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Healer's Inheritance- Chapter 5- Christmas Blessing

Started by Laurna, October 28, 2014, 04:57:09 AM

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Previous Chapter:http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1320.0.html

985, December 25
Cynfyn Cathedral
City of Cynfyn

Nearing midnight, the people of Cynfyn filed through the west doors of the mountain cathedral, anticipating the glory of this night's celebratory Mass.  The peaceful gathering crowded together in the warmth of the portico; here they were greeted by the brethren and invited to enter the nave. With this welcome, the people moved inside using either the north or south aisles to fill the public space to its entirety.  As Earl Muir and Countess Melina approached, resplendently dressed in their favored red and white, the townspeople deferred to their liege lord with low bows and curtsies. The noble couple smiled to those at hand and accepted the clergy's invitation to enter. Within the long passage of the nave the crowd parted, allowing the earl to walk freely forward to reach the place reserved for himself, his family, and his friends. Being both family and friend, Sir Washburn followed close behind, escorting his lady at his side. Wash was dressed in his customary black attire, trimmed neatly with scarlet edging. The Lady Jessa, whose cheeks blushed as much from the cold winter night as from her excitement of the pageantry to which she had become a part of, emulated her husband in the colors of her gown. Jessamyn was lovely in a scarlet sideless surcoat with black fur trimming both the upper edges and the hem of the garment. Only the glimpse of a white linen bandage on her right hand peeked out from under the scarlet sleeve of her undergown. For those that watched such things, they believed the linen protected fingers that had been blistered earlier in the day. Behind the newlywed couple came Baron Jathurn with his mother the Lady Elzia, and also her companion Lady Cecilia. In colors of green and gold, they added to the yuletide spirit. Sir Artimus, in dark blue, contrasted with the holiday attire of those before him. His face was all business as he scanned the crowd. He expected no hostilities here, but he was never one to lower his guard.

As Washburn came to his place, he turned to watch the procession behind him. There was a moment when Sir Artimus looked over at his sister and the little girl Lady Evelyn held close in her arms. His face softened to a warm smile. As Wash also smiled toward Lady Evelyn, he considered the little girl's father who, sadly, would never meet his dark-haired daughter, at least not in this life.  Sigheria had been born just a few days after the newly widowed Lady Evelyn's frantic ride to escape the invading Torenthi army.  That summer, two years back, with no warnings of the invasion, an army led by Imre II swarmed across the borders into Gwynedd. This horde of Torenthi soldiers were like rabid dogs charging over the northeastern lands, plundering and murdering along the path that would lead them to the capital city of Valoret and ultimately to the throne of Gwynedd. The first to fall in that deadly strike had been the Earldom of Marley.  Intoxicated by the ease of his incursion, the Festillic Pretender stormed forward into Eastmarch. The men of Sighere Howell II, the Earl of Eastmarch, were outnumbered. Even so, they harried the Torenthi, slowing their rampage to a crawl, giving time for the King of Gwynedd to gather his forces at Grecotha. The cost was high, the Earl of Eastmarch fell, and Imre set the Plains of Iomaire to the torch. A week later, Grecotha was attacked and Gwynedd lost its king. By sheer determination, Gwynedd's forces halted Imre's advance short of its goal, but the devastation was keen. It was two years, costing the lives of two Haldane Kings and countless men, before the Kingdom of Gwynedd would defeat the Pretender at Rengarth and crush him on those very walls. The victory of this war was only a few months in the past, and its price weighed on the minds of many this holy night. The life of Evelyn's husband was not one of the least.

If Evelyn had given birth to a boy, she, as the Dowager Countess of Eastmarch, would have remained regent for her son the new earl. Since the babe birthed was a girl, the title passed to her oldest brother-in-law. Then when battle stole his life, the succession fell to the youngest of her husband's brothers, Lord Colwyn Howell, the current Earl of Eastmarch. With her home burnt to the ground and this avaricious young Howell looking to gain a name for himself both on the battlefield and off, Lady Evelyn had nowhere to go but to request protection from her brother, far from her husband's lands.

Sir Artimus responded as an honorable brother would, racing to his sister's side even in the midst of war to escort her and her newborn babe to Lendour. Here he left her in the care of his liege lord's lady, Countess Melina, before returning to Earl Muir's side in battle. With the war finally over, Sir Artimus was able to enjoy the company of his sister and his niece, whose eyes at the moment were wide at the sights and sounds echoing across the vaulted ceiling of the cathedral. The strikingly beautiful Lady Evelyn and her sweet daughter Sigheria were all the family Arty had left. He was very protective of them.  Wash was happy to witness his lieutenant's rarely seen soft side. Arty was a good man, loyal, courageous, and his brother's closest friend. It was a friendship that the Earl of Lendour's younger brother respected and shared.

Other notable members of the earldom filled the remainder of the floor reserved at the front of the nave. Robert, Baron of Donneral, escorted his mother on one hand and his wife on the other. His abundant children followed their father; their joy of being allowed to attend was evident on their faces.  Robert's eldest son, though, was not standing with his family; he instead was dressed in Cynfyn livery and stood in attendance to the earl. The baron briefly nodded his pride and approval when his glance met with his eldest son's. Robby stood a little taller after his father's nod.

