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YuleTide story from Caer Mariot chapter 1

Started by Laurna, December 23, 2020, 12:40:43 PM

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((It is Christmas time in Gwynedd and I offer an opening of a story of good friends and warm hearths. A story that can be added to and joined by my good friends))

After a summer of grief and war, the open valley of Caer Mariot in the very middle of the land known as Meara had settled into autumn in mourning. But the mourning has been followed by the revitalized energy that a young new lord and lady could offer to mend the land, a lord with a fair honest work ethic and a lady with a promise of a new generation come spring. Winter came with cold winds and snow, but the manor was dry and the hearth was warm. Food from north and south had poured into the war depleted regions of Meara. No one in the province was forgotten, no one was left in the cold or went hungry. A grateful king had seen that Meara was well provisioned and the people once more turned to their king and wondered how it was that anyone would have thought breaking away from Gwynedd could have been a good idea. Even seed had been given for the coming spring so that Meara would not have a harsh planting season again following a year where the crops had not been brought in.

Two men on horseback breasted the hill overlooking Caer Mariot. Both in fur cloaks and high hoods keeping back the dusting of snow as it fell from the sky.

"Is thes th' place?" one man asked of the other. His natural border brogue slipping back into place as he was nearer to his own homeland than he had been in the court of Rhemuth.

"I have never been here before, but this appears like the details we were given.'' The man on the taller horse gestured to the valley and the stone castle settled on the other side of a river with a sturdy wooden bridge for crossing. Beyond the castle was a series of low stone homes with thatched roofs and smoke rising from every chimney. On this snowy yule day, the village of Mariot appeared happily snuggled up against a wooded hillside like a tapestry.

"If Ah ken th' master an' th' mistress ay Mariot, we shoods be able tae bargain some mulled bucky an' warm breed. Ah am braw an' Ah am famished."

The tall man laughed, "Don't tell me one autumn in Rhemuth has thinned your blood, dear cousin. This little snow has made you cold? You obviously have yet to visit me in Lendour for the winter, and I am sure I have heard that Saint Melangell's is far colder than this."

"Aye when th' north brine winds blow it will cut ben tae yer bones. But strang kirk walls hauld th' winds at bay. Ah am nae normally ridin' thes time ay year."

"And Father Columcil, I do thank you again for joining me in this new adventure. I have a promise to keep and a gift to deliver before Christmas Eve. And Father, a man of your cleverness and resourcefulness has been most welcome. I am just glad our journey has been easy and happily uneventful."

"We are nae thaur yit, dinnae tempt th' saints." the priest chided with a side smile followed by a pat on his mountain pony's neck. "Spean, follow your nose and find us a warm barn to put you up in."

The taller man also patted his stallion's neck, "Shadow follow Spean, he has better instincts than you do for such comforts." As Washburn Morgan moved his black destrier out at a walk behind the mountain pony, he waved to the wagon behind him and the Squire Robert who drove its team. The wagon loaded with goods breasted the road and then slowly the travelers descended into the valley below.

It must have been the right estate for no sooner had they crossed the bridge when the lord of the castle came out the doors with a whistle and a wave. The whistle was that boatswain's whistle sharp and shrill, it pricked the ears of the stable boys and sent them to flinging wide the barn doors and waving to the travelers to come in. In little time the riders and wagons were within the cavernous barn that was warm and dry and half filled with highland cattle at the far end. The tall knight had to smile as he threw back the hood to his cloak. "I never took you for a cattleman, my seafaring good friend. Baron Cameron now is it? Captain?" The tall blond man called merrily as he dismounted and was greeted by a shortish fellow with cheery blue eyes and hair near the color of the snow. Washburn received a huge hug and a pat on the shoulder from the manor's lord.

"So good to see you, Sir Washburn. And aye I am still your Captain, and I am punishing you for being late. You were supposed to be here yesterday. I was getting ready to ride out and go searching for you. I had hoped your reputation for trouble had left you by?"

