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THe Knighting of Liam, Chapter 6

Started by DerynifanK, September 07, 2021, 02:11:20 PM

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The Knighting of Liam, Chapter 6

Rhemuth Castle
January 4, 1133

Early the next morning there was a knock at the door and Anna opened it to reveal Prince Payne standing there. "I have come to escort you to the hall for breakfast. Are you ready to go?" He smiled at them appreciatively. Stanisha wore a gown of primrose pink covered by a cream cotehardie while Lionella's gown was sea green covered by a similar garment of dove grey.

Stanisha dismissed Anna to continue her other duties. Both young ladies curtsied and left the room to accompany Prince Payne through the corridors and down the grand stairway to the great hall. They were followed by a Haldane lancer. Payne conducted the princess to an empty chair next to Liam and took his place next to her. Ronal had risen from his seat and ushered Lady Lionella to a place between Eirian and himself. Pages quickly stepped forward to begin serving them.
As Payne carved a choice piece of ham and placed it on her side of their shared trencher, he spoke softly to Stanisha.  "We really had little chance to talk last night. Would you allow me to show you some of the castle and its gardens after the meal? I well remember the beautiful hanging gardens in Beldour, especially the fish pond. Do you still catch fish with your hands? I was very impressed with your skill and wished I could do that." He laughed. "I also remember how wet I got when we  tried it. I ended up with a lot of water but no fish."

She also laughed at the memory. "You certainly were wet but you were very good natured about it. I liked you for that. Most of the other young men at court got angry or dismissive when they were unsuccessful. I do not play with the fish anymore, though I still enjoy the gardens, particularly on hot days. As I got older, it was made clear to me  that it was not a proper pastime for a young lady."  She sighed and looked a little wistful. "As I have grown up more, I find that there are more interesting activities that are not considered proper for young ladies, especially royal ones. Growing up does often limit the things one's elders consider proper. I have had to learn more responsibilities as I begin to act as chatelaine in my brother's household. Do boys experience similar restraints and changes in responsibility?"

"They do indeed, my Lady. We must learn the skills we will need to become knights, and that involves much work in the practice yards improving our mastery with sword, bow and lance. I have also spent much time acting on my father's behalf in his duchy as well as my own and learning more of the skills I need to administer my duchy from his skilled lieutenants. And just as you must learn proper behavior for young ladies, so must I learn proper behavior for a nobleman, in many different situations. There have been many changes for both of us." 

Stanisha smiled at him. "I'm interested in many things, including some of which my brother does not always approve. I have been working to improve my skill with a bow and also my knife skills, for defense of course.  I would also like to find ways to help the common folk. I am intrigued by your sister's idea to become an herbalist/healer, and I hope to have a chance to talk with her about it. Do you think she would be willing to talk with me?"

"I'm sure she would be delighted. You seem to already be aware of her desire to become a healer. She has been attending classes at the schola to learn to mix potions and salves to help those who need healing." Payne looked at his companion a little curiously.

"My brother Ronal has often spoken of your sister in his letters, and it was he who told me of her talent for gardening and her desire to become an herbalist. It appears that they have become quite good friends." The princess grinned back at him.

"Her Majesty gave her a room of her own to use as a workshop. She grows her own herbs and plants in her apothecary garden. And she even has our crusty old head gardener wrapped around her little finger, or perhaps around her green thumb. She loves gardening, and things grow for her. I will ask when it might be convenient to visit." Lady Sanisha smiled at him as they returned their attention to their trenchers and the conversation became more general.

As the meal ended, Prince Payne approached his sister and spoke to her. She looked at Lady Stanisha and nodded, smiling. She answered her brother quietly then turned to follow her mother from the table.

After the meal,  Prince Payne and Earl Brendan escorted the two visitors on the promised tour of the castle, including the king's solar, the two withdrawing rooms, the chapel, and the lodging chambers, the stables, and the training yard where they watched several young men practicing their swordplay.  Lionella was particularly interested in watching them and applauded when a tall young squire with dark curly hair defeated his opponent.  "He can come to my rescue anytime," she said excitedly. Stanisha giggled at her friend's enthusiasm

They then separated.  Payne and Stanisha walked to the basilica where the knightly vigil and mass would take place, followed discreetly by one of the castle guards. The princess had expressed a wish to see the St Camber chapel. As they entered through the center arch, she took a deep breath as she gazed around at the pale grey marble walls then lifted her eyes to the soaring dome. Light poured in through the tall windows set in two sides of the chapel. The chapel felt light and airy and spacious, and there was a sense of peace within its walls.