The Knight Captain got the mental cue from Arty that all was well, but still he did a survey of the populace in attendance on this cold, glorious night. Extending his mental energy, Sir Washburn made a full sweep of the nave. He marked the stance of his men and their positions, and the general mood of the crowd. Tonight there was little concern. The people were respectful, even as they pushed close for warmth to place the draft from the open doors well above their heads. When the nave had filled and the doors closed, the artistic wood walls and marble pillars radiated the glow of the hundred burning candles placed upon the iron chandeliers hanging overhead. The overall feeling of the evening was joyful. It was Christmastide, a time of peace, longingly welcomed after a horrid war. The cold of the winter was forgotten, and the glory of life was remembered and revered.

"The gathering is greater than I would have thought due to the incoming storm," Wash said in an aside to the earl. "All appears to be in order," he finished, before easing his stance between the two lovely ladies of Cynfyn. Muir nodded acknowledgement, returning to his quiet conversation with his wife. Wash enclosed Jessa's hand in his, surprised by the tension he felt in her fingers. Lady Jessa whispered one last entreaty to her mother, which gained her nothing but the dowager baroness's steadfast refusal to admit that anything was out of the ordinary. Jessa's fingers clenched within Wash's hand, proving her frustration. She gave up, turning away from her mother, and snuggled closer to her husband for comfort.

"What was that about?" he whispered.

"I wish that I knew," his wife replied with a sigh. Baffled, Wash looked over at Lady Elzia, but the dowager baroness would not meet his eyes. Later, he determined, he would have to discern what the upset was about.

A muted squeal receding to a silent sob grabbed the attention of everyone near. Perturbed by the sound, many turned to see a younger daughter of Lord Donneral holding her kirtle above the floor away from a black hairy mass that moved toward her feet. The thing with appendages, more than eight, twisted awkwardly as it skidded to a stop beside her shoe. The slightly older brother giggled at the mischief, even as the second oldest brother leaped to his sister's aid. He picked her up in gallant rescue and then stomped his boot on the thing. Valiantly he bent down to clutch it between two fingers, to reveal a tangle of smashed twigs and moss. The poor girl whimpered as much from the scare as from the unwanted attention she had gained. In reassurance, Lady Lisa came to her granddaughter's aid, while Baroness Donneral admonished her middle son with a harsh whisper.

Some adults scowled at the children's antics, but Wash was more amused than annoyed. It was for the love of children and family that so many men went to war to defend their kingdom from the oppression of the enemy. Wash was no exception; for those close to him, he would give his all. On this Christmas Eve, in the celebration of the Lord's birth, Washburn's thoughts turned to the young ones that he so cared for: his newborn nephew, his friend's young niece, and the sometimes unruly children of Baron Donneral. He looked down at his bride whose cheeks seemed to glow as she too watched the children around her.  Children seemed to touch a place in her heart, one of so many traits that caused him to love her. With her in his arms, he could easily imagine a pack of sons and daughters at his feet and the ruckus they would cause.

It seemed Baron Donneral was unperturbed by his children's antics. His wife seemed to have them well in hand. Instead, he continued his conversation with Sir Artimus, commenting perhaps a bit too loudly on the condition of the road coming up from the lower valley. "I was glad we made the journey at noon. I hear icicles are forming on every branch tonight."

"Shush, Robert, remember where you stand," Lady Lisa interjected in a whisper and motioning to the vaulted ceiling that echoed all sound. But then she smiled, leaning toward her granddaughters. "Girls, the morning will be breathtaking," she proclaimed, sharing her joy. "The trees will be glittering with white crystals of ice, and the ground will be blanketed in snow. A gift from our Lord on this Christmas morning!"

"Presents too, grandmamma?" the youngest grandson asked. "We get a present in the morning, Robby said so!"

Lady Lisa ruffled the boy's hair. "Aye, Shane. Your grandfather loved to give one present early in promise of the gifts to come on Twelfth Night. You can be certain your father will continue that tradition. When your father was your age, I remember him being just as eager to receive his gifts as you are. But you must be good and attentive tonight; all of you!" she said to all the children, including her mischievous middle grandson. The exuberant yet remarkably quiet children caused even the earl to smile under his hand.

The bells in the Cathedral towers rang in vibrant succession. Midnight had arrived and all turned to give their reverence to the Mass.  The clergy in practiced unison walked through the people who parted to allow the procession along the center of the nave. The chant of male voices echoed across the ceiling with the words of blessing for the start of this most glorious day of days. With each step the thurible swung from side to side, censing the path with the aroma of frankincense and myrrh. Breathing the incenses elicited a calmness in all those who stood witness as the procession moved solemnly toward the base of the altar beyond the transept. Before the Tabernacle, each clergyman genuflected with respect before finding his place at either side. The Christmas Mass was begun. Bishop Michael, the celebrant of this night, was among the last to approach. He knelt in solemn prayer before the altar. When he stood, the gold work embroidery of his chasuble and stole glistened in the candlelight. In a voice deep and full, he called forth the ageless prayers of the Mass for this celebratory night.

"In nómine Patris et Fílii et Spíritus Sancti. Amen," called the clergymen before the Tabernacle. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Amen," responded the people standing within the Cathedral.

"Introibo ad altare Dei,"
the bishop chanted in a vibrant baritone. I will go in to the altar of God.

The servers attending the Bishop answered in unison.  "Ad Deum qui laetificat jeventutem meam..." To God, Who giveth joy to my youth...

Like a dance choreographed in slow motion, the bishop and his servers reverently censed the altar, moving from one side then to the other in the long-formed traditions of time.