"No trooble, Lord Darcy, na th' time, jist yesterday's st'rm slowed us doon. We weren't expectin' snaw thes early in th' season." The good father dismounted and shook the snow off his cloak and stamped his boots. "I don't want tae upset th' lady wi' meltin' drips athwart her fluir."

Before Darcy Cameron could reply, the lady of the manor called from the barn entrance. "I would rather my guests stood next to a warm hearth in a puddle of melted snow than stood out here with the beasts. Tommy, Dean, and you too Claus, get those horses settled, wiped down, and fed. Yes, yes, let Sir Washburn handle Shadow, but show our guest his warhorse's stall and help him settle him.  And what is this? Robert, is that you? It is good to see you. I know you said you accepted my apology, but if you're here, does that mean you have truly forgiven me?"

"Yes, my lady." Squire Robert said as he handed the reins of his team over to Claus and jumped down from the wagon, giving the lady a deep bow.

Darcy clapped Robert on the shoulder. "None of that here, you are our guests. Come inside. And what ever did you bring that needed a wagon?" Darcy asked of the three men.

Washburn smiled broadly, "I promised you a bed of Lendour hardwood with goose down pillows and a coverlet of embroidered heather. I stand good on my promise. And I was figuring that you needed this gift sooner than later, what with the girls due before spring." Wash nodded toward Lady Aliset who stood with the light of the barn entrance behind her, showing a silhouette of her figure well rounded with the coming of twin girls. "You weren't coming to twelfth night this year, so we thought we would bring the festivities to you."

Lord Darcy laughed, "It seems you're not the only ones thinking that way. When my brother learned that his squire was heading here, he said he would come this way, bringing guests he said, too. No entirely sure who, but I suspect a cousin will be in tow. Or rather it was her idea and my brother will be in tow. Which seems more likely to me." When the blond knight smiled, Darcy shook his finger. "Oh, no, you still haven't gained Iain's blessing on that vessel. Hands to yourself and off the rudder."

"Darcy!" Aliset exclaimed "Don't go calling your cousin a ship."

"Well all ships are women because they are as stubborn and finicky as any woman can be. I am just saying that Wash needs to mind himself with Lady Fiona, and maybe, just maybe, Lord Iain will finally give his permission for you to be courting her."

"You know we have been sharing letters for the past months now. And I see her in passing at the schola often enough, though only to share smiles." Washburn claimed. "I think Fiona already believes I have been courting her."

"Careful what you admit, she is my cousin too, you know." Darcy said, pressing his lips together. But then he could not help the laugh that tickled his belly. "Hurry up, let us get inside so that we can get you thawed out and hear all the gossip in Rhemuth.

May your horses have wings and fly!


Oh, well done, well done!  What tales will be told by the hearth fire this Christmas!  (And who will believe them  ;D )
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Wonderfully told Laurna, I felt although I was there.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


This is wonderful, Laurna. What a treat to come to the castle and find this lovely story waiting. I think Wash's gift will be much appreciated. It sounds most comfortable. And it's good to see our friends meeting to share the holiday with no catastrophes in sight. Merry Christmas to all.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance


I need to ask; did the game finish up,then. I am for some reason unable to get to it and would really love to be able to read the ending parts.
Judy Ward
You can buy a pretty good dog with money but you can't buy the wag of its tail.


No, it has not ended. I think we are simply on a hiatus for the holidays and to allow our writers to cope with other issues. We will be back to complete the game and tie up any loose ends. While waiting, Laurna decided to gift us with a sample of what to look forward to after the game itself does end. I thank her for that. We are very involved with the characters we created and want to continue to follow them into their futures. At least this is how I see it.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance


Good morning Housemistress. DFK has the right of it. The Main story is not finished. We still have a few threads that need tying off. If there is still a little trouble a head, then I will be surprised like you; we shall have to wait and see.
This was for the holiday. A little happiness to write about. I have the next scene in mind. and Jerusha may write something. Then we will see who drops by Caer Mariot on Christmas day. And who knows we could write all the way through to twelfth night in Meara.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Sorry Houndmistress, I have been caught in moving in the middle of the pandemic with my DH not coping at all. Hopefully in the new year I can turn my thoughts again to writing. In the meantime we have this wonderful offering for us to enjoy.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


I am actually working on a little something involving Ian and fiona and a visit to Caer Mariot
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance


((My thanks to Launa for graciously allowing Darcy to get a word or two in.))

