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Yuletide Story Chapter 5 - Christmas Feast

Started by Jerusha, February 02, 2021, 12:14:22 PM

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Jerusha

Lady Aliset Cameron stood in Caer Mariot's hall watching the preparations for the Christmas feast.  One hand rested on her abdomen, and she felt the flutter of a moving child and then the prod of an elbow on the other side.  Or at least she thought it was an elbow; kicks usually were more pronounced.  For the second time, her maid had let out the seams of the gown she was to wear to the feast.  Honestly, it had still fit when she tried it on last week!  It was good the babies were growing as they should, but Aliset was beginning to think she would soon look like a very large cow.

Aliset turned at the sound of the hall doors opening.  Darcy entered, cheeks rosy from the cold, stamping snow from his boots and carrying a large jug.  A servant hurried over to take his cloak, and Darcy hung on to it for a moment. Her husband still had difficulty accepting help with things he was accustomed to doing for himself. 

After only a short moment of hesitation, Darcy surrendered his cloak.  "Edric," he said, as he remembered the man's name.  "Thank you." 

Edric smiled at the acknowledgement, and Aliset thought Darcy was making progress..

"How did it go?" she asked as Darcy came toward her. 

"Splendidly," Darcy replied.  "Old Willard insisted I return with a jug of his best ale.  We'll add it to what is served at the high table.  It should please him when word gets back to him."

Aliset smiled; Darcy looked like he had thoroughly enjoyed himself.  He had accompanied Father Petroc to deliver Christmas baskets to those either too infirm or with babies too young to come to the hall for the feast. Aliset had wanted to go herself, but the weather had turned colder, and Darcy didn't want her to catch a chill.  He had cheerfully volunteered to go in her place, so she sent him off with the priest, a few men and the wagon to make the deliveries.

Loaves of bread, mince pies and cheese filled the baskets.  Before this last Mearan rebellion, the baskets would also have included venison or bacon, but Oswald had depleted Mariot's plentiful bounty to feed his men on the way to Ratharkin.  Despite this, there was still enough for a fine feast and to send small bundles of food home with those who attended.

Darcy handed the jug to one of the servants with the instruction that it was to go on the high table.  "It reminded me of when I was a wee lad in Isles," Darcy said as he removed his gloves and rubbed his hands together to warm them.  He waited for Aliset's encouragement before continuing.

Darcy was too cheerful to be denied, so Aliset obligingly said, "Yes?"

"I must have been close to six years, and Mor finally thought I was old enough to help her give out the alms.  We had baskets much like the ones you prepared, and we took them to the church to hand them out.  We also gave a coin to each new mother from that year.  That was to be my task, and I was given the pouch to hold until it was time.  As the first mother came up with her babe to receive the coin, I couldn't untie the knot in the cord holding the pouch closed.  I was mortified!"

"Oh dear!"  Aliset said. "What did you do?"

"Nothing useful,"  Darcy replied.  "It seemed the harder I tried, the tighter the knot became.  After a moment, Master Skegg, our steward, bent down to help me.  He was a mountain of a man and had fingers the size of sausages.  With one deft twist, he had the knot undone. I was amazed! 'It's a tricky sailor's knot,' he explained to me.  'I'll teach you how it works later.'"

"Did he?" Aliset aked.

"Aye, and I still use it to this day!"  Darcy said triumphantly.

Aliset  shook her head and laughed.  "You always have a story!"

Darcy grinned as they turned to watch the two long trestle tables being set up parallel to the ends of the high table.  Near the hall's entrance, another table held stacks of wooden cups ready to be filled from the wassail bowl as their guests entered. Aliset had done her best to ensure everything was laid out as it had always been at Christmas before Oswald had decimated her family.  For a moment her eyes filled with wistful tears, and Darcy encircled her shoulders with one strong arm and pulled her closer.

"It looks beautiful, love.  No one could have done a finer job, and people will know that Mariot is now the way it should be."

Aliset smiled at him, pleased that he understood.  "I should go and get ready," she said.  "If I wait too much longer, Sara will have to let out my gown for a third time."

***

The guests were all in place as Aliset took Darcy's arm to be escorted to the high table.  As they entered the hall, Sir Iain fell into place behind them escorting Lady Stuart.  Washburn came next escorting Fiona.  Washburn was a tall man, but Columcil, who would follow with Father Petroc, thought Wash stood even taller with Fiona's small hand on his arm.