The words of the prayer filled the vaults of the Cathedral. All who stood here, even the children, felt a calm surround them and a soothing of their souls. Holding Jessa's hand, Wash opened his senses and let his thoughts caress the shields of his bride. She let her shields drop away, sharing with him her joy of the moment. Being newly released from the convent, the passages were a part of her being, but never before had she stood on the outside and seen the grandness of the rite performed in a Cathedral of this magnificence. He cherished this feeling that she shared and let himself be guided by her joy.

The choir stilled as the prayers settled over the people. Bishop Michael moved to stand before the Missal that lay closed upon the altar. With reverence, he opened the Book to the page marked by a worn red ribbon and began the chant that was the glory of the Midnight Mass.

"Dominus vobiscum..." The Lord be with you...

"Et cum spiritu tuo..." the people responded. And with thy spirit...

A blur in the center of Washburn's vision seemed to impose itself over the main celebrant.

"Oremus..." called the reverent chanting voice of Bishop Michael. Let us pray...

A pale light shone at Bishop Michael's back. An aura of silver brightened the Bishop's white vestments.  Confused at first, knowing the Bishop to be human, Washburn concentrated on the light and watched it form into a figure of a man. This ghostly man stepped back from the tabernacle. He turned to face the people, opening his arms in a welcoming gesture. His clerical vestments shone in silvery illumination demonstrating an unrestrained moment of pure joy. Here was the mystical presence that Wash had seen in the etchings of his mother's prayer book.

"Deus, qui hanc sacratíssimam noctem veri lúminis fecísti illustratióne claréscere: da, quæsumus, ut cujus lucis mystéria in terra cognóvimus, ejus quoque gáudis in coelo perfruámur. Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, Deus..."  Grant us, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we on whom the new light of Thy Incarnate Word is poured, may show forth in our works that brightness which now doth illuminate our minds by faith. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God...

With otherworldly awareness, Washburn knew he saw, as his wife saw, another who performed the Mass. This spiritual essence mirrored the motions of Bishop Michael and mouthed the phrases in the same rhythm, though Wash noted how the movements of this kindred spirit flowed with a formality that was more likely to be witnessed in the great Cathedral of Rhemuth. Yet as he watched, this saintly Deryni performed the rites with an intimate passion showing that God was everywhere—all around—not just at the Tabernacle behind him. The feeling was enthralling, as if there were no other in this place of worship but thyself and the essence of Saint Camber who offered up worship to the Lord.  Wash felt Jessa's elation; she was sensitive to this presence who gave prayer to the Heavens. She prayed with him. For Jessa, this essence was more than a spiritual role model, he was her connection to her past. He'd been the spirit of her hope that one day she would find her family and be made whole. On this night, her hopes were fully realized. The tears streamed over her cheeks as she reached for her mother's hand on one side and squeezed her husband's hand on the other. Both Wash and Elzia looked past the woman at each other with mutual resolve to see to her care.

"Per omnia saecula saeculorum..." World without end...


As the prayer ended, the apparition of Saint Camber broadcast the warmest of smiles before fading behind Bishop Michael. Wash nodded in acceptance of the magic he could not begin to understand. It did not matter, faith was not always about the tangible. Jessa stood up on her tip toes, kissed her husband's cheek, and then ducked her head into his shoulder. With a kiss on her brow, Wash noticed how Baron Jathurn, sitting the other side of his mother, was staunchly holding back his reaction to the sighting. At the end of the prayer, Elzia had been in rapport with both her children and had witnessed the Saint from both of their views. Her joy was not as easily concealed as that of her son's. She firmly held both her children's' hands, knowing the descendants of Saint Camber were blessed with this spiritual grace that others could never imagine.

Wash enjoyed the tranquility that filled his lady as the Mass continued on. From the choir, the harmony of men's voices reverberated through the vaulted ceiling, and Jessa closed her eyes to take in the fullness of the sound. Wash mimicked his wife, surrounding himself in her joy. At the crescendo of the music, his senses fully open, filled with the elation of uplifted voices—

—a desperate cry for help shattered the elation. Instantly tense, Wash cast outward to hear the clatter of horse hooves beyond the west doors and the call from a man out in the cold. He sensed no danger in the sound; here instead was pain and suffering. Casting further, he saw with his mind's eye the man and boy at the head of a wagon, anxiously encouraging their horse over the iced cobblestones and into the cathedral's square.  A woman just behind the driver was crying "Help us!" between sobs of anguish.  Washburn was already signaling his men toward the doors when he sensed the lad slip from the wagon and trip up the Cathedral steps to the portico.

A cold wind cut across the candles above as the doors opened. Many looked around, upset at the intruding cold.  One of Washburn's men held up the boy as he tried to ask for help. A quick nod from him, and a Lendour guard turned to the south aisle to find the surgeon, Rubin.  A second guard came around the crowd toward his commander.  At a nod from Muir, Wash left his place and intercepted the guard coming toward him along the north wall.

"Injured, from the Mollingford Road, my lord. First of three wagons arriving," the guard whispered in report to his commander.

"Go to the infirmary. Have them prepare. I'll see the injured are sent there." At Washburn's quiet order, the man slipped quickly back through the crowd. Wash caught the attention of a choir boy and gave him a message to tell to Father Pernal. The physician priest stood at the back of the choir. Since he did not have a central part in the Mass, it did not take much for him to bow out of line from his brethren, nod to Washburn that he understood the choir boy's message, and disappeared through the sacristy door.

Wash's gaze fell on Jessa for just a moment. Her eyes were wide as she watched him. Did he need her?  He shook his head, no. Let me assess what is happening, his mind spoke, even as his long strides led him away from her to the west doors.