Stanisha stopped before the altar to study the finely detailed mosaic set in the wall above. It depicted the crowning of King Cinhil Haldane. She stood silently for a time then turned to Payne. "Although who should rule Gwynedd  has long been a cause of strife between our kingdoms, the friendship between my brother and your king and the increased interaction between Gwynedd and Torenth has been a boon for both our lands. It gives cause for hope that there will be no more wars between us," she said softly.  Payne held out his arm and the princess placed her hand on it, allowing him to lead her back toward the castle.

"Thank you for showing me the chapel. It is a lovely space, full of peace. I felt God's presence there," Stanisha said softly.

Payne placed his hand over hers. "My sister is delighted that you want to see her workshop. She is quite busy today with duties related to Twelfth Night Court, but she suggested that you come tomorrow morning after breakfast.  I will conduct you there as soon as we have finished breaking our fast. She also invited Lady Lionella to accompany us if she wishes to do so." The princess smiled her agreement.

Brendan had escorted Lady Lionella to view the gardens. As they strolled along the paths, he pointed out the rose garden, a favorite of the queen, and Eirian's apothecary garden where she grew her herbs. The herb garden was partially enclosed by the passage that provided access from the kitchen and led to Eirian's workshop and a brick wall at one end that separated it from the vegetable garden. The garden was asleep in the cold of January, but he described for her how it would look in the spring when new life would spring forth. "Eirian is very interested in becoming a healer. She is not a Deryni healer, not possessing that power, but there are many illnesses that are not responsive to Deryni healing but that require more traditional means such as herbal medicines. This is what she is learning to do. She hopes not only to be able to cure illnesses but also to teach housewives how to use the plants in their gardens to keep their families healthy and cure common problems."

"I'm impressed with her desire to help others. I would very much like to see her workshop and perhaps she will tell us about the healing lore she is learning. I'm certain that Stanisha would also be interested. I must ask her about it." Lionella smiled as she allowed Brendan to lead her back to the castle.


Both young ladies returned to their quarters to rest and to talk about what they had seen and learned. They made themselves comfortable on the cushioned benches near the fire. They did not summon Anna as they had time before they needed to prepare for the rest of the day's activities.  Stanisha said, "I'm most interested in Princess Eirian's efforts to become an herbalist/healer. I know a few of the healers in Torenth who use mainly herbs and plants for healing, and I wonder if any of them have been giving instruction at the Schola. I would love to see her workshop and hear about the healing lore she is learning.  What do you think?" Stanisha had an insatiable curiosity and interest in learning new things.

Lionella studied her friend as she said, "I too would like to learn more about what she is doing.  Perhaps at dinner tonight we can ask her if she would show us her workshop in the morning after breakfast.

Stanisha replied. "I told Prince Payne of my interest in Eirian's workshop and her efforts to become an herbalist at breakfast this morning. He spoke with her before we left the Hall, and she is happy to have both of us visit and to tell us about what she is learning. We are both invited for tomorrow morning directly after breakfast, and Payne has said he would escort us there. Do you wish to accompany me?"

"Oh yes. I would very much like to go with you. Perhaps he will bring one of the other squires along." Lionella said excitedly.  Stanisha smiled to herself. She thought her friend might be more interested in the young men than in the plants.

Morning, January 5, 1132

The castle was full of bustle as preparations for the ceremonies surrounding Twelfth Night shifted into high gear. Following the breaking of their fast, everyone scattered to their duties.

Eirian left the table and returned to her family's apartment. After telling her mother where she was going, she hurried down to her workshop in order to be there to greet her visitors.

She was tying the last bunch of rosemary that she had gathered and hanging it on her drying rack when she heard voices in the passage. There was a knock at the door, and she opened it to Payne and the two young ladies. Behind them stood one of the senior squires, Tristan O'Brien. Eirian smiled and stood aside to allow them to enter.

Eirian greeted Princess Stanisha and Lady Lionella. Curtsies were exchanged then the ladies looked curiously about them. The room was square with windows along one side that provided light. A sturdy shelf ran the length of the wall under the windows providing space for the various apparatus Eirian used in preparing the potions and mixtures that were assigned by her instructors. Along the opposite wall were racks with rows of dowel rods. From some of these rods, bunches of herbs hung to dry.  At the end of the shelf stood a wooden easel on which they could see a black leather book open to a page marked by a long crimson ribbon.