The people rose as their lord, lady and esteemed guests took their seats at the high table.  Aliset had chosen the places of those at the high table carefully.  Darcy had offered pride of place to his brother as Baron o' Isles, but Iain had declined, stating graciously that the honor belonged to Darcy.  Lady Stuart sat beside Iain with Father Petroc seated on her other side.  Washburn sat next to Aliset with Fiona on his other side and Father Columcil beside her.  Wash was beaming as he carefully settled Fiona in her chair.  Columcil gave Aliset a conspiratorial nod, knowing that Aliset had placed Fiona and Wash safely under friendly supervision.

The hall grew quiet as Father Petroc rose to give the blessing.  As everyone resumed their seats, the doors at the back of the hall opened.  All eyes turned to watch two men carrying a huge platter on which rested the  great boar's head.  The head was decked with rosemary, and there was an apple in the boar's mouth.  The aroma of meat and spices filled the hall as the men walked slowly so everyone could get a good look. Finally, they turned toward the high table to present the delicacy to the Lord and Lady of Mariot.

"Good heavens!" Darcy muttered, quietly enough that only his wife and brother could hear.

"You've never seen a boar's head before?" Aliset asked him, surprised.

"Never one like this," he replied, and Iain gave him an odd look.

The platter was set in the centre of the table.  Slices of apples surrounded the head, and the boiled ears were secured to the head by a long skewer.  The elder of the two men wielded the carving knife to open the head and place slices of meat and mounds of stuffing onto the wooden trencher Darcy would share with Aliset.  He stood back expectantly, waiting for Darcy to sample the food and declare it fit to be served.

"I shall give this honor to Lady Aliset," Darcy said with a slight bow to his wife.

Aliset gave Darcy a sweet smile and reached to take a sample.  "Coward!" she sent.  She tasted the  meat and both of the stuffings before proclaiming, "This is excellent!  I think it's the best I have ever tasted!"

The guests cheered and the man removed one of the ears and set it on the trencher.  "Cook says you always were partial to the ears, my Lady," he said. 

"Pray thank him for remembering," Aliset said.  "I will enjoy this!"

Darcy took a cautious taste of the food.  The meat was tender and the aroma of onions, sage and rosemary made his mouth water.  The stuffings were equally good, with bits of pig's liver, sausage meat, ox tongue, apples and nuts.

"Darcy," Iain said around a mouthful of food.  "We always had a boar's head at Christmas.  Surely stepfather continued the tradition, though I'm sure it was never a merry meal."

"Oh he did," Darcy admitted as he slid a succulent piece of meat to his wife's side of the trencher.  "He just didn't think I was trained well enough to not embarrass him in public.  I had to eat what I was given in my room. Boar's head was not included."  Darcy looked sidelong at his brother.  "Pity he slipped from the walk walk above the cliffs and into the sea."

"Aye," Iain said mildly.  "He should have known better than to go up there in the wind and the rain."

"It's Christmas," Aliset said sternly.  "Let's not mention your stepfather or Oswald again today."

"Agreed!" Darcy said and raised his tankard of Old Willard's ale to his wife.  Aliset raised her own cup of well-watered wine in return.

Aliset picked up the boar's ear and broke off a piece.  "Delicious!" she said after taking a bite. "You should try this."  She broke off another piece for Darcy.

He took an obligatory nibble.  "Not bad."  He noticed that the other pig's ear was on the trencher Washburn and Fiona were sharing.  Washburn had made sure the largest piece was before Fiona. "Do you think  Washburn has remembered to keep some of the food for himself?"

"So you haven't noticed her sliding pieces back in his direction?" she asked and smiled.

"It's good they are getting along and not throwing the food at each other," Darcy quipped.

A picture of the noble, well-bred knight tossing stuffing at Fiona, Fiona ducking and it ending up on Columcil's cassock popped into Aliset's mind, and she started to laugh. 

"Something amuses you, Aliset?" Washburn asked as he turned in her direction.

Aliset hastily took a sip of wine.  It would be difficult to answer without giggling.  "No, not really," she finally said.  "It's just Darcy being Darcy."

"Does that mean I amuse you, or I don't amuse you?"  Darcy asked, pretending to be hurt.

"There is too much merriment at this table," Father Petroc said with mock sternness.  "And I am truly glad to have it return at last!"

"Hear, hear!"  Father Columcil added, and they all raised tankards and cups as the next course was carried into the hall. 