In the square, the wind was churning. Harsh bits of ice stung his face and hands as it swirled in the darkness. The rouncey pulling the wagon toward the light shining from the open cathedral doors had ice across his neck and chest; the horse puffed steam out of his nostrils like a dragon in old stories. As the bay came further into the light, he looked ready to collapse from exhaustion. The man at the reins peered out through a fur hood. Half his face was blackened with dried blood.  One eye was swollen shut with a clump of red ice hiding an open wound. To the men coming down the cathedral steps, the look of the horse and the driver was one of desperation and need.

Pacing to the side of the rouncey, Wash reached out a hand to steady the poor animal. When he looked up at the driver, he recognized the man as his tenant from Llywn Village. "Farmer Kent, what happened here?"

"It was at Ran's Ravine, my lord. Two wagons slipped from the road and tumbled down the iced banks toward the river." The driver voice was gruff and shook in the cold. "My cousin and his family are injured. I've rushed them here as fast as I dared on the frozen road. Two other wagons in our group were loading the rest of the injured as I left. They should be behind me soon."

Wash stepped to the side-board and found a man lying bundled under fur blankets iced over. The man was unmoving; only his harsh breathing could be heard. A woman sat beside him, clutching a bloodied boy close to her chest. "Take them there, to the south side door," ordered the commander, pointing to a door just opening in the side building where a nun holding a lantern high was beckoning the wagon to come forward. The rouncey grunted at the slap of the reins, but nonetheless moved forward toward the infirmary. Wash turned to his men, ordering four of them to mount up and find the other wagons on the west road. He called for other men to join him, to follow the wagon toward the infirmary. Strong arms would be needed to carry the wounded inside. 

Without pausing in his stride, Wash sent a mental call to Lord Muir. Tenants from Llywn Village had an accident on their way here. Five injured, more to come. Have Sir Artimus escort Lady Jessa to the infirmary. It's Christmas Eve, I would not wish to see death taint this night.

She is on her way,
Muir replied. Am I needed?

When the Mass is done, perhaps. At the moment, I have it in hand.

Wash indicated three men to lift Kent's wounded cousin from the wagon. The injured man cried out as they shifted his shoulders. Halting his men, Wash reached over the wagon's side. His hands briefly covered the wounded man's brow, instilling a compulsion for sleep. The cousin's thrashing eased and he fell quiet. When the men of Cynfyn moved him again without his calling out, the woman beside him began to shriek, thinking her husband had succumbed to death. Wash waved his men on.  Best to get everyone out of this cold as quick as possible. He held back the hysterical woman who'd have stumbled out of the cart after her husband if she could have managed it with her child held tight in her arms.

"Have you injuries?" Wash asked, attempting to draw her attention from her husband.  His hand touched hers and she pulled away. "Come, let me help you," he added in a soothing tone.

"My boy... his legs!" she managed to say between sobs.

"I have you both," Wash replied, conveying reassurance through his touch on her hand in hopes of winning her trust. He hoped he did not need to be more persuasive than this. He was relieved when she willingly accepted his help. After that, Wash was able to lift her and the boy off the wagon's edge and carry them into the side building complex. It was time to get out of this cold storm.

The infirmary off the colonnade was already showing activity. Brothers moved from the first warming hearth to rekindle the second, adding heat to the chilled room. One by one the lanterns were lit and the room brightened for working. After hastily donning a linen apron to protect his festive attire, battle surgeon Rubin was examining the wounds of the cousin who was laid out upon the work table. Rubin's glance toward Lord Washburn proved the surgeon was ill pleased by his assessment of the patient's condition.

"Do what you can," Wash told him as he passed. He carried the woman and her boy to a cot nearest the hearth, where he set them both down with care. He called Father Pernal over to elicit help in getting the mother to release her wounded son, but to no avail. It was Sister Vivian who succeeded where neither man could. Her soft voice and caring touch convinced the mother to let her boy go. In Sister Vivian's arms the woman cried, her vision too blurred by tears to see Father Pernal and Lord Washburn lay the boy upon the next cot over.

After assuring himself that the son slept through the physician's caring, Wash looked up as others entered the room. Farmer Kent was brought in to sit by the second hearth, and his boy who had been the one to enter the Cathedral was seated by his side. Both were being seen to by the brethren who had retired early from the Christmas Mass.

A minute or two had passed when Sir Artimus entered with two women on his heels. Lady Lisa was behind, but it was Lady Jessa who was anxiously pushing at the lieutenant's arm to hurry within.

Jessa, wait! Washburn warned. Jessa must not have heard him, for she was intent on reaching the wounded man's side.

Arty, hold her back before she gives herself away! Wash commanded.

In quick response, the lieutenant stretched his arm out, blocking the commander's wife from advancing further into the room. Arty gave her a stern look, to which Jessa bristled with defiance; for her, all that mattered were the needs of these injured people within the room. When Arty did not relent, she looked over at her husband, pleading her desire.

Listen to me, Jessa! You need to think this through very seriously. You must be discreet. Let Rubin assess the man's wounds and clean what he can. No one who doesn't already know that you're Deryni should discover that truth this night. He watched his wife take in a sharp breath and then purposely calm the tension in her clenched hands. After a moment she nodded acceptance to his terms, after which Wash nodded to Arty that he could trust her to work with care.

