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The Reluctant Chatelaine - Part 6 - One for You, One for Me

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Jerusha:
Part 6 –  One for You, One for Me

Rhemuth
Duchy of Haldane
Mid-April, 1132

Jäna de Tehryn walked beside her father toward Rhemuth Castle’s stables, practically quivering with excitement.  Finally, her brothers would be given their new Llanneddyn ponies!  It had been so hard to keep them a secret; she had had to carefully not think about the ponies through the celebration of Easter, and until everyone was finished with the king’s Easter Court, and through a week of drenching rain that had kept most of the court indoors whenever possible.  Fortunately, her brothers had been busy with their duties as royal pages.  Although it meant she had not been able to spend as much time with them as she would have liked, it made it easier to keep the secret.  Justin had looked at her askance once or twice, but she had been resolute to not divulge even a hint.

As they crossed the stable yard, Jäna looked around for her brothers, but apparently she and her father had arrived first.  She was still looking about as the Duke of Corwyn and his squire exited the stable.  Almost absent-mindedly, she gave him a hasty curtsey as she continued to look for her brothers….

“Jäna!” 

Startled, Jäna looked up at her father.

“Proper respect for His Grace, daughter.” 

“Oh!  Beg pardon, Your Grace,” Jäna said quickly, followed by a proper, deep curtsey.  “I meant no disrespect, sir.”

The Duke of Corwyn nodded in acknowledgement, momentarily solemn, and then smiled.  “This is the big day?” he asked.

“Yes it is, Your Grace.  Today my brothers each get a new pony.  Fine ponies from Llynnedd,” she added.

“Suitable ponies from Llynnedd,” Baron Jerrill corrected.

Brendan Coris, the duke’s stepson and squire, looked puzzled.  “But there are….”

“Brendan,” Morgan interrupted quickly.  “Not now.”

“Yes, My Lord.”  Brendan was rescued from Jäna’s questioning look in his direction by the appearance of her brothers at the entrance to the stable yard.

“Papa!  There are Jared and Justin.  May I fetch them?”

“Go, Kitten.  I’ll wait here.”  Gratefully, Jerrill watched as his daughter darted back to join her brothers.

The boys had grown in the months since Christmas Court.  They were a little more than the customary half-a-head taller than their sister now, but it was the confidence Jerrill noticed most.  Not cockiness, but more of a sureness that this was where they were meant to be.  He watched as they greeted their sister with quick hugs and then all three fell into step with each other as they crossed the remaining length of the stable yard, the boy on each side of the girl shortening his stride slightly to match hers.

“So you finally decided to join us?” Jerrill asked with a smile as the boys straightened from their bows.

“Would you have us shirk in our duties, Papa?”  Jared responded.

“No, of course not.” Jerrill looked up at the clear sky, the first cloudless sky he had seen in the last week.  “It is a lovely day today.   No reason to rush inside.”

“Papa!” Jäna exclaimed in dismay.  “We should go inside right away.”

The Duke of Corwyn looked across the girl’s head at her father, his grey eyes amused.  He was in no hurry to move on, now curious to see how events would play out. 

“Well,” Jerrill stalled, “if you really want to move from this nice fresh air into the smelly stable….”

“Of course I want to go into the smelly stable!” Jäna began to move toward the door, pulling each brother by the arm while they exchanged glances. 

She led them along the row of stalls to a large door that stood open at the end of the stable, letting in light and fresh air.  Outside the door was a large paddock that her father had arranged for the ponies to be moved to for their first introduction to her brothers.

Her father had purchased two mares.  One was a fine bay, her black points a lovely contrast against her red coat. The other mare was a pretty chestnut.   Her father had brought her to see the horses only once since they had arrived, so she could make sure they were properly looked after.  There had always seemed to be some reason she had not been able to visit them more often.  Now she was eager to know which pony each brother would pick.