As the food was brought forward to the high table, Aliset noticed a chunk of bread on Darcy's side of the trencher. It was a perfect size to be thrown.   He looked over at her, and his face broke into a mischievous smile; he was sure he knew what she was thinking.  Aliset reached over and moved the bread to her side of the trencher.  Darcy would never intentionally do anything to embarrass her at the feast,  or any other time, but it did not hurt to remove temptation.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

DerynifanK

Yuletide Story: Chapter Five. Chrisrmas Feast

Fiona woke early Christmas morning to the sound of bells celebrating Christ's birth and sunlight streaming through her window. The room was cold, and she snuggled down into the warmth of her covers. She closed her eyes, remembering last night's Midnight Mass and nearly falling on the way back when she reached down to touch some snowdrops that were poking up through the snow. She felt Washburn's strong arm catching her and lifting her to her feet. His arm remained around her waist as she steadied herself.  The remembrance of his strong arm holding her up sent a flush of warmth all the way to her toes. Then she had heard someone clear his throat and Washburn's arm was immediately withdrawn. Aliset and Lady Stuart had each taken one of her hands, and they had continued back to the manor.

She jumped out of bed and ran to the window to gaze out at the glistening snow covering everything. She felt excitement rising in her like bubbles; she almost danced across the room. She was so looking forward to the festivities of the day. It would be a day of enjoying her friends, singing carols, playing games and feasting. Surely among all the bustle there would be opportunities to be with Wash.  "I am going to find a way to talk with Washburn and at least have a little time with him." She had already noted where all the mistletoe was hung.

She thought of the present she had for him, a silk handkerchief of Healer's green she had found in a market. The minute she had seen it, she had known she had to have it for Washburn. She had been unsure of the propriety of giving the knight a gift so she had asked Aliset. "I see no harm in a small gift in recognition of the services he provided to you and to your uncle at some cost to himself. I am sure he will appreciate it". Aliset had smiled and had even agreed to help her embroider a design she wished to add to it. She had purchased it, and although needlework was not her best talent, she had managed with Aliset's help to embroider a pair of hands in one corner of the handkerchief, healing hands. She was certain he would love it.

There was a knock at the door. When she called "Come", the door opened to admit the maid with hot water for her to wash. She had chosen her gown the night before and laid it out on a bench. It was new,  blue silk with long sleeves and neck trimmed with creamy fox fur. It displayed her slender figure to perfection and brought out the blue in her eyes. This was the first wearing of the gown and she was anxious to show it to Aliset to hear her comments. She was also excited to be seen by Sir Washburn in a lovely gown rather than disguised as a boy or dressed for travel,  the guises in which he had most often seen her on their journeys, first to her uncle's manor, then to Aux Fidei for Bishop Arilan's funeral mass, then at Windyner.

She completed her toilet, and donned the gown with the maid's assistance. She brushed her hair, braiding it and coiling the braid in a coronet around her head. She added a gauzy veil of soft blue. She pirouetted in front of the glass mounted above a chest near the window and nodded in satisfaction with what she saw. She then opened a drawer and removed a small gift wrapped in linen and tied with a green ribbon.  She slipped it into a pouch under her overtunic which she carefully smoothed down and left her room. She first followed the hall to the door of the chamber shared by the lord and lady of the manor. She hesitated then knocked softly, hoping that Aliset had not yet left her room.

Aliset opened the door. "You are up very early." she smiled at the young lady.

"I hope I am not disturbing you or your lord." She peered nervously into the room.

"Darcy went down early.  He and Father Petroc have gone to the village to distribute the alms baskets to those unable to attend the feast. I had planned to go, but it has turned much colder, and he was afraid I might catch a chill. He is very protective of 'his girls'."

"At his request, Ian and Robert went out to take care of bringing in, placing and lighting the yule log in the main fireplace.. It must be done just right in order for the log to continue to burn for the twelve days of Christmas. Darcy really has no experience with Yule logs, thus the request to his brother for help. I need to go down soon to supervise the servants in setting up the feast and be sure that all is in readiness, but I have a bit of time. How can I serve you?"

"I was hoping you would have time to look at my gown and advise me on my appearance. This is a new gown, and I have not worn it before. I really want to look my best for your feast today." 