"With your permission, I will bid you goodnight."   Robert stood and bowed to his host and hostess, even though Lord Darcy had insisted that the squire was a guest and the formality was not required.  As one of the king's squires, the habit was too well ingrained in Robert to be set aside.

"Sleep well, Robert," Aliset said with a smile. "And try not to put too much faith into Darcy's stories."

"Love, every word has been true!" Darcy protested.

Washburn chuckled, certain that there was always some embellishment to the seaman's stories. 

"I will make sure I am available to hear your confession," Father Columcil said with mock gravity.

Washburn, Darcy, Columcil and Aliset were seated on chairs that had been placed a comfortable distance from the hearth in the solar.  Aliset had an embroidered cushion tucked behind her back for comfort, and her feet rested on a low stool. The servants had been dismissed for the evening, leaving the friends to talk at ease among themselves.  As Robert withdrew from the room, Darcy stood and fetched the picher of ale from the table to refill their tankards.

"Would you like a little more?" Darcy asked his wife.

Aliset shook her head and handed her empty tankard to Darcy.  "I think that will be enough for me this evening."

"Well then," Darcy said with a bright grin as he placed the tankard on the table.  "More for us then, old friends!"

"I see you haven't changed much."  Washburn saluted Darcy with his refilled tankard and then took an appreciative swallow of the contents.  "How does it feel to be a baron now?"

Darcy and Aliset exchanged glances.  "I honestly couldn't tell you."

"Why not?" Columcil asked, puzzled.

"I'm not a baron."

"What?  The king did not make you Baron of Mariot jure uxoris?"  Washburn was appalled.

"He declined to extend that honour." Darcy said dryly.  "We are acknowledged as Lord and Lady of Mariot, with full control of lands and revenue, but not granted the titles."

"His Majesty thinks we are both a tad wayward," Aliset added, though with no tone of regret to her words.

"Why the king would consider a woman who shapeshifts into a man to travel with a priest and a seaman to find a hidden fortress 'a tad wayward' is beyond me."  Darcy resumed his seat and took a long draught of his ale.

"Surely your actions have shown you deserve the honour.  Aliset certainly deserves her rightful rank as baroness!"  Washburn still found it hard to believe.  The king was known for being a fair man.

"If you think about it, we haven't done anything particularly heroic," Darcy said as he settled back in his chair.  He pushed a strand of pale hair back from his forehead.  "I never actually found the fortress I was sent to find.  Iain freed you first, to which I have no objection at all."  He raised his tankard in salute to Washburn.

"All I managed to do was to set all the female tongues wagging at court, something not that easy to do at a well-established court like Rhemuth,"  Aliset added.  "Kelson had to demand the betrothal of the 'wayward' lady to calm things down."

Washburn nodded, beginning to understand the king's dilemma. "And there was no formal courtship to settle lands and titles as there should have been. You seem to be taking it well, though."

"Actually, you could call it a blessing," Aliset said

"Why is that?" the priest asked.

"It's allows us to chart our own course to do our best to put Mariot back together," Darcy answered.  "Men lost the use of good farmland, both for crops and grazing, when they refused to follow Oswald.  Oswald redistributed the lands to his followers, and those that survived the fighting in Ratharkin and returned don't want to give it up. These were not necessarily greedy men; given Oswald's murderous inclinations, they may have thought it a path to survival.  We have to find a way to settle disputes as fairly as possible."  Darcy set his empty tankard on the floor beside him.  "Since I am not the baron, I don't have to settle things exactly the way Aliset's father might have.  I can be a bit more creative."