Unobtrusively, with some hesitation, the healer stepped to the head of the wounded cousin. Rubin only spared her a curious glance before he remembered she had been a midwife of the convent. Even so, he seemed displeased to have her near. A noblewoman should not have the stomach for the blood and rent flesh of arm and chest where a wagon had crushed the man as it rolled. The wide eyes of Lady Lisa proved that to be so. Arty stepped forward, purposely blocking Rubin's vision of the younger noblewoman. He offered his abilities, a distraction from Jessa's true purpose.  Rubin knew the lieutenant's secret talents and gladly accepted his aid. In circumstances such as these, Deryni abilities were an opportune benefit. The battle surgeon did not think twice as Arty took a white bandage from the basket and pressed it to the man's bloodied forehead, using that as an excuse for his hands to cup the wounded man's head. With a moment of focus, Sir Artimus reinforced Lord Washburn's earlier compulsion to have the man sleep through the pain. Without drawing attention, Arty motioned Jessa to hold the bandage firmly while he and Rubin leaned over to remove the bloodied clothes from the crushed shoulder.

Jessa was where she needed to be without anyone taking notice. She ducked her head low, letting her veil slide forward, hiding the sides of her face. Few if any could see her clutch the medallion in her left hand and slip into Healing trance, her power already working to heal the head wound under the cloth she held with her right fingers. Fingers surprisingly whole and free from the bandage she'd just shrugged off. She was sure no one here would notice such a detail, a detail even Wash was not aware of. From across the room, he nodded his approval of her approach. The Healer would take it slow, she was in control, and would use her gift after the physician had cleaned each wound and had seen to its bandaging. The Healer used Arty's presence to stabilize the power drain. As often as not, when Rubin later thought on it, it seemed it was Arty's hand that always completed the bandaging, using the assistance of the noblewoman to hold the cloth as he dressed the wounds. The lady was barely noticed throughout the ordeal.  Wash was pleased at the way the two Deryni managed to work the deception.

Wash stayed at the boy's side. Father Pernal had undone the clothes covering the bloodied mess of the child's legs. Wash kept the five year old in deep sleep as Pernal probed the wounds. The wounds were not as severe as first thought, but the angle of one ankle gave no doubt as to its break. Far worse was the boy's shock. Wash dared not leave his side, fearing that the combination of pain and frostbite would take its toll. He would do his best to stabilize the child and let Father Pernal clean the injuries while waiting for the true Healer to save the father and then come to the aid of the son. 

The talent of Healing was seen so rarely that none in the infirmary who did not know of the one with that gift were even suspicious that such a talent had been used.  Farmer Kent's cousin was left to sleep soundly under bandages and blankets on a near cot. Rubin had moved over to Kent's side to clean his wounds and that of his boy's. Jessa took the moment to stand against the wall, regaining her energies after her deeply focused working. Her husband sent his gratitude and concern for her fatigue. Her mental reply was of reassurance. Just a moment more and she would be with him to help the boy.

Straightening her back with a small stretch, Jessa looked around to find Lady Lisa standing at her side. "I wonder where I could find a cup to drink from?" she asked the dowager in a barely audible whisper.  Lisa must not have heard her, for the older lady seemed intent on staring at the younger lady's hands. A man of the cloth passed by and Jessa caught his attention. "Beg pardon, but do you have any refreshment? I am feeling a bit chilled." The monk nodded and turned to the hearth, returning with a mug of crushed mentha steeped in hot water.

"A tisane is best for these cold nights. Perhaps you should move away from the doors and closer to the fire, my lady," the monk said as he offered her the cup. There was comfort in the steamy aroma that arose from the surface of the tisane.

For a moment Jessa held the cup close to her face, letting the warmth touch her cheeks. She took several sips before passing the cup on to Lady Lisa. Lisa took the drink with a smile, but as her hand passed over Jessa's, the older woman purposely brushed her fingers across the other's unblemished youthful skin. Jessa's thoughts were centered on making her way across the room while bringing as little attention to herself as possible, therefore she did not see the queer look on the dowager's face, nor notice the frown that seemed to follow her through the rest of the night.

The young bride focused on the heraldry of her husband's cloak and walked the length of the room with no other seeming purpose than to be at her husband's side. As Jessa came to stand by the Knight Captain, she was distracted by the fretful sobs of the mother calling the names of her own husband and son. The woman grabbed at Jessa's arm, managing a coherent question between her fervent sobs and prayers. "Jon, my Jon, how is he?"

Jessa stepped over to Sister Vivian, her longtime mentor, and leaned down to the mother in an attempt to calm the woman's hysteria. "The surgeon has seen to Jon. He is sleeping comfortably over there, see?" Jessa pointed to the man on the cot, but there was little to see that was not wrapped in white bandages. His wife only cried all the more. Because she was so upset, Sister Vivian was finding it hard to clean the cuts on the woman's face.

True concern touched Jessa's heart. She knelt at the woman's knee with hope that her own calm demeanor and authority would break the woman's crying. "Mistress Franne, I am Lady Jessamyn. You attended my wedding. Do you remember?" Jessa's voice was so soothing. "Be assured that Rubin did a fine job of caring for your husband, I am sure he will be well in good time." She caught the woman's attention; finally Franne's ramblings stilled. "And Father Pernal is caring for your son, see?  I am certain he will be well, too. Trust in Sister Vivian, she will tend to your needs. Can you do that?" Jessa's reassurances seemed to help. Franne nodded with a shiver as she allowed the nun to clean her face. 

