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A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Started by Jerusha, December 26, 2015, 09:33:25 AM

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In answer to revannes' request for a little light relief over the Twelve Days of Christmas, here is my story for the first day of Christmas.

As always, my thanks to Evie for catching the stray commas and incorrect words I overlook no matter how many times I read it through.   :)

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Castle Coroth
Duchy of Corwyn
December  1128

Briony Bronwyn de Morgan watched the partridge pecking in the grass in her mother's garden.  It was warm for this time of year, with no snow to soften the look of the brown grass, brown, leafless trees and mounds of brown dirt where flowers would bloom in the spring.  The bird was brown too; big and round and brown.    A boring, brown, round bird on a brown, boring afternoon. 

Briony sighed and sat down on the path, crossing her legs under her everyday blue gown and tossing the sides of her light cloak back out of her way.   She placed her elbows on her knees and leaned forward, propping her head with one hand on either side. One golden blond braid dangled in front of her and moved gently in the breeze. The bird turned its head to watch it warily for a moment and then resumed pecking for seeds. 

Normally, she would have been in the nursery with Kelric, making her own versions of decorations to hang around the window.  He was five years old now and had grown too independent to do things the way she wanted them done.  Did every decoration have to be a pony like the one he wanted for Twelfth Night?   And did he need to hang them up using her embroidery thread and tangling it into one huge knot in the process?  Nurse had suggested she have some quiet time in the garden before things got out of hand.

She didn't really belong in the nursery anymore.  Nurse was beginning to make things ready for the new baby her mother would have in the spring.  Mummy said it was going to be a girl.  Thank goodness it was not going to be another little brother!

Earlier she had tried helping with the decorations in the castle's Great Hall.  She wasn't tall enough to be much help yet.  All she could do was hand things to others so they could place them where her mother wanted.  It had become more interesting when the young squire had come over to talk with her, but a frown from her mother and a word in his ear from Lord Hamilton had sent him scurrying away.

The garden was boring with no one else around.  The partridge looked up at her again, and without quite knowing what she was doing, Briony willed it to come closer.  Cautiously, the bird advanced.   Slowly, she moved her arm to pick up a stray seed and held it out to see if the partridge would come closer....

"Briony!  You will have dirt all over your gown," Nurse admonished, striding down the path toward her.

Startled, Briony sat up straight and the partridge flew up into the pear tree.

"Her Grace has sent for you to come in for the last fitting for your new gown   Please stand up and we'll get you brushed off and presentable."

"You scared my bird," Briony said as she obediently stood up to be brushed off.

"Your bird?" Nurse asked as she finished inspecting Briony's gown. 

"That one."  Briony pointed up at the partridge sitting on a low branch of the tree.

"My, that is a fine partridge.   I'll have to let the cook know; he's looking for a few more partridges for the Christmas meal."

'No, no," Briony said with alarm.  "Not that one!"

"Why not?  It's a nice fat one.  You know His Grace likes a nicely roasted partridge; it's one of his favourites."

"Fly away!" Briony sent to the partridge.

But the bird stayed in the pear tree, watching as Briony left with her nurse.


"Mummy, do you think Papa might like something different to eat at Christmas this year?" Briony asked as she and her mother walked back through the garden toward the nursery.  The sempster had made the last adjustments to her new gown, and her mother was finally satisfied with the results. 

"I suppose he might," Richenda replied, walking carefully along the path.  The Duchess of Corwyn had decided to escort her daughter back personally and enjoy a walk in the mild weather.  Her pregnancy was obvious in spite of the loose gown she wore, and it wouldn't be long before walking would be less comfortable and more treacherous in the winter weather.  "Why do you ask?"

Briony looked toward the pear tree before answering.  The brown partridge had flown back down to the ground and resumed his pecking in the grass.

"There is a very nice one under your tree," Briony started to explain, and then stopped and stared.

A servant entered the garden from a side door.  He carried a sling and a rock. She watched in horror as he looked toward the partridge, loaded the rock in the sling, and began to whirl the sling above his head....

"No!" Briony shouted and dashed ahead to try to stop him.

"Briony!"  Richenda shouted after her and tried to catch up to her.

The servant attempted to stop the whirling sling with his other hand, causing the end weighted with the rock to swing erratically before it connected with a loud thump against the side of his head.  The man cried out and fell to his knees.  The partridge flew up into the tree.

The Duchess of Corwyn took charge of the resulting pandemonium.    Reassured that the servant's skull was whole and the man was lucid, she had one of the several castle guardsmen who had arrived on the scene take him to the castle infirmary.  Nurse showed up with Kelric in tow to find out what was going on.  The partridge flew up to a higher branch. 

Richenda dismissed the guards and finally turned to her daughter, who stood small and wide-eyed near the castle wall.

"What were you thinking?"  Richenda did not pause for Briony to answer.  "That poor man could have been killed! What if the rock had hit you instead?  All over a bird!"

"I'm sorry, Mummy.  I just...."

"Save it for later, young lady," her mother said firmly.  "You will return to your room with Nurse and stay there.  Wait until your father gets home!"

"Yes Mummy," Briony said meekly.  She curtseyed to her mother and left the garden with her nurse and brother.