Aliset drew her into the center of the room. "Turn around and let me look at you." She smiled as Fiona turned about. "You look lovely! My guests will be most impressed. I don't suppose there is one particular guest whose eye you are hoping to attract?" Aliset giggled as Fiona blushed "I am sure he will find your appearance most pleasing. I need to go down to the hall now to supervise the final preparations. I think the others have all gone down. WIll you come with me? I have a small surprise for you."

Fiona giggled and linked her arm with that of her hostess and friend. They left the bedchamber to descend the stairs together. When they reached the entryway to the Great Hall, they paused to survey the gaily decorated hall. Iain had done his job well, for a large log had been placed in the main fireplace and was already burning merrily, radiating warmth. The high table was covered with a clean white cloth and sprays of holly, pine and bay were being placed along its length.  Candlesticks with fat, beeswax candles were being placed at intervals along the tables, all of which were covered with clean white cloths. The decorations which had been placed with care the day before festooned all parts of the hall. Everything looked cheerful and set for a most merry gathering. Fiona was delighted to hear the sounds of music. The Lord and Lady of the manor had invited the bard who had played at Mass the night before to attend today's feast and to play for them.

Fiona's eyes were huge as she surveyed the hall and she turned to Aliset with a look of wonder. "It is perfect. I don't think I have ever seen anything so beautiful." She continued to look around the room, obviously looking for someone.

Aliset began to turn toward the entrance to the kitchen  "I must leave you. I need to check on things in the kitchen and be sure the servants are carrying out their duties as they were instructed. I believe Lady Stuart is in the Solar. You might join her there until it is time to begin our celebration. Father Columcil is also inside, warming himself by the fire."

"But what of the surprise you spoke of? " Fiona asked.

Aliset replied. "Be patient. You will know very soon. Now join the others while I see to the completion of the preparations."  Fiona curtsied and began to walk toward the solar to join them.

***

The sounds of voices and stamping of feet heralded the return of the men from outside where they had gone to check on the weather as snow had begun to fall again. They doffed their cloaks and scarves and boots. She heard Darcy's voice so she knew that he and Father Petroc had returned from the village. Then Iain and Wash entered the solar followed by the good Father. They all  moved toward the fire to warm themselves. bowing and greeting those already present. There was a cheerful buzz of talk. Then Darcy and Aliset appeared in the doorway to the solar, smiling and beckoning their guests forward.

Darcy spoke, commanding their attention. "Everything is in readiness. Our guests have found their places at the tables. It is now time for us to enter the Hall and take our places at the high table". As they began to take their places, Aliset took Fiona's hand and led her to where Washburn waited behind Lord Iain and Lady Stuart  Aliset placed Fiona's hand on Washburn's arm, smiled a little and whispered to Fiona. "This is your surprise." She then took her place beside Darcy and with her hand on his arm, they led their friends to the high table accompanied by the sound of the harper playing "Good King Wenceslas". The festivities had begun.


"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

Laurna

Ladies, you know how to lighten the heart!  What a wonderful Christmas feast. Personally, I always thought the boar's head with a stuffed apple was decoration to show that the roast was fresh. I had know idea that it too was eaten. But then I suppose nothing would go to waste.  About that Ear? hmmm.(Passing it to the next person)  LOL.  Love the imagery and Fiona's gown and the hall all in holiday style. Thank you.
May your horses have wings and fly!

Nezz

So I was intrigued by this boar's head and went looking for pictures. Not a lot of pictures of boar's head dinner, but I did find a cake...

https://cdn001.cakecentral.com/gallery/2015/03/900_791268kZij_boars-head-cake.jpg
Now is life, and life is always better.
-Wolfself

Laurna

LOL  Your cake looks more easily eaten than the Roasted boar's Heads dinners that I saw. I would give a taste to both the roast and the cake, but I might have to close my eyes to keep from noting just where my meal came from. For our medieval friends, I am sure the delicacy of the holiday meal is well appreciated.  ;D
May your horses have wings and fly!

DerynifanK

"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

Laurna

#6
((Saint Valentine has been whispering in my ear.))

There was hesitancy in Washburn's step. Each forward step led either to a future of promise or to one of dashed hopes. But there was no turning back now.

