Author Topic: Two Kingdoms: Faces and Hands  (Read 1013 times)

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Offline DoctorM

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Two Kingdoms: Faces and Hands
« on: September 15, 2019, 04:29:35 pm »
Author’s Note: This is the third piece I’ve posted in a Two Kingdoms AU. It’s set in c. 1110, years before the events of the other two pieces. It’s exposition, I suppose— something that would be placed in a backstory chapter. As always , there are characters and background here that go back to some stories in very, very early issues of Deryni Archives and to my own much younger days.  It’s more my own notes than a stand-alone piece—- getting a feel for characters that are in my head quite often. Any comments on the characters would be appreciated.

Two Kingdoms: Faces and Hands

“My family,” Charissa says. “Or some of them, anyway.”

The heads line the shelves along one of the walls.  Different sizes, different styles, some in bronze, others in different colours of marble. Christian leans in to count. Maybe thirty of them. There’s witch-light in the air behind Charissa, and the shadows flicker on the faces. “Some of these are old,” he says. “Where did they come from?”

“Beldour,” she says. “Gifts to my father. From Wencit and his friends.”

The room had been the Marluk’s workroom once, and Christian props himself against a heavy trestle table. There’s dust enough here. He can’t think anyone’s been in here to clean more than a handful of times these last five years. He stares at the rows of Festillic faces. “Why was  Wencit sending them?”

Charissa touches one. It’s a woman’s head, done in pale Fallon marble.  “They started coming after everything happened,” she says. “Birthdays, saints’ days, anniversaries.”

“Everything,” Christian echoes. “Which everything?”

Charissa takes a breath. “There were six of us,” she says. “And now there’s just me. When my last two brothers died, when there was just me, my father started thinking about family and  bloodline and what he had left. He started talking a lot about what he’d leave behind and what his life meant. About doing something for the family name. And the gifts started coming.”

Five of the heads have crowns. He knows who those are.  He looks over at Charissa. “When did Wencit ever give anybody anything?”

She shakes her head. Long blonde hair whispers across the fine grey wool of her dress. “Wencit and his friends,” she says. “They wanted to remind my father that he was running out of chances to do something with his life.”

“Like trying to take Gwynedd from the Haldanes.”

“Something like that.”

“That’s something Wencit would do. You know I hate him.”

She leans over and brushes two fingers over his cheek. “Don’t we all.”

He’s trying to remember the Marluk. Five years and more, now. It’s hard to remember his face. Easier to remember him as tall and broad, standing taller than almost everyone. His own father had commanded cavalry for the Marluk, ridden with him. The Marluk’s laugh he could remember, and  how he’d swept into rooms, always restless, dragging everyone along with him. Easy enough to imagine him deciding suddenly to gather up whatever men-at-arms he could find and go off to Gwynedd to fight Brion Haldane, easier still to imagine Wencit and his clique edging the Marluk year after year towards doing it. 

Charissa’s fingers flicker in the air. The witch-light she’s called up rolls forward and hovers above them. “My family,” she says. “Any favourites?”

He points at a crowned head, something in bronze, old enough to show wear. The face is narrow, fine-boned, high-cheekbones. “That one. The first Festil. Always.”

She leans her head against him. “Good choice.”

“Always admired him,” Christian says. “When I was a boy, I used to imagine riding into Gwynedd with him.  Making myself lord of something.”

“Your family was always with mine. I like that.”

“I know. When the first Festil came south and west, there was a Falkenberg with him. We had lands out of it. We had Daerborne when the Festils were kings. That’s down in Carthmoor these days.”

Charissa runs her fingers through his cropped black hair. “That’s a thing I like about you. If something happened a couple of hundred years ago or a couple of thousand miles away, you know all about it.”

He looks over at her. “Pick your favourite.”

“That one.” The witch-light drifts toward the woman’s head and its  coronet. “Ariella,” Charissa says. “She’s always been my favourite.”

Christian regards the statue. “I could never like Imre, though. Never.”

She shrugs. “Imre doesn’t mean anything. It’s Ariella I admired when I was a girl. I always thought I understood her.”

Christian sighs. “Imre threw his crown away. He was pig-headed and vain and stupid. He wanted people to think he was hard, and all that came out was petty cruelty. I hate that, you know? Being cruel to show you can be.”

Charissa’s voice is flat. “Like someone I almost married.”

“Like someone you almost married.”

Charissa is half-sitting on the table. She lets her hands take her weight on the edge. “Aldred  ended up worse than Imre, though.”

“Like he deserved.”

She glances at him. “Everybody thinks that. The girl they made marry Aldred—- she shouldn’t have ended like that, like what they did to her. She hadn’t done anything. Not that anybody remembers her.”

“No.” Christian makes a face. “That was…awful. I’m just glad they didn’t make you marry him.”

“It wasn’t going to happen. Whatever I had to do.” She touches his face again. “I mean that, you know—- whatever. But he wouldn’t have me in the end.” Her thumb runs over his lip. “I wasn’t good enough for him. I’m, you know, ruined.

“I like debauched better.”

“Don’t laugh. You’re not in a dungeon and I’m not in a convent because there are people in Beldour who like me being ruined.  That way no one royal wants to marry me. I’m not in play when they talk about who gets to be in power.” She brings his hand up to her lips. “I mean, I know that. There are people at Beldour who want you to get me with child. No one would ever marry me, then.” She squeezes his hand. “Then they could kill us both.”