Stanisha and Lionella looked about them at the laden shelves, the drying racks with their bunches of herbs, the brazier, the mortar and pestle, and rows of pots, bottles and flasks. Their gazes were both interested and curious.

As the young ladies looked around, Payne addressed them.  "I have one or two duties I must complete so I will leave you here with Eirian and Tristan for a short time. That will give you an opportunity for Eirian to explain what she does here and answer any questions you might have. I'll return and Tristan and I will escort you back to the Queen's Tower." Payne bowed and left the room.

Eirian began to describe her work. "I grow the herbs in my apothecary garden which is just outside the passage from the kitchen. I also go on walks to gather other herbs from the fields, riverside. and hedgerows when I can. The teachers give us lists of herbs both to grow and to collect from outside our own gardens. I dry them, store them, and use them to make remedies for many common ailments. It gives me pleasure to provide a remedy that will help cure an illness and restore a person to health." Eirian smiled as the two ladies moved about the room inspecting the contents of her shelves and the herbs drying on her rack.

Stanisha was particularly interested in what she was seeing. " What herbs do you grow in your garden?"

"I will tell you some of the ones I know best. Lemon balm  helps prevent infection, lavender helps to calm anxious nerves and promote rest and sleep, peppermint aids digestion and stops nausea and vomiting, chamomile  also reduces stress and induces sleep, and  feverfew reduces infection and fever and decreases swelling. Rosemary  has many uses and it's very hardy. It is one of the few that I can still pick even in the cold weather. These are a few of the most helpful herbs that I have used,  but I still have much to learn. The teacher gives us instructions on what herbs to use and how to prepare the remedy.  I'm writing down the instructions and collecting them in my plant journal."

"Is that your plant journal?" Lionella pointed to the big black book on the easel.

 "No, that's a very old book of herbal potions I found in the attics. I have only begun to read them." Eirian closed the book leaving the marker in place.

Stanisha moved over by the shelf and pointed to the mortar and pestle standing there. "What is this used for?"

Eirian replied. "Once the leaves are dry, I store some of them. Others need to be ground to the proper texture to be mixed into the salve or potion I'm making. I take the dried leaves and grind them to the texture needed  to add them to my mixture. Let me show you." She took several dry leaves and put them in a bowl standing on the shelf. She then picked up a club-shaped object with a round end and began to press, pound and grind the leaves into smaller and smaller bits until they made a coarse powder. She put the powder into a small jar. "The two tools I used are called a mortar and pestle; the mortar is the bowl and the pestle is the club. They're two of the most useful tools an herbalist can have."

Stanisha continued to walk about the room, looking at everything and asking lots of questions.   Meanwhile, Lionella had seated herself on a bench in a corner near the windows and was talking with the squire. She kept looking at Stanisha as if she wanted to say something. Finally Stanisha asked her, "Are you getting tired? Would you like to return to our room and rest? Or is there something else you would like to do this afternoon? I had hoped we could see the garden too, but Eirian tells me this is not the best time as there is little in bloom now.""

Lionella replied. "I am a bit fatigued and I was hoping that we could return to our rooms and look over the outfits we plan to wear to be sure that all is in readiness for tonight's festivities as well as the ceremony and celebrations in the morning."

There was a knock at the door and Tristan opened it to admit Payne who had returned to escort the ladies back to the Queen's Tower. He bowed and asked, "Are you ready to return to the Tower?  Several of the ladies are gathered in the solar and would very much like to have you join them. They are interested to hear your impressions of Rhemuth and how it compares to Beldour. I know they would love to hear about the hanging gardens."

Lionella rose from her seat and Stanisha came to stand beside her. "Thank you for showing us your workshop and answering our many questions. We have greatly enjoyed hearing some of the healing lore you are learning. " Both of the ladies curtsied to Eirian and turned toward the door. As Stanisha placed her hand on Payne's arm, he hesitated and asked Eirian, "Are you ready to return to the family quarters? Liam is planning to spend some time there with the family and I know he will want to see you."

Eirian replied. "Not just yet. I have one or two tasks I must complete. It won't take long but you mustn't wait for me. I will return directly to our apartments as soon as I finish." She smiled as her visitors exited the room and gently closed the door after them
"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


DFK  This is a very pleasant morning for the princesses to meet in an informal setting. I think Stanisha was intrigued by what Eirian was learning. It might be a good eye opener for the Torenthi princess.
May your horses have wings and fly!