The great hall behind him was filled with song, with warmth, with joy and the smile of the woman that made his heart race. The corridor before him was occupied by the back of a man he respected, the man who had saved his life. In a pause after the delicious supper, Wash had broached a question to Iain. The response was the lord gesturing they move away from the festivities. Washburn followed the Baron o' Isles who was cool, confident, and utterly unreadable. Wash did not dare to lower his own shields long enough to confirm what his eyes told him; Iain's shields would be firm.  The seating arrangement that placed Lady Fiona next to him at dinner had been Lady Aliset's doing. It was the right of their hostess to seat her guests as she chose. The question remained, was this with or without the approval of the Baron o' Isles? Surely, the Lady of Caer Mariot would not have played with Wash's and Fiona's emotions so, on this day of all days, if the Baron had disapproved?  Baron Iain clearly would set matter's straight before the ale and wine of the holiday dinner could take effect.

In the corridor, Washburn fell behind as he paused to allow servants carrying platters of what smelled to be mince meat pies walk by him.  The baron turned the corner away from the kitchens to enter the private office of Lord Darcy. Washburn quickened his pace and rushed the office door threshold only to come to a halt upon seeing Lord Darcy seated behind his work table. The quill in his hand danced to the signature he signed on a parchment letter.

"Did my lady send you?" Darcy asked, surprised to see his brother and friend away from the carolers.  "I thought it best to finish my letter-of-progress to the king before Columcil opens that bottle of Old Ballymar. I will send the letter with you when you leave on the morrow." Darcy added his seal and then set the parchment aside to dry. Then he looked up at the two men. "Hmm, I am guessing it was not Aliset who sent you to my office?" Darcy pushed back his hair and looked at both men with some concern. "Do I need to stay as an arbiter?" 

"I could use a friend," Washburn pleaded.

"I would ask you to stay as a Cameron. This is a matter of family," Iain declared.

"Then I shall arbitrate." Darcy came to stand at the side of the room between the two men, he gave neither friend nor brother a look of apology, he would not be forced to choose sides, not yet.  Wash looked at the brothers, so very near to twins was their appearance. Yet their stances were nothing alike. Baron Iain held a quiet confidence that came from wisdom and knowledge. Lord Darcy had an active stance from which his confidence was earned by skill and blossoming leadership.

I think I would rather face two enemies in the dark than have these two brothers against me in the sunlight, Wash thought.

"As host and arbitrator, shall we speak plainly on the matter of concern?" queried the lord of the manor. A small rise of the seaman's right cheek almost betrayed a smile. Washburn was certain Darcy was enjoying this. Washburn determined that he would not give out that his stomach was twisting into spasms with the mix of good wine, food, and anxiety.

"We have spoken plainly," Iain intercepted. "and that has gotten us no closer to a solution." He gave the knight a pensive stare. "What I require is tradition, formality, and assurance. Sir Washburn, I will hear your petition; best make it with clarity and honesty. When you are ready, please approach me as a knight of Corwyn asking supplication to the Laird of Clan Cameron. What do you formally request of me?"

Very well, Wash thought. I am a man of the royal household, I know tradition and formalities. He straightened his tunic, reset his belt on his hip, stood tall, then stepped forward with an air of confidence, a confidence his gut threatened to betray. Stop being a fool, he told himself Do this right. With long-studied ease the knight bent down on one knee, an arms length away from the Laird of Clan Cameron. He bowed his head briefly acknowledging the baron's rank greater than his own.  Then with both hands resting upon his knee, he looked up at the blond men of Cameron.

"I, Sir Washburn Morgan, second son of Duke Alaric Morgan, knight of the realm and apprentice Healer, do request from Laird Cameron, Baron of Isles, permission and blessing, to enter into courtship with Lady Fiona McIntyre, daughter of your mother's sister. My intentions toward Lady Fiona are honorable, I would like to get to know her joys and her fears. I believe my heart is destined to be hers, and I believe she feels the same way about me. I can not offer title or land at this time, but I do offer selflessness, commitment, respect and friendship, that which is the heart of Courtship. My ultimate goal being to build a strong foundation for a good marriage in the future."

"Well said," Darcy commented. "Brother what is your response?"

Iain remained stalwart. "Two points. Have you considered my cousin's safety and how you will protect her. Secondly have you fully considered my cousin's desires? She desires learning above all else. Are you prepared to hold your suit until such time as she has finished her studies? What if at that time she has changed her mind and refuses you?"