Christian stares down at floor. “We’d have to run away. I’d do that with you.”

Charissa shrugs.  “I’d go. I’d go anywhere with you. But think about Ariella. Being in exile, begging your way around other people’s courts. I don’t want that.”

He pulls her hand up and kisses it. Her skin tastes of something he can’t identify, something expensive and foreign.  “I don’t want you ending up like Ariella.”

“She was brave, though. Led an army. Fought to the end.  I want to be that brave.”

“You are. You always were. I saw your face when your father died. You were the bravest thing I’d ever seen.”

She looks at the statue on the shelf. “Tell me about history,  love. Do you think she did have a child with her brother?”

“That’s two hundred years ago. I mean, who knows? That’s the story everybody told, and she never denied it.”

Charissa stands up and looks at the bust. Her hand moves over the pale stone. “One of your ancestors was her lover, wasn’t he?”

“That’s the story. Sometimes the story is that his brother was, too. They fought for her at Iomaire.”

She looks back at him. “Men in your family keep falling in love with women in my family. It never ends well, does it?”

“You and I aren’t  doing so badly.”

“Outside of all the people who want me dead, and you with me. And we’re sixteen. Early days, still.” She perches on the edge of the table and sweeps at dust with the edge of her hand. “When I was a girl, I thought she loved Imre, that she threw herself away for love.  I thought that was romantic.  Then I thought that her loving him wasn’t about having a child. It was her trying to be his backbone, trying to give him a backbone. She threw herself away so he could learn to be king.”

“He should never have been king.  She’d have been better at it. Or someone else who was Festillic. The family and the great lords should’ve put Imre aside.”

“Stop.” She puts her fingertip on his forehead. “Don’t sound like everybody at Beldour. They talk about changing kings like you change shirts.”

Her eyes are sapphire blue even in the pale witch-light. Christian looks at her. “Ariella would’ve been a better queen than Imre ever was a king. You’ll be good at it too, one day. I know that.”

“Queen of someplace. Queen somehow and somewhere. I want you there with me.”

“I’ll fight for you. You know that. I saw you the day they killed your father and I knew I’d fight for you. You’re my life.”

Charissa puts her hand up. He presses his own flat against it.  “I wish it had been your ancestor who gave Ariella her child. Incest all the way back then just makes me someone with a curse haunting them. Cursed blood, right?  Like I’m the evil princess in somebody’s poem. If it was us, if it was now, and it was us, that would be… I wouldn’t mind.”

“Explain to me why I’m not afraid of you.”

“Oh, I know. What a terrible sin, for the two of us.”

Christian holds up his other hand to hers.  “It’s terrible, but it’s not just Imre and Ariella. If you go out to the villages and look…a lot of things happen in peasant huts that nobody talks about. Things everyone pretends not to see.”

“If it was you, I wouldn’t care who saw.”

He laughs. “Well, the Church might. And every noble house in Torenth and Gwynedd and everywhere else. But…if it came to it, I’d still be proud of you. That’s always.”

Charissa settles against him. “I mean, I agree. Ariella should’ve ruled Gwynedd. Not Imre. I just want to be as brave as she was.  She was beautiful, too. I wouldn’t mind that. I’m all bones and angles and being freakishly tall.”

“I like you tall. I like you being just what you are.  I mean, the two of us…you’re the one who’s brave. But I’ll be there with you. I had an ancestor who was Ariella’s lover. He went to Iomaire with her. I’d do that for you.”

Charissa brushes her hair off her face. “If I were Ariella, would you be my lover?”

“I wouldn’t be Imre. Imre was an idiot.”

She puts one long finger back against his forehead, “Not Imre. Maybe the other brother, the imaginary brother.”

Christian pulls her finger down to kiss. “If I were the imaginary brother, I’d do whatever you wanted. I’m used to doing that, God knows.”

“Or if I happened to be Ariella and you happened to be your ancestor…”

“Richard,” he says. He says it the Bremagni way, the southern way: Richard . “His name was Richard. Half my first name.  Everyone called him Ricardo.”

“I knew you’d know. That’s so something you’d know.” She kisses him. “Be him. You can be him and I’ll be Ariella.”

“We’ll end up better, though. We will. No matter what they want in Beldour. Or Rhemuth, too.”

Charissa looks up at the faces on the shelves. “No matter what anybody wants. I’ll be her and I’ll do it right—- get a crown and keep it. I want you there, though.”

Christian kisses her hair. “Like you said. Men in my family keep falling in love with women in your family. I’ll be with you. We’ll do it better than Iomaire, though. I’ll be whoever you want and I’ll be there."



« Last Edit: September 28, 2019, 05:29:42 pm by DoctorM »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Two Kingdoms: Faces and Hands
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2019, 07:33:01 pm »
Well done!  I have always liked Christian, and the story behind Charissa is very interesting.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Offline DoctorM

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Re: Two Kingdoms: Faces and Hands
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2019, 10:24:51 pm »

Offline revanne

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Re: Two Kingdoms: Faces and Hands
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2019, 01:19:34 am »
I could picture the scene perfectly, and an interesting insight into the characters.
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline DoctorM

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Re: Two Kingdoms: Faces and Hands
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2019, 08:01:31 pm »
Thank you for that!


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