell of protection Celsie has stitched into your handkerchief, yet with her powers so newly awakened and her conscious knowledge of how to access them still so fresh, I suspect she hasn't a clue how strong a magic this is.  She probably doesn't even know she's worked magic at all, as odd as that might sound.”  She handed the square back to him.   “This ought to be kept in your doublet or tucked up your sleeve, not hidden in your pillowcase.  Unless you're afraid some jealous husband plans to come after you some evening while you sleep?”

   He took Celsie's gift, shaking his head a trifle distractedly.  “No chance of that.  I don't bed married women.”  He studied the Derry arms with a curious mixture of wariness and wonder.  “How would she have worked a spell of protection without knowing it?” he asked.

   “The stitches she used come from a specialized type of cording lore, an ancient Deryni art nearly lost now.  But they’re not magic in and of themselves; the power in them comes from the focus of her thoughts that were bound into the stitchery as she was embroidering the spell.”  Her eyes drifted from the needlework back up to Derry’s face, a glimmer of amusement shining in their depths.  “My guess, knowing our Celsie, is that there’s an ardent prayer for your protection bound up in every stitch of these arms.”  Her lips twitched with suppressed laughter.  “Thank God she wasn’t praying for your chastity!”  She gave her lover a considering look.  “So, my student has a bit of a tendresse for her rescuer, does she?  A fair bit of hero worship?”

   Derry flushed.  “It will pass, I’m sure.”

   “Hm.  Perhaps.”  She reached across the short distance between them to trail a fingertip along his bare shoulder.  “Still, I suppose we ought to be doubly discreet, caro mio.  I would hate to hurt the dear girl.”

#

   “So, how many doorways did you find on your end of the corridor?”  Ailidh asked Sophie once the girls met once again in front of their own hidden door.

   Sophie glanced at Celsie.  “I counted ten, but we didn’t make it quite to the end.  Celsie thought she heard a noise, so we doused the handfire and waited for a bit in the dark to make sure no one was coming, and then we decided maybe we should head back.  What about you?”

   “Eight, I think,” Ailidh said.  “And another passage that branches off in a different direction.”

   “We need to get a map of Rhemuth Castle; maybe that way we could figure out where the passages might lead and where the doors open into, and that would help us make a map of our own,” Celsie offered.  “Any idea where we might find one, though?”

   Sophie thought for a moment, then brightened.  “I’ll bet the Royal Library would have some old maps, including some from when the Castle was first built!  I doubt they’d show the passages—I’m sure those were meant to remain a secret—but even so, we’d know which parts of the Castle are original and would be most likely to have passages.”

   “Unless the passages were added in later,” Ailidh said, “but either way, we won’t know until we look at some maps.  Good idea, Celsie!  It’s too late to check tonight, though; we’d best be getting back before the Contessa returns.  It would be awful to get this far and then have her catch us out wandering!”

   “You’re right.  So…when should we go?  Tomorrow morning?”

   “That sounds good,” Celsie said.  “How about right after Mass?”

   “In that case, come wake me once you're back.  Your Mass is way too early for me.  If God had meant for us to see sunrise, He would have put it later in the day.”  Ailidh grinned.

   The three girls cautiously opened the door to their apartment, risking a quick mental probe to ensure that Constanza hadn’t returned yet, then entered swiftly, rushing into their bedchamber and hurrying through their bedtime preparations so they could catch a few hours of sleep before the next dawn.

#

   Constanza lay in Derry's arms, drowsily content.  She trailed a finger through one of his brown curls, watching it spring away as she reached the end of the soft tendril.  “Don't let me fall asleep, Sean,” she murmured.

   He chuckled.  “I won't, sweeting.”  He shifted slightly, turning onto his side to grin at her.  “Just imagine facing three sets of questioning eyes if you go dragging back into your chamber after sunrise, especially if they see you entering via the wall.  That should keep you awake.”  

   “Sweet Jesú, and Celsie has a habit of waking up for early Mass too!”  Constanza sat up.  “I’d best be going.”  She leaned forward to bestow a lingering kiss on her lover.  “Shall I try for another visit tomorrow night?”