"And since Darcy is not the baron,  I hold these lands suo jure, in my own right. I have a say in matters.  I am free to disagree with him." Aliset gave her husband a sweet smile.

"Though I am sure you would never do such a thing."  Darcy rolled his eyes heavenward.

"The lands remain yours, and the respect the people had for your father transfers to you, Aliset," Washburn said thoughtfully.  "Darcy, the unknown, avoids looking like an opportunist grabbing title and lands by marrying an heiress in distress. If he is to earn the title, he will keep your best interests, and theirs, in mind."

"Mariot will thrive again, and Kelson will have the confidence to bestow the title knowing it is in good hands,"  Aliset said resolutely.

"Aye, it will be.  I'd raise my tankard to toast your success, but tis empty," Father Columcil said. He saw Aliset stifle a yawn.  "I think tis time I retired. It has been a long day."

Darcy rose to help his wife to her feet.  She gave him a grateful smile. "Yes it has, and the girls are quiet, so maybe I can get some solid sleep."

"The bed I brought should help with that," Washburn said as he also rose.  "We can set it up tomorrow."
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


QuoteI have a say in matters.  I am free to disagree with him." Aliset gave her husband a sweet smile
That gave me a sweet giggle to add to Aliset's smile.

Nicely done, Jerusha. I, like Washburn, had not thought that the title would not have been bestowed. But I like that Darcy and Aliset are free to have Mariot "thrive again."
A good evening had. Thank you.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Thank you, Laurna.

Autocorrect can be an interesting "friend."  It changed "jure uxoris" to "jure exorcist."  Now THAT could have been interesting!  ;D
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


LOL!  That would have sent Evie into joyous laughter.  Then again if Evie's beloved Aliset is married to "Baron of Mariot jure exorcist" instead of "Baron of Mariot jure uxoris" we might be heading down an entirely different story from a happy yule tide holiday. Better not tell Evie. LOL
May your horses have wings and fly!



Fiona did not want to be left out so thanks for letting her participate.

Iain Cameron entered the solar with a sheaf of papers in his hand. The two women looked up from their needlework. "The courier has brought me quite a lot of correspondence which I will need to attend to." Ian smiled as he took his seat at a table near the fire and began to sort through the letters which had arrived with a courier from Rhemuth. Once the Mearan question was settled and peace restored, he had at last received the long delayed permission to return to Isles and address issues there. He had been occupied in Isles for several months, first dealing with his stepfather and then working to undo the damage the man had done while he ruled the barony in Iain's absence in service to the king. 

His cousin, Fiona, was on Christmas hiatus from the schola in Rhemuth and had asked to join him rather than returning to Baron Stuart's manor. Baroness Stuart had been invited to join her as chaperone. "What is the news from Kelson's court? Is there anything of interest, any word of Father Columcil or Sir Washburn? It seems a long time since we had news of them " Lady Fiona studied her guardian intently. "Has Sir Washburn been reconciled with his family? I know that, on our return from Arx Fidei with Archbishop Duncan, the king reinstated Sir Washburn fully as knight and member of his court, recognizing his part in rescuing Lady Aliset. And what of Lady Aliset and Lord Darcy. How are they faring at Caer Meriot?"

Iain held up his hand laughingly as Fiona paused to catch her breath. "Give me time to sort through my correspondence. I will share the news with you as soon as I have time to peruse my letters."  Fiona bounced impatiently in her seat, earning a frown from Lady Stuart, such insistence was unbecoming in a lady.

Finally, Iain had sorted his letters into piles and addressed the two ladies. "It seems that the king is planning a larger than usual celebration and feast for Twelfth Night in thanksgiving for the successful Mearan campaign and the end of the rebellion as well as welcoming his newest grandson. Prince Javan and Duchess Grania have welcomed a new prince, Anthony Donal Brion."