Briony sat on the wooden bench underneath her bedroom window.  For a while, the noise of Kelric playing in the nursery had kept her company, but it was quiet now.  Nurse had taken Kelric to the ducal apartments to welcome their father home from Rhemuth.  Normally her father and mother would have attended Christmas Court together, but her mother had been out of sorts with this pregnancy and had remained behind. His Majesty had given her father permission to spend Christmas at home with his family, and Briony had been looking forward eagerly to his return.  She wasn't feeling quite so eager at the moment.

Her embroidery was cast to one side on the bench beside her.  She had given up trying to untangle the mess her brother had made of her thread.  The shutters of her window were open, letting in the meager light that remained at this time of day in winter.

There was a sharp knock on the door.  Briony knew immediately who it was. 

"Enter please, Papa."

Briony stood as the door opened and her father entered her room.  She made a respectful curtsey and then stood and met his gaze directly.  There was no smile of greeting, so she remained standing and waited for him to speak first. 

Her father made her wait a few moments longer, but she did not drop her gaze.  "Tell me what happened today," he finally said.

So she did, leaving nothing out and making no excuses.  Her father did NOT like excuses.

He stood thinking for a moment when she had finished.  "You didn't think this through, did you?"

"No Papa.  I never thought about the man at all, just about the partridge."

"What makes this partridge so special?"

"I think I touched its mind."

Her father raised one blond eyebrow.  "Indeed.  What makes you think that?"

"Because when I asked it to come closer, it did."  Briony saw that her father was still skeptical.  "If it is still in the pear tree, I can show you.  Please?"

"Show me."   

Morgan followed his daughter over to her window.  She stood on the bench and looked for the bird, first at the base of the tree and then in the branches.  She spotted the big, brown bird on a large, low branch.  She started to concentrate on the bird.

"No, Briony, I mean SHOW me."

"Oh.  Yes, I can do that."  She held out her small hand and placed it in her father's larger, calloused one.  "This is how I did it."

Again she focused her thoughts on the partridge.  It turned its head and looked with one glistening black eye in her direction. After a moment, it walked a bit closer.  Then closer still, until it was almost at the end of the branch."

"See, Papa?  You can feel its mind.  Just a little stirring, like a soft breeze." 

"Yes, I see," he replied.  "Best let it get back to being its own self again, though." 

"Of course, Papa."   Both of them watched as the partridge returned to the relative safety of the fork in the tree.

Morgan turned from the window and sat down on the bench, letting go of Briony's hand and motioning for her to sit beside him.

"Your Aunt Bronwyn could do that too," he said quietly.  "She could call birds down from the trees and get them close to her hands for a treat."

"I was going to try that, Papa, but Nurse interrupted."

Morgan looked at his daughter thoughtfully.  "You know the partridge won't stay.   It will soon fly away and quite possibly end up as someone else's dinner."

"I know that, Papa, but I wanted it to be safe in the garden.  Shouldn't any bird be safe in our garden?  Just like you keep us safe in Castle Coroth?"  Briony looked appealingly up at her father.

"It's not quite the same, Poppet.  It's my ducal responsibility to keep my people safe, but not birds."

"I understand that, Papa," Briony said very seriously, "but why couldn't Mummy's garden be a place where birds could be safe until they fly away?"

"That's an interesting proposal.  Let me think on it and discuss it with Richenda."

"Thank you, Papa.  I am truly sorry the man was hurt because of me."

"As well you should be.  I believe Richenda intends that the two of you will pay a visit to him and his family tomorrow to apologize.  And take them a fine meat pie."

"Of course, Papa.   It will be a sincere apology, too."

"I would expect no less."  Morgan rose to his feet.  "I'll speak to your lady mother about your proposal.  I won't guarantee that she will agree."

"I know you will do your best, Papa. " She stood again on the bench.  "May I have a hug now?"

Morgan smiled at his daughter as he wrapped his arms around her.  "You should close the shutters, before you catch a chill."

"Yes, Papa, I will."  Briony escorted her father to her bedroom door and watched him close it behind him.

She returned to the window and found the bird still in the tree.  She wouldn't bother it now, but maybe if it was still there in the morning, she would try again. 

"Good night, partridge in a pear tree," she said softly and closed the shutters.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Love it.

I can imagine Morgan seeing Bronwen again as Briony grows up.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Shed a few tears at the end.
Happy first day of Christmas to all.
May your horses have wings and fly!


"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

James Herriot (James Alfred "Alfie" Wight), when a human client asked him if animals have souls.  (I don't remember in which book the story originally appeared.)


Thank you revanne, Laurna and DR!  It was fun to write.  :)
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


A very fun story for the first day of Christmas, Jerusha!  :)
"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!


I'm seeing a scene where she gets set upon by an anti-Deryni assassin and, in response to a mental shout for help, he gets mobbed by every bird within half a mile.


Tis the Twelve Days of Christmas once more.
I reread this first day of Christmas and was totally charmed by Briony once more.
Thank you, Jerusha and Revanne for starting these 12 stories. I intend to read one each day, they are such a joy.
May your horses have wings and fly!


They were such fun to do. I think I shall follow your example Laurna.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)