   Derry shook his head.  “I may not be back by then.  I’ve been asked to take a look at some horses for Earl Burchard’s consideration, but they’re being held for him in Desse, so if we end up running late, I might just spend the night there.”  He reached up to stroke her sable curtain of hair, pulling her back down for another, more lingering kiss before adding, “I’ll send a message to you when I’m back in Rhemuth.”

   “Do!”  Constanza slid out of bed, picking up her discarded clothing and swiftly slipping back into it.  “And have a safe journey.”  She reached across the mattress to tousle his curls.  “And I know you’re a bit squeamish about magic, but carry that handkerchief!”  She grinned.

   Derry rolled his eyes.  “Yes, my lady.”

   Your Lady only in my dreams, she thought a trifle wistfully, but carefully kept the feelings hidden, as she’d ever had to do with the skittish Earl Derry, making sure not even a hint of them crossed over into her parting smile.  “Goodnight, caro mio.”

   “Good night, Stanzi.”

   She exited his bedchamber and made her careful way back to her own in graceful silence.

Chapter Five: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=549.0
« Last Edit: January 10, 2011, 02:54:15 pm by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Elkhound

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 4
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2010, 09:37:03 am »
Nice work.

Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 4
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2010, 09:57:55 am »
Thanks!

I'm having to rethink where this next chapter is going a little bit.  My girls are in the library doing some research at the moment, and I was going to have them discover the garderobe where the secret entrance to the library annex is (not be able to get in, but just notice something odd about it), but after poking around in my Codex last night, I'm not certain it's been built yet!  I know it's definitely there by KKB, but I don't know if it's been built before QFSC, or if not, how soon after QFSC it's installed.  One would think, given that the Transfer Portal in the annex room is how Charissa got into Rhemuth Castle, that Kelson would've walled it off and created the secure entrance to the secret room much earlier than QFSC.   But then again, if he'd had it built years earlier, it seems a bit odd he'd not have told Dhugal, his own blood brother, about it until KKB.  I know Kelson can keep some secrets pretty close to his chest, but that close?  With that Deryni friend, who'd presumably be in a need-to-know position?  So it's a bit of a mystery to me what the status of that room would be during the winter months following QFSC.  Maybe it's under construction now?  If so, how would that be hidden from curious eyes?  Would they close the Royal Library for a short time?  Or maybe the room with the Transfer Portal in it has been walled off completely for years, but now they're just opening up a passage between the two rooms, in which case how long would it take to build that entrance?   I suppose it wouldn't be done overnight (or would it?), but would it take a weekend?  A week?  Lots of questions.
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
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Offline AnnieUK

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 4
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2010, 11:18:45 am »
Enjoying these tales. Celsie is turning out more adventurous than I thought she'd be - I thought she was going to be a lot more cautious and a bit shy and retiring from her first story, but being with Sophie and Ailidh is obviously bringing her out of herself!

Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 4
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2010, 11:34:21 am »
Yes, Celsie--before her two years of near-imprisonment by the steward from Hell--was naturally a bright, inquisitive, and fairly adventurous child.   Not as bold as Ailidh, perhaps, but no shrinking violet either.  Even the worst of the abuse didn't completely extinguish that.  Instead of giving in to the forced marriage, she fought back and found the strength within herself to escape that situation.

Now that she's been in a much healthier environment for a few months, she is starting to recover and revert to her natural personality.  She'll still be somewhat shy in some situations, like with Derry, because he's her heart-throb.   :D  But she's young and resilient, and having Sophie and Ailidh around has helped accelerate her recovery.

Sophie is my more cautious young lady, because she's been raised to be cautious all of her life.  But she's also learning how to be more adventurous, as she begins to learn how to break the chains of silence that have kept her from being able to embrace her full Deryniness, while still remaining true to who she is.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2010, 11:40:18 am by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Elkhound

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 4
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2010, 11:21:02 pm »
I like this, so far.

I still like the idea of one or more of them 'biting off more than she can chew' and having to be rescued.  If not getting stuck in a secret passage or accidentally setting a love spell, something to drive home that Dernyi powers are a serious matter, not to be used as parlour tricks or for practical jokes.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2010, 11:25:14 am by Elkhound »

Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 4
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2010, 12:40:39 pm »
"Oh, you'll be getting at least one of those wishes soon enough," the author says with a cryptic smile....
"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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