"Such a refusal would truly pain my heart," Wash said, a bit taken back by the thought. "But know that freedom of choice is of greatest importance to me. I would respect her choice, if it came to that, but I heartily hope I will do nothing in the future to be the cause of such a choice. Lord Iain, I understand you wanting her to complete her studies as I intend to complete mine, and then for us to choose each other if that is where our hearts still lie. What I ask is that we be given your blessing to meet with one another and confirm that our love is true.  Lady Fiona is young, yet she is of age, I trust that you will allow her to have a voice in her own future. I have hopes that she will choose a future by my side, and I have hopes that her family and mine will bless such a union."

"She is young, with that I agree," Iain said without looking away from the knight. "She is young and I will not see her harmed. We both know that you have an ability that certain men might want you to use. They could use her to get to you."

"This is a concern I have for every person that I love. I must trust that our king has taken precautions for the protection of those close to him. And that my family has done the same. If I can bring Fiona into my family, I can offer her those same protections."  Wash saw the baron's expression ease. "I do promise to think of her honor, her reputation, and her safety always, and to never intentionally break such a promise."

Iain stepped forward and placed a hand on the knight's shoulder. "I trust your intentions to be true. It is the intentions of others that I do not trust." Washburn knew all too well why Iain held reservations. "For now," Iain continued. "I will allow the two of you to meet in the safety of family and friends. It need not be secret, but I ask that your courtship be without flamboyance. Meetings in public halls or market squares are to be avoided. Small talk at court is one thing, but rampant rumors flying across the kingdom is quite another. You are not exactly a man who can pass without tongues wagging."  Iain actually smiled down at the knight.

"In days past you would have been right, Lord Iain. I have changed, I am no longer a man who enjoys the public's eye. I will do what I can to keep such rumors from starting." Wash took a deep breath then let it out slowly; he resisted a smile, just in case he had misread Iain's intentions. "Then, do I have permission to court Lady Fiona?"

"Until the time she is finished with her studies and you with yours. Then we shall see if your courtship can move forward to a betrothal. Which is a whole other matter entirely." Iain smiled wide and clapped Washburn's shoulder again.

Darcy came forward with a friendly push on the knight's back. "Stand, Sir Washburn, what are you doing on your knee for so long. Not even your king makes you kneel this long."

"He has, I assure you." Washburn said as he stood. Being head and shoulders taller than most men, including the king, were often reasons Wash knelt at court. But at the moment that was far from his thoughts. "May I tell her?"

Before Iain could say anything, Darcy chimed in, "Of course you may, it is Christmas Day and you are among family and friends, so go!"

Wash practically ran from the office, ignoring the joyous laughter of the two brother's at his back, and nearly running through the servants carrying trenchers back to the kitchens.


******

At the head table sat Lady Aliset and Lady Stuart, but Wash could not see his heart's desire. He looked left and right and saw her not. The troubadour was singing a song that required those in attendance to answer his verse with a loud sung phrase of jubilance.

"Make we joy now in this fest,
In quo Christus natus est. Eya."

Following this, the solo tenor of the troubadour filled the hall:

" A Patre Unigenitus
Is through a maiden come to us:
Sing we of Him and say Welcome,
Veni, Redemptor gencium."

The troubadour raised his hand and the men and ladies of the hall raised their voices to again reply in song:

"Make we joy now in this fest,
In quo Christus natus est. Eya."

Wash walked up to Aliset, beseechingly, "Lady, where is Fiona?" His stomach twisted tight, he could not lose her as they had once before. That could never happen again.

"Agnoscat omne seculum,
A bright star maketh three kings come,
Him for to seek with their presents,
Verbum supernum Prodiens."
The troubadour continued the holiday carol.

"Fear not, Wash," Aliset said with ease and a smile. "A certain young lady chose to take a respite from all this lavish food. I believe you will find her in yon window alcove." Aliset pointed to the same window that yesterday had gotten so much attention with the view of falling snow. Wash barely bowed his thanks once his eyes had fallen upon a tumble of long wheaten hair that fell unconfined under a short veil. He rushed around the head table as the singers answered the troubadour.

"Make we joy now in this fest,
In quo Christus natus est. Eya."

"Fiona, may I join you in looking at the vista without?"

"You may, Sir Washburn," The lady said with a soft voice.

"You are not singing with the others?"

"Tis hard to sing with so much joy in the air when my heart is aching."

"Aching....? No, that can not be. Today is a day of rejoicing."

"My cousins would have it otherwise," Fiona said, not looking at her tall knight. She stared only out at the cold winter snow. "They think I should remain cold as the ice that lays over the fields."

