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Four Calling Birds

Started by revanne, December 29, 2015, 03:09:47 PM

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In the midst of a few weeks of blissful relaxation in the Duke of Cassan's residence at Culdi, Alaric Morgan was steeling  himself for the conversation he felt duty bound to have.

Not that Duke Jared and his second Duchess Vera,  who had acted in loco parentis for himself and his sister Bronwen,  had ever given him cause to fear them; other than when he deserved it and honesty forced him to confess, at least to himself, that growing up he had often deserved worse than he had received.

Had it been for himself that he was approaching his aunt he would have had no qualms about opening his heart,  but talking about Bronwen felt like disloyalty. But there was no-one else to whom he could confide his fears for his sister; it was only Vera,  secret Deryni that she was and sister to Alaric and Bronwen's own mother Alyce, who could have any inkling of the bleak future that was likely to await a known Deryni woman. The bleak future that Vera's own parents had sought to spare her in separating her from her twin at birth, and giving her up to be brought up as human.

The days of holiday were drawing to a close when one sunny afternoon Alaric finally found the courage he needed and sought out Vera as she sat in her solar overlooking the terrace and gardens, contentedly plying her needle and talking with the two gentlewomen in attendance on her. These two rose to their feet on Alaric 's entrance and dropped curtsies fitting for the Duke of Corwyn, although he was grimly amused to note that one at least displayed that sudden twitching of the right arm which betrayed a repressed desire to cross oneself. He motioned them to rise as he addressed his aunt:

"Might I have a word? In private."

Vera asked her ladies to retire to the anteroom, where they began to play and sing, then gestured to Alaric to seat himself.

"You look troubled, my dear. What is on your heart?"

"Aunt Vera - you're like a mother to us both, especially to Bronwen. I barely remember our own mother, God rest her soul, Bronwen not at all. I fear for her!" That last, coming out half-reluctantly and therefore more forcefully than he intended, almost had the force of an accusation.

Vera looked at him gravely, "Has anything happened? We keep her very secluded here, and surely no-one would dare to threaten Jared's ward. Not openly at least, though for all our powers we cannot change the fear that lies in people's hearts." And she sighed.

"Nothing, I know that you are here to protect her, though with Jehana dropping poison into willing ears at court, we all walk on a knife edge. But what future can she have? As a known Deryni! Sister to the prince of darkness!" Alaric could not keep the bitterness from his voice and Vera longed to comfort him, although much of what he said was true. She started to speak, but Alaric rushed on:

"My mother was lucky, King Donal was very good to her."

Vera breathed a silent prayer of gratitude that Alaric would never know the reason behind Donal's 'goodness' to his mother, but made no sign as Alaric continued,

"And she was truly blessed in the love of my father, God rest him. There are few men who would take on a Deryni witch and honour and protect her as he did. What hope can there be, for Bronwen, of a marriage in which she can find any sort of happiness? But my worst fear is that Jehana will persuade the King that Bronwen's welfare can be best served in an austere convent where she will be forced to penance and a life without joy or love. Oh, she will dress it up as care for Bronwen's immortal soul but her true desire will be to see one less Deryni free to breed!"

Seeing Alaric's anguish, Vera put out a hand for him to help her to her feet then stood as though undecided for a moment.

"Do you truly want her happiness?" Seeing the tears spring to the eyes of the young man, as dear to her as her own son Duncan, and whom she sometimes feared was being hardened beyond repair, Vera was answered. "And do you swear to keep what you will see secret until they are ready to make it public?"

"Aunt Vera! What are you suggesting...? She's only fifteen!"

"And a woman grown, despite being your little sister." - even given the seriousness of the conversation Vera could not keep a smile from her voice - "But if it comforts you remember that according to your mother's will she cannot be married until she is twenty-five. A provision made for her protection although we may have a hard time, Jared and I, persuading her of that. But if you will promise, then come."

Gravely, and surprisingly sweetly, Alaric signed himself then bent to kiss his aunt's hand in token of promise. Placing her fingers to her lips Vera led him out of the solar and along the terrace to where they could look down into the enclosure of the herb garden without themselves being seen.

Bronwen stood with her arms outstretched, all too clearly calling birds to her. Three blackbirds, known locally to folk as Colly birds, perched fearlessly on her, one on each shoulder and another on her left wrist. Alaric, torn between fear and anger at her stupidity even in this safe place would have gone towards her, but Vera held him with her gaze and pointed him down to Bronwen's feet where in an attitude of utter adoration sat Kevin, Jared's son and heir by his first, long-dead, wife.

Again motioning Alaric to silence Vera led him back to the solar, where, seating herself again, finally she spoke.

"You need to have no fear for Bronwen's future. We did not force it, or even plan it, but Jared and I could not be happier about it."

"But he knows that she is Deryni!"

"Knows and cares not. She has caught him by a magic far more powerful than the power of any Deryni." And Vera smiled in a way which reflected well on her own marriage.

Alaric thought on the scene he had just witnessed, vivid still to his inner eye. Bronwen in her beauty and serenity calling the birds and the three of them responding to her gentle love which touched their being and drew them to her. "No," he corrected himself "four calling birds," for Kevin had been touched and drawn by his sister's sweetness and was caught just as fully as the birds.

He looked at his aunt and smiled, the weight of his fear lifted from him. Vera smiled back, giving no hint, then or ever, of the sudden shadow which had brushed her mind like the sweep of a bird's wing."

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


"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.)


Alas that sudden shadow, but a lovely story, nevertheless.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Poor Bronwyn and Kevin, having their time together cut all too short, but at least they got to have several years of happiness before Rimmell interfered.
"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 so love the big brotherly concern for his little sister. Alaric reminds me of my big brother in this story. Evie, Revanne, I do love the fourth calling bird. She and Kevin did have 10 years of courtship to play out. And I do believe that would have been a good ten years.
Thank you Evie, love this story, but darn that shadow.
May your horses have wings and fly!


I am honoured  that you should mistake my writing for Evie's, Laurna.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Oops!  I am sorry, Revanne.  I am honored to read both of your great writings. Love this story.
May your horses have wings and fly!