Barony of Tehryn
Late April, 1129
Jared de Tehryn was planning his own little coup. He knew exactly where he would leave the road and the route he would take across the field on his pony. He would reach the willow tree first this time. Now that he had his plan, he was careful not think about it.
Whenever they returned from a trip into town, if he, Justin and Jäna had behaved reasonably well, they were allowed to race their ponies across the field on the way home. The field stretched flat beside the road for a good distance and whoever reached the willow tree first won the race. The stream beyond the willow tree was shallow, so Papa didn’t worry if they ended up beyond the tree and in the water. Well, except for the one time Jäna had slipped and went in head first. He grinned as he remembered how she had looked soaking wet with her hair plastered over her face and water streaming down everywhere. Papa had waded in and picked her up, holding her at arm’s length as he carried her out while she dripped like a fresh caught fish.
“I know what you’re thinking!” Jäna hissed as her pony caught up with his.
“You always know what I’m thinking. But not this time!” Jared’s grin widened. “I’m going to win this time, because I’m not going to think at all!”
“I’m not thinking either, then,” Jäna retorted.
It was a beautiful spring day. Baron Jerrill de Tehryn rode a little ahead on his bay palfrey, his black leather riding cap pushed back from his brow due to the afternoon warmth. Lady Amah rode several lengths back behind the children, her dark veil fluttering in the breeze. Behind her rode one of the baron’s men with a pack mule trailing behind him on a lead line.
Baron Jerrill turned to look behind him at the three children, each one on their own pony; one a dappled brown, one grey, and one black. He had resisted the temptation to buy identical ponies for the triplets; that would only have led to mischief, he had been sure. He could tell his twin boys apart, although few others could. His daughter was obviously distinguishable, and he noted with pride that she rode every bit as well has her brothers. He hadn’t been quite as proud the day he found her in the practice yard with her own little wooden training sword, sparring with her brothers. Someone had sized it perfectly for her shorter arm. He hadn’t bothered to discover exactly who it had been, but he was sure she had charmed one of his men into doing it for her. After Jerrill had shooed Jäna out of the yard, Amah and Jäna had a little talk about proper feminine pursuits. Jerrill suspected there would have to be more “little talks”.
“Do I need to come back there and ride between you two?”
“No, Papa!” Jäna and Jared said in unison. They would be perfect angels rather than jeopardize the race. At least perfect enough.
“I’ll watch them, Papa,” Justin said.
“No, you won’t!” Jäna’s green eyes flashed a warning at her brother.
“Who’s going to watch you?” Jared countered.
“I am watching all three of you,” Lady Amah said mildly. “I’m sure Lord Jerrill won’t mind if we continue on down the road today rather than stopping.”
Three pairs of green eyes looked pleadingly at their father. Three ponies moved nicely abreast across the road, their riders’ little boots not quite touching. Jäna was in the middle, with a brother on either side, all resolutely unified in their hope to still have their race today.
“We’ll see,” Jerrill said, turning forward again before they could see him smile.
They travelled peacefully enough until Jared spotted the slight turn in the road that indicated the start of the field. He quietly moved his pony to the other side of the road, beside his brother.
“What are you doing?” Jäna asked suspiciously.
“Nothing.” Jared stared resolutely ahead, careful not to look directly at his sister.
Baron Jerrill halted his horse by the side of the road and looked back toward Lady Amah.
“What do you think, Amah? Have they behaved well enough this trip for a race?”
“I believe so,” she replied. “But I want you all to be careful. No foolishness!” She favoured each child with a stern look, though her eyes still smiled.
“Amah, we’re not babies anymore!” Justin looked at his father for masculine support.
“Of course you’re not! But you pay attention to what Amah told you anyway.” Jerrill moved his horse a little further to the left to make more room at the side of the road. “Go ahead and line up and don’t crowd the ponies.”
Immediately the children moved their ponies into position at the side of the road, lining up to make their dash for the willow tree. Jäna cast a sidelong look at Jared, still on the other side of Justin, suspicion growing that there was a reason she was no longer in the middle. There was no time to worry about it now, because her father had raised his arm to give the signal to start.
The baron’s arm dropped and all three ponies charged forward, riders digging heels into their mounts and urging them ahead. Jared’s pony, directly in line with the willow tree and the shortest, smoother route, began to pull ahead. Jäna’s pony, with its lighter rider, began to move up, but Jared willed his pony to go faster and reached the willow first by a length.
Jared whooped in victory and made for the stream, turning backwards to gloat just a little bit. No one could say afterwards whether it was because he was not paying attention to his mount at that moment or an unfortunate happenstance, but the pony stumbled and Jared was pitched forward, landing heavily on the ground.
“Papa!” Justin and Jäna screamed in unison, Jäna all but throwing herself off her pony to reach her fallen brother. Baron Jerrill was already halfway across the field, with Lady Amah right behind him.
Jared lay still, his right shoulder beneath him, breathing raggedly with pain. Jäna fell to her knees beside him, unsure whether she should touch him or not for fear she might hurt him more. She finally reached out her hand and touched him gently on his back; Jared moaned and she snatched her hand back immediately.
“Easy now, let’s have a look.” Baron de Tehryn had spent enough years on campaign to be experienced in handling injuries. He too knelt down beside his son; Lady Amah sat down beside Jared’s head, laying one hand gently across his forehead, her thumb and ring finger touching his closed eyelids. Jared relaxed and his father began a cursory examination, carefully rolling the boy onto his back.