As Sister Vivian worked, she started a long familiar prayer which she invited the mother of the boy to say with her. As Franne repeated the prayer in earnest with her eyes closed, Jessa leaned closer. She placed her fingers on the cut and mended the flesh under her palm. Satisfied, she moved away quickly, letting Vivian continue to remove the clotted blood from the skin. When the prayer was done, Franne opened her eyes to stare at the nun, knowing something wonderful had just occurred, but never knowing the noblewoman in the festive gown had anything to do with it.

A bit tired, Jessa slipped down to kneel at her husband's side. She leaned on the knee of her gallant knight, seemingly seeking his comfort as she gazed at the sight before her. Showing concern, her hand reached across to touch the boy. Father Pernal gave her a nod, accepting the gift he knew she was capable of giving. The healing was slow and draining. Her touch was limited. With so many others in and out of the room watching, she dared not put her hands directly upon the wounds. She could manage. The healing wasn't urgent, there was time to take it slow. The worst part was sensing Wash and Pernal straighten the ankle before she could mend it.  She felt faint, thinking how no child should suffer so. But then Wash was beside her. His endless pool of energy bolstering her reserve. After a moment to steady her focus, she was able to Heal the break cleanly.

The boy, like his father, was sleeping under bandages and blankets when the sound of the two remaining wagons finally approached the cathedral square. The Knight Captain stood at once, taking charge again as he called his men to come with him out into the storm. Nearly everyone moved to the door to see what had delayed the villagers. Even Sister Vivian left to gather new supplies of bandages and medicine from the pantry across the room.

Exhausted, Jessa rested her head down on the cot next to the boy. Her hand still rested on his forehead, making sure that he would sleep until morning. His mother climbed from her cot and came to kneel at her boy's side.  She nodded with a sudden reassured smile. Did she sense the wellness of her own child under the blankets? With her whispered words, Jessa was both shocked and amazed by what the mother said.

"My Lord from above, thank you for sending a Healer in my desperate time of need. I am beyond grateful for your saving the lives of my family. Keep your daughter within the Cathedral's house safe and loved. Sister Vivian is your hand on this earth and I praise her. She may never know the love between a mother and a child, which saddens my heart, but as long as she has Your love that will be enough."

Jessa whispered "Amen" to Franne's prayer. 

As if seeing the noblewoman for the first time, the mother looked across at Jessa. "You know what I mean about a mother's love, don't you?"

Jessa shook her head. "I've not yet known that pleasure, but soon, I hope," she replied.

Franne nodded in appreciation. "When your first child comes, you will understand. But the Healer, she will never know what it means to be a mother."

"That is the gift a woman forgoes when she enters the convent and gives her love to God," Jessa replied, a little taken back by the woman's comment.

"Didn't she tell you, women Healers take the veil because they are barren from birth. They know their womb will not carry a babe, so they turn to other means to please God. Sister Vivian is a Healer; I felt it when she Healed my cut. It gladdens my heart, but saddens me at the same time that she can never give birth and know the love a mother gives to her child."

The mother leaned over and gathered her son in her arms, and then climbed onto the cot beside him. Stunned, Jessa watched her, confused. How could such a thing be true? No one had ever said such words to her before. She stood and turned away from the mother and boy. She stumbled to the hearth and stared into the fire's depths. There was truth in the words she had heard. She may have wrongly believed which person had Healed her, but Franne knew a fact about Healers that Jessa would never have imagined. Jessa may have been only married three weeks, but her flow had come after the second week, and she knew she was not yet with child. So many woman had teased her, saying that they had begotten their first child on their wedding night. Her failure to meet that expectation had certainly not been due to lack of enthusiasm on either of the newlyweds' part. Surely the woman was human and could not have known such a fact about Deryni. Surely Jessa's marriage was too new to make such a claim that she would be barren and never give Washburn Cynfyn, brother to the Earl of Lendour, the children that his position demanded and his heart desired.

Jessa would have run and cried then but for the men who entered the infirmary with fresh injured villagers in their arms. None so desperate as the father and son, but six more people appeared bloodied and falling into shock from the long, cold drive to reach the Cynfyn Cathedral in the storm. Jessa shook off her fears. They could not be true. She would not believe. She would see to the injured, do what her gift allowed her to do, and then she would give Wash his sons. Her need to love a child was nearly as great as her need to love the man she had chosen to be her children's father.

The night of Christmas Eve passed with the young noblewoman of Cynfyn giving her caring heart to tend to the villagers of Llywn. She was one of many, and few questioned her continued presence within the infirmary. By the time Christmas dawn arrived, the young woman's head lolled on her shoulders, and her eyes stared vacantly at the light permeating the east windows. She hid behind her veil. No one would see the circles under her puffy, red eyes or the fatigue lines around her normally soft smile. No one had the authority to tell her to leave off and find her bed. Her husband had left her for a time while he took care of things with the bishop. Lady Lisa, who should have been at her side, watched the young woman with unaccustomed anxiety from across the room before Lord Robert, her son, took her home in the early hours.

It fell to Washburn when he returned to the infirmary to raise his wife from the young boy's side and lead her away from the many people she had Healed and who still unknowing of her gift slept peacefully and well within the room. A carriage awaited the noble couple in the Cathedral Square.  Wash picked up his wife, who seemed strangely hollow, and carried her within, placing her beside him with his cloak about her shoulders. It was time they were home.