"The Duke of Corwyn has returned to Coroth to deal with the affairs of the Duchy. His family accompanied him except for the Dowager Duchess who has decided to remain in Rhemuth for the time being enjoying the company of her youngest son.. Earl Brendan has also returned to his lands. I think he is avoiding court until his hair grows back to its natural color. The dye job he did was not very flattering although it would certainly have helped him avoid recognition by his enemies while he was searching for his brother. They will return to Rhemuth for Twelfth Night."

Fiona interjected. "But what of Darcy and Aliset?'

"Actually a letter from Darcy has been included in the messages I received today. Due to Aliset's pregnancy and the rigors of traveling from Meara to Rhemuth in the winter weather, they have received leave to remain at Caer Meriot. I am sure they will regret missing the festivities. They are expecting a visit from Father Columcil and Sir Washburn prior to Twelfth Night. Robert, my squire, is accompanying them to help them deliver a gift promised by Sir Washburn to Lady Aliset ."

Fiona looked puzzled. "What kind of gift would require Robert's help to deliver it?"

Iain chuckled. "It seems Wash promised the lady a bed made of Lendour hardwood with down mattress and pillows and an embroidered coverlet. A bit too much of a load for Wash and the good father to handle alone. So Robert is assisting. I am considering traveling to Caer Meriot on my way to attend Twelfth Night, allowing me to see my brother and his wife, my friends and my squire."

Fiona turned to Iain, "Oh please allow me to travel with you!  I can hardly wait to see Aliset and hear how her pregnancy is progressing. And I want to hear about how she and Darcy are settling in as Lord and Lady of the manor and how things are going with them." Fiona's cheeks were flushed and she was so excited she was again bouncing in her chair.

Iain grinned. "And you are not at all excited to see their guests."

"Naturally I will be happy to see Father Columcil again. He was a great support to me during our adventures."

"But you are not at all eager to see Sir Washburn."

"Well, of course I will be happy to see him as well and hear how things have gone with him since I entered the Schola and he resumed his duties to the king. I know he had many issues to resolve as a result of what happened to him as a consequence of his kidnapping and time as a prisoner. He was a good friend to me."

Iain studied his cousin and ward. "A friend, eh? Well, I suppose it would make sense for you to accompany me on my trip to Rhemuth. You will wish to be present for the Twelfth Night festivities."

He turned to Lady Stuart. "Will you accompany us and continue to chaperone Fiona. I am certain that I will be much occupied with the king and whatever plans he has for me. Fiona needs someone to escort her to the various activities and help her navigate court activities as she has never before been to a formal court in Rhemuth although she has been at the schola. She will need the benefit of your experience. If you agree, I would like to leave in the morning to give us time to visit with my brother and still reach Rhemuth for the festivities."

Lady Stuart nodded her agreement graciously. She spoke to Fiona. "We both need to pack for our travels." Both women left the solar to begin their preparations for the trip.

Two days later, a small party breasted the road leading down into the valley and Caer Meriot. They halted briefly before urging their horses forward toward the manor house. As they crossed the small wooden bridge and entered the yard of the manor, the door opened and Darcy and Aliset came out to greet them happily. Darcy embraced his brother while Aliset came forward to welcome Fiona and Lady Stuart. The ladies chattered happily but Aliset noticed Fiona's eyes searching for someone she didn't see. Grooms came forward to take the reins of the horses and lead them toward the barn. Darcy and Aliset conducted their newest guests into the hall where servants took their cloaks and circulated with mulled wine and warm drinks. As they moved into the great hall, Father Columcil came forward to greet them cheerfully. In the bustle and confusion of arrival it was hard to find what she sought. As she moved further into the hall, and looked around and beyond Darcy and Father Columcil she saw a tall, blond knight smiling at her.  Her heart did a flip. Wash was here and she was determined that they would have some time to talk at last.  Letters were all very well but they did not take the place of meeting in person. They had not spoken together since Fiona had begun her Schola studies, and she had been busy devising schemes to bring them together. Here was her chance.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance