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Two Turtle Doves

Started by revanne, December 27, 2015, 04:51:59 PM

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After the increasingly sombre fast of Advent with its themes of heaven, hell, death and judgement - a gloom reflected in the ever-shortening days and the hardening of the weather-, the Christmas feast had come with joy. How gracious of the Lord to come with light and love into the dark and cold and such divine wisdom to mark this turning of the year with the promise not only of the light of the sun but of the Son, the true morning star.

So mused Duncan McLain, younger son of the Duke of Cassan and studying for the priesthood. All those who lived together at the Seminary, teachers, students and servants alike had a feast for all their senses to warm the December chill. The music of the liturgy, enhanced by the light of candles of the purest beeswax and the scent of incense as it billowed upwards taking human worship to heaven. A simple and beautiful statue of Our Lady and her Child had been moved from the Lady Chapel to stand at the foot of the altar steps so that all might make obeisance and kiss the child's foot in token of allegiance. Many would kiss the Virgin's hand too, in wonder that this simple village lass was the Mystic Rose, who had held the fulfilment of all prophecy within her, and was now Heaven's Queen.

The Christmas meal which followed the morning's joyful worship offered another more secular feast for the senses. The normally austere refectory had been transformed with greenery and red berries (although mistletoe was perhaps predictably missing thanks to its pagan and romantic connotations), and on the hearth burned a massive Yule log, chosen to burn throughout the twelve days of festivity. The smell of spiced mulled wine mixed with pine and wood smoke and the rich odour of roasting meats, and mingled with the lingering smell of incense caught in the folds of woollen cassocks and cloaks. Duncan sat in a sleepy, though contented, stupor induced by the lack of sleep after the previous night's midnight observances and unaccustomed rich food, but he and his equally somnolent brethren were jerked awake as all were bidden to stand to greet the dressed boar's head ceremoniously carolled in.

Outside being bright and clear following several days of hard freezing, after the meal most of the students took themselves off to skate on the lake or to compete as to how far they could slide stones over its glassy surface. Duncan's years of training in arms told in his favour , as both balance and aim had been perfected under the unforgiving tuition of masters-at-arms, but the gentle humility which he wore in spite of his rank made him a popular victor. It was a good day and Duncan felt wrapped in the warmth of a vocation rediscovered.

So it was not entirely clear why he should wake in the small hours feeling so bereft, but suddenly the loss of Maryse was so strong and so raw that he stumbled his way down the night stairs to the frigid church where at last he gave way to his grief; longing for what could have been and should have been, swept over him. Surely it was their separation that had truly killed her, his Maryse, his beloved, his turtle dove.

When the news of her death had finally made its way to Culdi Duncan had had to hide his grief just as he had had to hide their love and their marriage. He had only one thing to leave her with now, her honour and her good name and he would do nothing to risk that. So when the year's grace for decision making allowed him by his lord and father, Jared, and agreed by his bishop, was ended there was no reason he could give not to return to Seminary. He had been surprised at how much it felt like coming home. But now the long-suppressed grief poured through him and retreating into the darkness of the nave he allowed himself to give way to long-racking sobs.

He was all but oblivious of his surroundings but some change made him look up. A slight sound? A change in the light? Or even, awesome thought, the awareness of Presence moving at the edge of perception?

Whatever it was Duncan found his gaze drawn to the statue of Our Lady and rising to his feet allowed his body to follow where his eyes led until he was near enough to look Her in the face. And then he understood. it was not a choice between loves but a gathering of both loves enfolded in the one Love. And he knew himself to be truly blessed in that he had been graced with both divine and human love and both turtle doves, Mary and Maryse were precious to him.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Beautiful, revanne, and thank you.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


So moving!  I've always wondered about how Duncan would have come to terms with his loss of Maryse, given the secrecy of their marriage and the fact that apparently the only person he'd ever shared his secret with was his confessor, with even Alaric being unaware of it until many years later.  It must have been very hard for him in those early days after he learned of her death, grieving for her and yet feeling unable to share what he was going through with anyone else.
"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!


"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.)


A beautiful pair of turtle doves.
May your horses have wings and fly!


I am touched by this story, once more. It shares with us a part of Duncan that is not seen in the novels, yet here are emotions that you know are there.
Thank you, again for this story, Revanne.
May your horses have wings and fly!