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A Leap of Faith - Chapter 6

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AnnieUK:
St Stephen’s Cathedral, Marbury
December 18th1120

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine  -  Grant them eternal rest, O Lord.


I knelt at the front of the cathedral in Marbury, watching as the Bishop pronounced the ritual words over the tiny coffin containing so many of my hopes and dreams.  Bran knelt to my left hand side, cold and silent in the chilly church.  Brendan was between us, wrapped up warm in his winter cloak, wide-eyed and tearful after the events of the past few days.  I closed my eyes and let the words wash over me.

#

Bran had come home two days after Rhiannon died, too late despite the increasingly frantic letters I had sent over the days of her illness.  I raved at him, barely knowing what I was saying.

“How could you have done that?  Why didn’t you come when I asked you to?”

“I was busy at Stonelyn  – I couldn’t get away.”

“I needed you.  Your daughter needed you.”

“And what could I have done if you and the physician could do nothing?  I’m no physician, Richenda, I couldn’t have saved her.”

“But you should have been here.  You should at least have been here.” The words tailed off into a choking sob, then stopped suddenly as I spotted a figure in the doorway.

“Brendan?  What are you doing here?”  And how much of that did you hear?

“I had a bad dream, mama.”

“Where’s Joan, darling?  She can look after you.”

“She went to fetch me a glass of milk, but I wanted Papa.”  He looked between us in confusion.  “Are you sad?  Is it because of Rhiannon?”

“Here, son, let me take you back to bed,” Bran stepped forward and took Brendan by the hand. “You’re cold, little man, here, let’s get you wrapped up.”  He took a fur from the chair and wrapped it snugly round Brendan’s shoulders.  “Now, let’s get you back.  Joan will worry about you – you shouldn’t wander off like that.  Let’s give mama some time to feel better, shall we?”

Damn the man!  He’d escaped that one neatly.  But I had no intention of letting him off that easily.

I called the maid and had her light the fire in the next room – the one in which I had slept when I was with child with Brendan – and make sure the bed was made up with fresh sheets.  By the time Bran returned from settling Brendan and telling him a story I had moved in next door and he did not seek me out that night.

#

I had dressed her in the white dress she had worn for All Saint’s Day.  Rhiannon wore a blue sash, for Marley, and my ladies had gathered viburnum flowers from the bushes in the garden.  Few flowers bloom in Marley in winter, but the simplicity of the white flowers suited a child’s coffin.  Inside the coffin, I had put a lock of my hair and a lock of Brendan’s tied together with a scrap of ribbon.  More of me would be going into the crypt with her than just that lock of hair: she took the better part of my heart with her.

The tears rolled silently down my face.  I had tried not to cry, fearing that it would be improper for the people of Marbury to see their mistress so, but the sounds of gentle weeping behind me were too much to bear.  The townspeople had loved Rhiannon, with her red-gold curls and her mischievous giggle, and we had arranged to hold the service in the cathedral rather than our private chapel so that as many as wanted could come to pay their respects.  But the unfairness of it - that they could mourn my daughter openly and I dare not – hurt so much that gradually the treacherous tears began to fall.  

I reached out to draw Brendan close to me, wanting the comfort of my remaining child to hold, but I found Bran’s arm already tight around his waist, and I drew my arm back, preferring to be alone.  My father was beside me, and I could feel his comforting presence.  

Oh, Richenda, my darling girl, be strong.

I don’t know if I can, Papa.  I hurt so much.

I know, darling, but Brendan needs you.

No word of Bran, then.  I wondered if my father had an inkling of how things stood between us.  I had moved my belongings into the next door bedroom, and had no plans to return to Bran’s bed for as long as I could manage to avoid it.

Bishop Ifor kept the service mercifully short, for there is not much to say about a life which barely spanned a year and a half.  Bran lifted the little coffin to take it to its resting place, and soon dark earth fell on my baby girl.

Brendan had been frightened by so many adults in mourning, and didn’t understand what was happening, so I had dared touch his mind to calm him, and he drowsed on and off through the service.  His nurse came to return him to the nursery, but he held my hand and looked up at me – I must have looked a state to him, all tearstained and swollen-eyed.

“Is Rhiannon coming home soon?”

“No, darling, Rhiannon’s not coming home.”

When I returned to my room, I dismissed my ladies and cried until I finally slept.  But as had often happened since her death, the dreams came.  On those nights I woke suddenly, with the sound of her voice in my ears and tears streaming down my cheeks.

Bran made no mention of my flight from his bed, and let me be for a night or two.  Then the following night as I readied for bed, he came to my room.  

I dismissed my maids, who left exchanging uneasy glances with each other.  

“What are you doing here?”

“What do you think?”

His cheeks were flushed and I could smell the wine on his breath.

“Bran, our daughter died only days ago!”

“All the more reason then.  We can’t afford to just have Brendan.  What if it had been Brendan instead of Rhiannon in that coffin?”

“I’d be feeling just the same as I am now, and you’d be feeling a lot worse.  Let’s face it, Rhiannon was expendable, wasn’t she?  She was only a girl. And Bran Coris needs sons to show off to his friends.”

He raised his hand as if to strike me.

“Go on then,” I said, “hit me if it will make you feel better.”

He stared at me with rage in his eyes, clenching and unclenching his fist as he attempted to control his temper.  His mouth thinned to a fine line, and I stood, shaking, as I tried to resist the temptation to throw myself at his feet and beg forgiveness.  Everything I had just said had gone against what I had been taught, of subservience and obedience to my husband, but I forced myself to face him, and take the consequences.

After what seemed like forever, Bran turned on his heels and left, and I flung myself on my bed and trembled with the reaction to what I had just done.  I could hardly believe he had not hit me – I had seen the rage in his eyes and his struggle to control himself.  I knew how close it had been.

The following day, Bran was throwing things into his saddle bags when I passed his room on the way to the nursery.

“What are you doing?”

“Going to Rhemuth.  I’m expected at Kelson’s Christmas court and I’m obviously not wanted here.  I won’t ask if you will come with me, since I know the response I’ll get.”  He slung the saddlebags over his shoulder  then turned and looked at me, his eyes hard and cold.  “And when I come home, you’d better be back in my bedchamber or I may not be as indulgent as I was last night.  I’m your husband, Richenda, and that still counts for something.”  


http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=618.0  Chapter 7

Evie:
There's a name I'm dying to call Bran, but I'd hate to offend any illegitimate children, so I'll settle for "self-absorbed git" instead.  :D

AnnieUK:
This from the woman who is currently writing about a psychopath - or a sociopath - or whatever the heck sort of "path" he is! ;)

derynifanatic64:
Powerful chapter.  If Bran had hit Richenda, would she had been hesitant to use magic to strike him back?  Could she have resisted the temptation and damn the consequences?  Makes you wonder what her reaction was when she heard about how Bran died at Lyndruth Meadows.  Did she wish she had been the one to poison Bran rather than Stefan Coram?

Alkari:
I don't think she would have struck back with magic - I think it would have had to have been a matter of life/death or the safety of someone she loved before she risked that.   We saw her do that finally at Lyndruth Meadows when Bran and Wencit came and took Brendan - apart from her conflicted feelings about Alaric, I've always had the impression that she lashed out against Bran very much to protect Brendan.  She could not have stood by and seen her Deryni child in the hands of someone like Wencit, knowing what that would mean.   

As for whether she'd have wanted to be the one to poison Bran instead of Stefan Coram, again, I don't think so.  Poison is a very deliberate act, and I have never had the impression Richenda hated Bran enough to objectively want him dead or do it in cold blood.  She is quite honest about her relationship with Bran - she describes it as being one of state, though she clearly wants to believe that Bran had come to love her in his own way.  Given his rather offhand manner in sending his letter to her at the outset of HD, that may have been rather wishful thinking on her part.  But she never denigrates him, even to Alaric: she speaks against his actions, and recognises his character weaknesses, but I certainly don't think she'd have ever wanted to kill him herself except in self defence or defence of her son.

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