"Nay, my lady, snow is but a promise for a fertile spring. It gives us water that slowly soaks into the soil and does not quickly flow away as does the rain. If you feel a chill, then shall I offer you my arm so that no ice can form between us. I would always keep you warm if you would allow me to." He offered his hand to turn her toward him and as she did so, he once more went down upon his knee. This time he pulled out from his tunic a bundle of green velvet tied up with a ribbon.

"I have permission to ask of you to allow me to court you in the fashion of a suiter in hopes that in time I can ask for your hand in marriage. But I do not ask that of you now, perhaps you will find me a bore and want nothing further of me. I do hope to prove to be other than that. So I ask only that you will allow my courtship for a time, so that we may both choose what is right for us in the future. Your freedom of choice is important to me. I would neither allow myself, nor anyone else to force your hand. So I ask, will you permit my courting?"

"You did ask this of Iain?"

"I did my lady," he answered with a smile.

"Yes!" she said to him.

"Yes?" he repeated, not quite sure of her intentions.

"Yes to the strength of your arm, Yes to thawing my heart, Yes to courtship, Yes to the future. Sit with me you fool and look at the beauty and warmth of the snow."

Hand shaking, not yet daring to stand, he held forth the gift he would give her. "This is a promise of my faith and honour to you, until such time that we can move forward."

She received the gift with a shy smile. He rose and they both sat on the seat under the window. Uncertain, he dared not utter another word.

The tenor voice filled the hall:
"Maria ventre concepit,
The Holy Ghost was ay her with,
Of her in Bethlehem born He is,
Consors paterni luminis."

"Make we joy now in this fest...In quo Christus natus est. Eya." Fiona sang as they others sang. Then she broke her singing with a giggle. "What do you have for me?"

"You will laugh at it, for I am no wood carver, I did try... like me it is flawed, but look not at the box, what is important is what lies inside."

She unwrapped the velvet and set it in her lap. Holding the box, her fingers ran over the carved flower, the linx, and the stag. "I see no flaw," she said. She fingered the latch. Her eyes opened wide at the sight of the shawl clasp that lay within. A circlet of gold studded with sapphires and rubies and crossed with a dagger to pierce fabric.

"It was a gift from my father to my mother when they were visiting Bremagne. My maman has given it to me to give to the woman of my choosing. Thus I give it to you."

Fiona turned the clasp over and saw engraving in Old Bremagni :
IO SUI ICI EN LIU DAMI: AMO

It says "I am here..." Wash began to translate.

"... in the place of the friend I love." Fiona finished. "I read Gwynedden, Torenthi, and Bremagni. Lady Stuart insisted upon it."

Mischievous delight filled both their eyes.

((The Christmas Carol is Make we joy now in this fest (Selden manuscript, c1450)
It consists of a burden (chorus) which alternates with verses sung by one or more solo voices. ))
May your horses have wings and fly!

Jerusha

What a lovely scene!  Maybe now they can both relax and enjoy the rest of the Christmas feast.

(And yes, I am sure Darcy was enjoying himself.)   ;)
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

DerynifanK


Fiona gazed wistfully out at the snow, listening to the revelry in the hall behind her.  She was sitting in the window embrasure with mistletoe hanging above her head, but she did not feel encouraged for receiving that first kiss from Washburn. She had felt so hopeful when she found herself seated next to Sir Washburn and sharing a trencher with him. They had been able to talk a little although the happy voices of the troubadour and the guests had made it a little difficult. But at least she was seated beside him. That was a good sign surely. Iain must be softening his opposition to their relationship.

They had finished eating the main courses. Desserts were being placed on the tables and goblets were being refilled with wine and cups with ale. The singing and caroling were increasing in volume as all joined in the choruses. Wash leaned toward her and spoke. "Excuse me for a moment, my Lady. I need to speak to your guardian. I will return." With that he rose and moved toward the corridor leading out of the hall. She watched him and saw Iain in front of Wash. Darcy had left the hall a short time earlier. She saw Iain  beckon to the tall knight who followed him out of sight.

She was sure that Washburn would ask permission to address her.  She was so anxious she found it hard to remain in her seat. What would Iain say? Would he remain firm in his refusal to allow Washburn to court her? She understood his concern for her safety, but shouldn't she have some say in her own future? She was not afraid of danger from Gwynedd's enemies trying to reach Wash through her. She could take care of herself. She was more afraid of being left lonely and unhappy, deprived of the chance to be with the man she loved. It wasn't fair! 