“There,” she said happily, stopping in front of the paddock’s gate.  “Father bought a fine pony for each of you!”  She motioned with her hand toward the ponies and then stood very still.

“Papa?  There are two chestnuts.  There are three ponies.”  Jäna turned to look back at her father.   “Did you make a mistake?”

Baron Jerrill stroked his full beard thoughtfully.  “No, I do not think so,” he said.

“Papa!  Is, is one for me?  Truly for me?”

Her father smiled down at her, his bright blue eyes looking at her fondly.  “Yes, Kitten.  One of them is for you. “

“Oh, Papa, thank you!”  Jäna gave her father a tight hug.  “I never guessed, not once.  You really are a cagey old soldier.”

The old baron looked at his daughter with mock horror.  “Whoever told you a thing like that?”

“Lady Amah.”

“Pah!”  Jerrill moved forward and opened the gate so his children could enter the paddock.  “Gently, now,” he cautioned.  “Let them come to you.”

Baron Jerrill had no concerns as his children approached the ponies.  They had been schooled in horsemanship almost as soon as they had learned to walk.  Slowly, the triplets walked closer to the ponies, stopping at half the distance to the animals.  The ponies stood with their ears pricked forward, blowing occasionally and eyeing the children closely.  One chestnut pony moved forward, stopped in front of Jäna and lowered its head so she could reach up to scratch behind the ears.

“You remember me,” Jäna said, reaching up to oblige.

Alaric Morgan had come through the stable to watch from behind.  Now he moved over beside the baron and said quietly, “That went well.  Except for Brendan’s slight slip of the tongue.”

Baron Jerrill chuckled.  “Prince Payne almost gave it away back in Tehryn at dinner one evening.  He made a remark about how fine all three of them looked.  Fortunately, my squire chose that moment to drop the pitcher of wine.”

“That was an expensive distraction,” Morgan said dryly.

“Aye, but it worked.  Young Gavin thinks quickly on his feet; I scolded him at table and thanked him in private.”  Jerrill watched as his sons took their time to decide between the remaining chestnut and the bay.  Jäna seemed content with the chestnut that had singled her out on its own.  “I thought Jäna would want the bay, but apparently not.”

“So it would appear.  How did you do it, Jerrill?  Surely you could not keep Jäna completely away from the ponies on the trip.”

“Ah, t’was carefully planned, Your Grace.”  The old baron looked smug.  “That is why there are two chestnuts and only one bay.  So long as Jäna always saw the bay with one chestnut, she never suspected.  That way we only had to keep one of the chestnuts out of the way at a time.”

“You are a cagey old soldier, Lord Jerrill,” Morgan said, nodding in appreciation.

“Aye, Your Grace.  I’ve never denied it.”

Morgan laughed aloud and both men continued to watch as the triplets confirmed their selections. 

Elkhound:
I'd imagine that she used a little Deryni persuasion to get the pony she wanted to come to her.

Now, are there going to be fireworks when she learns that she'll have to ride side-saddle like a proper little lady?

Jerusha:
Fortunately for Jäna, most women (and girls) rode astride, either on their own saddles or pillion behind a husband, betrothed or acceptable male relative.  IIRC, box saddles were used either by the very stylish, wealthy or the infirm, where the lady could sit sideways. 

Evie:
I think in one of KK's books, she has a scene in which a lady (or maybe several ladies?) are riding on sidesaddles, but in our own history I think they didn't catch on (at least in England) until Anne of Bohemia introduced them in the 1300s.  Queens tend to be trend-setters that way.   :)

Laurna:
I vaguely recall, though I may have it completely wrong,  that Evaine rode side-saddle when she was pregnant with Tieg. But that was likely a necessity more than a style trend. The paintings and illuminated manuscripts I have seen from before 1300 all show women riding astride.

Jerusha, I love your cagey old soldier,  and I love that the duke was there to witness the event.
I didn't guess there would be three ponies either.
Good Job, Good Job!

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