As the light illuminated the fresh, snowbound world on Christmas Day and the wounded villagers woke refreshed and unharmed, all commented on the miracle of the night. Rubin secretly would later comment to Lord Muir how grateful he was for Sir Artimus's talent and heretofore unrealized Healing ability. The village woman Franne, both mother and wife, would privately tell her closest friend how a nun of the Church had the gift of Healing in her hands. The rumor would spread slowly, but it eventually would reach Father Pernal, much to his chagrin. Another rumor spread, saying an angel had come to earth that night and blessed the sick with his healing. To many in the City of Cynfyn, the tales of that Christmas Eve would pass from person to person. Some did not believe the injuries had ever existed, and some praised the Holy Spirit for His intervention. In none of these tales was the presence of a lady from the castle mentioned.

Next Chapter : http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1327.0.html
May your horses have wings and fly!


Women healers are barren?  Since when?  Of course, even if it is not true, it might be believed to be true.  Disabusing her of that notion will be a source of some angst and drama.

A little too much 'costume porn' at the beginning, IMHO.

Otherwise a good addition to the saga.


I think it's in Deryni Magic where KK mentions that most (though not all) female Healers are barren, and therefore many of them end up entering monastic life where their special gift can be used to serve others via the convent infirmaries. 
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Well, we know that Jessa will give Washburn children, but I sense a good deal of trauma before that happens.  I'd have to check Deryni Magic, but I seem to remember one of the problems is that female healers have trouble bringing a child to term and successful birth.

Good chapter, Laurna.  Lady Lisa is going to be a problem, I suspect.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Yes, it says it is DIFFICULT for them to have children, not that it is IMPOSSIBLE.


Good morning everyone! There are ten chapters in this story and this one took me the longest and gave me the most trouble getting it right. Aerlys and Evie were both instrumental in helping me with the Latin prayers and their translations. Thank you both.
Elkhound, you have surprised me by the term 'costume porn'. It is of the softest variety, I hope. You have to realize, I am a 'Costumer' and I do love costumes. I love historical gowns and clothing. I have 3 closets full of gowns, admittingly most are of the Victorian style, but I now have three medieval gowns too. I love fabric and sewing machines and the waring of costumes. So you will have to forgive me, but I love to see how my characters are dressed, and I wish I had clothes to match theirs. ;D

I reopened Deryni Magic to the break in the spine where I have studied many times the chapter on healing. Jerusha, KK states that there are more male healers born than female healers suggesting that the "double-X configuration may well potentialize a lethal genetic linkage, resulting in the miscarriage or stillbirth of many or most female Healer fetuses." Later she says this is why Healers should not marry each other. Further in the chapter she wonders if "female healers might have fertility problems as well." Supporting the notion that the only four female Healers that Rhys can name are members of the convent. There is room for lots of discussion on this topic, as I have chosen to play in the midst of it.

Jerusha do you now remember that chat last spring when I was wondering what type of conversation a mother and daughter could have, and then we talked about female Hearlers being barren. That is where this story sprang from.  ;D

Thank you all for reading this far with me.  I appreciate it.
May your horses have wings and fly!


I loved this -thank you Laurna. Emotionally very powerful in so many ways with the hope and sorrow so skilfully woven in. How dreadful for Jessa to have to watch her back before healing but of course that is how it must have been. I'm sure healers were betrayed to their deaths even as they brought relief to others.

I'm sorry, Elkhound, the costume porn was part of the pleasure. I don't have much visual imagination and the richness of the detail you give is all part of the magic for me.

I loved the appearance of Camber - even better had it been Joram - sighs.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Thank you Revanne, I love the comments.
If you ever reread Deryni Rising, take note of how much color is offered in all the descriptions from surroundings, to clothing, to characters personal appearance, to hair and eye color. It was something I really noticed, especially after reading other dreary books that seemed to have no color in their descriptions at all. I figure that this is a KK tradition to offer colors as a textural richness to the story. Granted, as writers improve their abilities to write descriptions less color is used, but my favorite is still that opening DR novel of KK's.

As to our wondrous Deryni Saint Camber. I feel for the ghostly essence who has, perhaps, doomed himself to be ever present among the mortal folk of Gwynedd. I want to give him a moment like this where he can express his joy of his continuance in a form that isn't just helping others. He deserves it. That others can witness his joy brings joy to all of us.

Have a great day.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Quote from: revanne on October 29, 2014, 09:11:28 AM
I'm sorry, Elkhound, the costume porn was part of the pleasure. I don't have much visual imagination and the richness of the detail you give is all part of the magic for me.

Well, this is definitely a YMMV thing.   I'm more interested in character and action and idea---detailed description, unless vital to the plot (in other words, if the fact that the character is wearing green rather than yellow will be important to how the story develops), is just padding, IMHO.  It can give the impression that the author had a minimum word-count she was trying to make.  (It may go back to when in school I was asked to write a piece of at least so many words, and when I had said all I needed to say in less than that I'd go back and throw in some adjectives and adverbs to fill it out.)

Anton Chekov said that if you have a gun onstage in the first act, it should be fired by the third.  For me, any detail not important to the plot is an unfired gun.  One sees it on the set in the first act and is constantly wondering when it will be fired, by whom, and AT whom; if, by the end it isn't fired at all, it is unsatisfying because one is left wondering why it was there at all, and one is flogging one's brain to see if there it was something one missed.


Quote from: Elkhound on October 29, 2014, 01:52:04 PM

Anton Chekov said that if you have a gun onstage in the first act, it should be fired by the third.  For me, any detail not important to the plot is an unfired gun.  One sees it on the set in the first act and is constantly wondering when it will be fired, by whom, and AT whom; if, by the end it isn't fired at all, it is unsatisfying because one is left wondering why it was there at all, and one is flogging one's brain to see if there it was something one missed.

Conversely Tolkien says somewhere (I think in one of his letters) that some details should remain unexplained. He put it much better than my garbled memory but it is something about glimpses of unexplored vistas giving depth.

Having said that for me the costume details here do serve a purpose - they convey the sense of lives transformed- in Jessa's case from little better than a convent skivvy and in Wash's case from brutal warfare.

Re costume detail when William and Kate got married DH and I were visiting our younger DD in South Africa where she was then working and were driving out in the country when Kate was due to enter the Abbey. Knowing DS and DD1 were at home watching I texted DS to ask what her dress was like. I might have anticipated the reply - "long and white!"
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


There is something to be said for both points of view, and for an author, there's a delicate balancing act between including enough detail to fully set the scene and including so much detail that it threatens to detract from the plot.  One thing to keep in mind when quoting Chekhov is that he primarily wrote plays and short stories, and writing short fiction is a slightly different art form from writing long fiction.  With short fiction, brevity truly is key (especially with flash fiction, where you can't afford to spend time fleshing out every little detail because conveying the story in the fewest words possible is part of the art form), but in longer fiction, the author has more leeway.  I think in either case, though, the author has to be careful not to get so bogged down in picturesque details that the reader gets bored because the storyline has stalled.  It is sufficient to paint in broad enough strokes that we can see that the tree has leaves, so to speak; no need to paint every single leaf in such intricate detail that the reader's attention is so caught up in picturing every vein that they entirely fail to see the forest one started off trying to describe.

The problem is that every individual reader has a different level of tolerance for what they consider "extraneous" details, plus male readers (in general) tend to prefer different sorts of details and/or stories than female readers (in general), so trying to find the perfect balance to please everyone makes an author's job all that much harder.  Sometimes the trick might lie in layering in just enough bits and pieces of such details throughout the entire story to make the story come alive, rather than describing those things mostly in one particular scene, lest one particular paragraph or section start to read too much like "costume porn" (or "fancy sword moves porn" or "technobabble porn," which is what I sometimes quickly skim past when reading male-written fantasy, SF, or action-adventure, or "gratuitous-history-lesson-infodump," or what have you).  But that's a learned skill that writers generally develop over time.
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Quote from: revanne on October 29, 2014, 03:41:19 PM

Conversely Tolkien says somewhere (I think in one of his letters) that some details should remain unexplained. He put it much better than my garbled memory but it is something about glimpses of unexplored vistas giving depth.

All very well and good for a great, big, fat doorstopper novel or multi-volume epic mythos.  Not for a short story or novella.   There's a great deal of difference between a haiku, a sonnet, and an epic.


Well all I can say is, I have never added adjectives to fill in a word count. ;D Truth to tell, after the first writing I spend the next 20 read-throughs rewording sentences, trying to smooth them out, make them read without halting, and make some attempt to reduce the adjectives that I originally used. And, I will admit that I still leave too many in place because that is the way I see a scene, or feel an emotion, or move with the action. Evie can account to this. Sometimes we joke quiet humorously on the number of adjectives I use. She has tapped my hand over it more than a few times.  I don't know if I will ever learn the true skill of writing. A scfi writer once said that you have to write a minimum of one million words before you should even consider asking for publication. What he didn't say was how you could get feedback on that one million words to learn this art form, and than, hopefully from that experience, make yourself a better writer. Without anyone else to turn to, I am using all of you like a writing group.

Therefore, I appreciate the comments that I use too much description in one place, and that this is boring and a turn off to some readers. (I just hope that it is not as offensive as the term "Porn" implies. :o) What I appreciate even more is that you didn't stop reading because of it. It is an amazing feeling to know that someone else has read something that was at one time just images and emotions that sat in my imagination. If we were Deryni we could share such stories during an instant rapport and not have to spend ten months and countless hours trying to get the words right.  ;D
May your horses have wings and fly!


Quote from: Laurna on October 30, 2014, 04:16:28 AM
If we were Deryni we could share such stories during an instant rapport and not have to spend ten months and countless hours trying to get the words right.  ;D

But that wouldn't be nearly as satisfying, would it?   ;)
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Quote from: Laurna on October 30, 2014, 04:16:28 AM
(I just hope that it is not as offensive as the term "Porn" implies. :o)

No; just that it seemed self-indulgent.

The Dorothy L. Sayers short story "The Queen's Square" was set at a costume party where the theme was "come as a game," which had elaborate descriptions of the various costumes: a man dressed as a Chinese Mandarin with a stuffed parrot (Mah Jong), another in a green sandwich board with a hat made to look like a Tiffany lampshade (billiards), a woman in a one-piece bathing suit carrying a ball (water polo), etc.  She spent a great deal of space describing the costumes, mentioning almost in passing that the two couples representing chess were dressed identically except that one couple was in red and the other in white.

Later, after the murder, a witness saw someone on the staircase.  The witness didn't see the person's face, but described the outfit.  The staircase was illuminated by a red spotlight.  Now do you see why there were two people dressed identically except for color was important?  And why she spent so much time describing everyone else's costume--hiding the clue in plain sight.  If it hadn't been important, all of that description would have been padding---an exercise in description for description's sake.

And I agree that such self-indulgence is not limited to descriptions of clothing.  Some authors are too enraptured of describing landscape, or technology (computers, spaceships, cars, motorcycles, forensics, firearms), or giving blow-by-blow descriptions of fights.