She could not continue to sit at table among the revelers, joining in their fun. She needed to think. She rose from her seat and leaned over Lady Aliset's shoulder to speak to her. "I cannot eat any more, and I need a little quiet. With your permission, I will move to that window alcove at the side of the hall and sit there quietly for a little."  Aliset had seen Iain and Wash leave the hall, and she could sense Fiona's anxiety. She nodded her agreement and watched Fiona slip away toward the window alcove.

Fiona was sitting in the window seat with her forehead resting against the cold glass. What were they saying to each other, Iain and Wash? What would be the outcome? Would she leave Caer Mariot on the morrow happy and looking forward to the future or unhappy, denied the future she wanted?

She felt a new presence behind her in the alcove. She turned and saw that Sir Washburn had approached her. She heard him speak, but she was searching his face for signs of what had transpired in his talk with Iain. Her heart leapt. His blue eyes were twinkling and a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He looked pleased. Surely that meant that the talk had gone well, and his request had been granted.

He took her hand, turning her toward him and went down on one knee, pulling a small object wrapped in green velvet from his tunic. "I have permission to ask of you to allow me to court you in the fashion of a suiter in hopes that in time I can ask for your hand in marriage. This gift is a promise of my faith and honour to you, until such time that we can move forward."

Fiona unwrapped the gift, seeing no flaw in the carved box he had made and smiling her delight at the brooch that lay within. She patted the cushion inviting Wash to join her in the window seat. He rose and took a seat beside her.  She gently closed the box, then reached  beneath her tunic to withdraw a small package wrapped in linen and tied with a green ribbon. She held it out to him with a laugh.

"I also had a small gift for you. I wasn't sure I would have the opportunity to give it to you in person as I was not sure what Iain would say to our being together. I love the gift you gave me as well as the giver. I hope you will be pleased with your gift." She placed the package in his hand.

Wash turned it over in his hand, feeling the softness of it and wondering what it could be. "Open it" Fiona insisted, laughing at his hesitance. Wash untied the ribbon and unfolded the linen wrapping to reveal a beautiful silk handkerchief of healer's green. As he unfolded it to admire the lovely color, he saw the embroidery in one corner, two hands opened out as if offering a gift.  He heard Fiona's soft voice in his ear. "Healer's hands for my own beloved healer-in-training."

He looked up and their eyes met. Fiona then glanced upward. "Have you not noticed there is mistletoe hanging above us. I  chose this seat because I knew it was there."

Wash smiled widely at the young lady. "We should take advantage of it." He leaned toward her and placed his hand on her back to pull her toward him. His lips touched hers,  gentle and hesitant until he felt her soft lips as she yielded to his kiss. It was a brief kiss but full of love and promise for the future. Wash placed the handkerchief in his tunic, patting it. "I will always treasure it," he said.

"As I will treasure your gift." replied Fiona. "Will you pin it on my gown for me? " He did so and they were gazing into each other's eyes when they heard the musician strike up a lively tune. People were leaving their seats and beginning to dance. They saw Darcy lead Aliset away from her seat to join the dance. Iain led Lady Stuart out. Wash took Fiona's hand. "Shall we join them?" he led her out of the alcove to take their place in the dance. The hall reverberated with music and joyful celebration.
"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

Laurna

Hazza!  A kiss! Wash and Fiona are destined to happiness! This Christmas day is filled with wonderful gifts.
May your horses have wings and fly!

DerynifanK

Fiona's gift. A lovely scene with definite hope for the future and a very happy knight

Wash's gift from Fiona. At last that first kiss that seemed so long in coming. Two very happy people. St Valentine has done his work well.
"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

Nezz

Now is life, and life is always better.
-Wolfself

Laurna

Quote from: Bethane on February 12, 2021, 12:55:01 AM
About freakin' time! :)

Bethane, you make me laugh! I never thought our young lovers would ever get that kiss either.  ROFL
May your horses have wings and fly!

Bynw

Quote
Iain stepped forward and placed a hand on the knight's shoulder. "I trust your intentions to be true. It is the intentions of others that I do not trust." Washburn knew all too well why Iain held reservations.


I wonder who and what that means ....
President pro tempore of The Worlds of Katherine Kurtz Fan Club
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DerynifanK

Could it possibly be our friend Feyd?  His intentions remain a mystery. Every time I think I have figured him out he surprises me. And he never has completed his revenge mission if he is still focused on that. A real mystery.
"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