Jäna gasped. A piece of a branch from the willow tree as thick as her father’s thumb protruded from Jared’s right shoulder, blood beginning to seep from where it entered the flesh.
“Henry,” Jerrill called to his man who now stood holding the horses. “Fetch my kit from my saddlebag.” He always packed at least the rudiments of a medical kit when he travelled even short distances. He pulled out the dagger from the sheath on his belt and cut away Jared’s shirt from the stick, then probed the wound gently, noting that the stick was relatively green with the bark intact. He looked across his son at Amah. “The stick is going to have to come out now so it won’t do more damage on the way home.”
Amah nodded. “I’ll keep him asleep.”
Jerrill accepted the kit from Henry and opened it to withdraw a clean cloth and a medium sized, stoppered bottle. “Justin, Jäna, stand back with Henry while I do this.”
“No, Papa, please!” Jäna green eyes were huge with worry. “I can hold his hand!”
“Let her stay,” Amah sent. “She’ll be all right.”
Jerrill nodded as he folded a length of the cloth into a compress and then set it on Jared’s chest. He grasped the stick firmly with his right hand while he spread his left hand on Jared’s chest at the base of the stick. He took a deep breath, and then gently began easing the stick from his son’s shoulder. As it came free, more blood began to escape from the hole in the flesh.
“Oh, no!” Jäna cried, and pressed both her small hands against Jared’s shoulder to stop the blood.
“No, Jäna!” Jerrill moved to pull her hands away so he could cover the wound with the compress.
“Wait,” Amah sent urgently.
Lady Amah had felt this odd sensation before. Jäna’s Uncle Tamil, a healer, had let Amah assist him once in a healing long ago. She had been awed at the power of the rare gift and the strange sensation, almost as if another set of hands added strength and a sense of balance to heal the injury. She had thought never to feel it again, but she did now.
Jäna knelt transfixed at her brother’s side, willing the bleeding to stop. Her father, suddenly realizing what must be happening, placed his larger hand on her smaller ones, lending her his own strength to draw upon.
But Jäna was only five, and the surge of power she had drawn upon in a panic to stop the flow of blood was flagging quickly. She blinked and faltered, starting to pull back from the wound.
“It’s all right,” her father said gently. “Let me get this cloth on now.” He moved her hands aside and covered the wound with the cloth. Surprisingly, there was very little blood.
Jäna had done enough. Jerrill lifted the cloth to discover that the deeper portion of the hole had closed. He opened the bottle and rinsed what was left of the wound with vinegar, then covered the injury with a clean cloth and bandaged it. Jäna watched in a daze, not quite understanding what she had done and a little worried she might have gotten herself into trouble. She looked up at Amah and saw the tears brimming in her eyes.
“Amah, did I do wrong?” she asked uncertainly.
“Oh no, darling, you did just right. Uncle Tamil would be so proud of you, and so am I.” Amah smiled, and Jäna suddenly yawned.
“Oh, beg pardon!”
“Come sit by me while your father finishes up.” Amah patted the ground beside her with her free hand. At a nod from Jerrill, she removed her other hand from Jared’s forehead. Jäna yawned again and stretched her legs carefully beside Jared.
“Papa,” Justin said, from where he stood standing beside Henry. “Do you think Jared will have a scar?”
“I expect he might. He’ll likely be proud of it after it heals and stops hurting. Don’t you go trying to get one like it!”
Jerrill stood and reached over to grip Justin’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Jared will be fine. Now you understand why it’s important to pay attention to your pony and your surroundings when riding.”
“Yes, sir,” Justin responded gravely. “How will we get Jared home?”
“We’re close enough to home that he can ride with me. Do you think you can lead his pony back as you ride?”
“Yes sir!” Justin straightened his shoulders, pleased to be given the extra responsibility.
At the baron’s nod, they prepared to leave. Father and daughter washed their hands in the stream, while Henry attached a lead rope to Jared’s pony. Jäna stumbled slightly as she walked to the horses with her father.
“Why don’t you ride up with Amah?” Jerrill suggested. “You can have a little sleep on the way back.”
“I’m not that tired, Papa,” Jäna replied, but the suggestion was very tempting as she yawned again. “I could keep Amah company that way, though.”
“Yes, I believe you could.” Jerrill helped Amah mount her palfrey, and then lifted Jäna up onto her lap. Once he was mounted on his own horse, Henry lifted Jared carefully up. Jerrill settled the boy against his chest and tucked him inside his arm.
By the time they had returned to the road, Jäna was asleep. Justin led his brother’s pony and Henry managed the pack horse and Jäna’s pony. The baron followed as smooth a path as possible for Jared’s comfort, and Amah rode beside him, careful of her own extra passenger.
It wasn’t long before the familiar outline of Tehryn Keep appeared before them. By the time they crossed into the yard inside the walls, the wind had picked up and there was a hint of rain in the air. Both Jared and Jäna awoke as the horses stopped and they were gently lifted down. Jared’s shoulder had started to ache, but Lady Amah fussed sufficiently over him as he was carried inside that he withstood the discomfort with hardly a sniffle. Justin supervised the care of their ponies and Jäna hovered over the preparations in the boys’ room to make Jared comfortable.
It was well after dark by the time the triplets were fed and tucked into their beds, sleeping soundly after warm possets of milk and honey as an extra treat. Baron Jerrill and Lady Amah gratefully retired to chairs before the fire in the baron’s study.
They had much to talk about.