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The Knighting of Liam, Chapter 8. Twelfth Night Eve

Started by DerynifanK, October 02, 2021, 09:37:51 AM

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DerynifanK

Rhemuth Castle
January 5, 1133

The Eve of Twelfth Night:

The next morning, Liam arose early and began to prepare for the day.  He felt rising excitement that he was so near his goal. But his excitement was tinged with anger that anyone would dare threaten such an important event for both Torenth and Gwynedd,  and for himself. Even if no physical attack occurred, the threat had affected his experience. The vigil in the church was considered the time when he would be most vulnerable. He could have chosen not to be part of the vigil, but he was determined that no menace would be allowed to mar this event. Though it was not proven, he was sure that Teymuraz was behind the effort to disrupt the coming ceremony. His uncle's court was the source of the rumors of a plan to disrupt the ceremonies.

He pulled on his tunic, a conservative one of fine linen with a discrete emblem of the Leaping Hart of Torenth on his chest. His squire brushed and braided his hair, clubbing it at his neck.  He folded a light amber cloak over his arm.  He was ready to face the day. There was a knock at the door, and when Liam's squire opened it, one of Kelson's squires bowed deeply to the king. "Your Majesty,  I am sent to conduct you to the high table in the great hall to break your fast."  Liam nodded and moved toward the door. He paused for a moment and turned to his squire. "Go now and break your own fast." He sent the boy on his way then followed Kelson's squire toward the hall where breakfast was being served.

He was seated at Kelson's right with Payne on his other side.  Conversation was desultory, focused on what lay ahead for the coming night and the ceremonies of knighting to be carried out the next day. Liam ate sparingly as they reviewed plans for how the day would unfold.

Turning to Kelson, he outlined his own tentative plans for the day. "The formal rituals begin at Vespers. I intend to make good use of the day until then.  After breakfast, I have asked that Ronal join me in my quarters.  We need to talk about his return to Beldour and what I have in mind for him. Though he is happy to be reunited with his family and to take up his duties as part of my court,  he has made many friends here, and I know  he will miss them. On the other hand, he has had little opportunity to form close friendships at home during his brief visits. I have some thoughts about how we might address that. I am sure he will have some ideas also. I want the transition to be as smooth as possible for him."

Kelson nodded. "He has indeed made many friends and we will all miss him. He has changed many minds about Torenth, her ruling family, and her people and contributed to better understanding between our kingdoms. He will be an asset to your court. Of course, if you would like to leave him here longer...."

Liam nodded his head emphatically "no" but he was grinning as he continued.  "In the early afternoon, I want to visit Nigel and Meraude and their family. I am hoping to spend some time catching up on family news and talking with them. I particularly want to spend some time with Eirian. It has been a long time since I have had the chance to talk with her. I know she is growing up and changing from the little girl who sat on my knee and begged for stories. Ronal has told me of her interest in gardening, herbs and healing. I have also changed and it will be good to get reacquainted."

Kelson grinned as he replied.  "She has developed into a very talented gardener. She was sad when the others started Schola because she  felt she had no power to train as they did, and she felt left out as they spent more time in their classes. Ronal convinced  her that she did indeed have a talent to train, a very important one, a green thumb and he is right. Plants grow for her. She even has crusty old MacFarlane, you remember him, wrapped around her finger. She is very excited to tell you all about it. And you are not off the hook. She still loves stories."

Liam smiled in return. "After that, I plan to return to my quarters and spend the latter part of the afternoon in seclusion, meditating and preparing for tonight's vigil."

"If you have concerns about any possible threat to the ceremony, I want to reassure you. As you know, Alaric is in charge of security, and I'm sure he has everything under control." Kelson gave Liam's arm a reassuring squeeze. "I do, however, have one request to make of you. Please don't walk the halls unaccompanied. I feel sure that Alaric has secured the castle, but I would prefer that you allow one of the squires to accompany you, just to be doubly sure. I wouldn't want to have to explain to Matyas  how you came to be attacked in my halls. Especially if he had his sword in his hand."

Liam chuckled, "No worries. I feel confident that Nigel and Alaric will see that everyone is safe and everything goes according to plan. There is no one I trust more, except possibly you, my friend.  I will, however, do as you ask." They turned to speak to those on either side of them while they finished their meal. When they had finished eating, they separated and went their various ways. Liam returned to his quarters where his brother awaited him.

Some time later, as Liam followed a squire to the family quarters of Nigel and Meraude, he smiled to himself remembering Ronal's parting story. He might have laughed out loud but the presence of the squire at his side made him keep a straight face. The squire knocked at the door which was opened by one of the maids. She curtsied deeply to the King of Torenth and led him through the dayroom into the solar where Meraude sat before a cheerful fire. She stood and curtsied as the king entered. He looked around, obviously wondering why none of the rest of the family were present. He was not surprised that Nigel was absent as he would be busy with preparations for the ceremonies, but he was expecting to see Eirian and perhaps Payne.

Meraude smiled at him, following his glance around the room. "It is so good to see you, Liam. Nigel is with the king completing some business, and Payne is escorting your sister and her companion back to the Queen's Tower. I expect he will join us after they are safely returned to the Queen. Eirian should be here any minute. She was completing a project in her workroom, and wanted to check that all was well. She could hardly wait to see you and tell you all that she has been doing."

Meraude and Liam talked quietly as they waited. Liam noticed that she looked anxiously toward the door several times.  There was a noise at the door and Payne stepped into the room bowing to his mother and their visitor. As he rose from his bow he looked around the room. "Where is Eirian? I thought she would be here telling you all about the healing arts she is learning at the Schola. She has barely been able to contain herself waiting for your arrival."

The Duchess looked concerned. "I don't know.  I expected her before this. She went to her workshop but she was only going to check on her project, and she should have returned before this. She knew Liam was coming "

"I'll go see if she is coming." As Payne turned to leave there was a sound at the door and the maid ushered in a slightly breathless Eirian who paused and curtsied deeply to her mother and the king.

"I am so sorry to be late. Something happened while I was in my workshop and it delayed me." Eirian looked around at the others in the room. 

Liam smiled at her and motioned to a spot on the bench beside him. "Well, you are here now. Come sit beside me and tell us what happened." She sat beside him on the bench and smiled shyly at him. Liam had been her favorite of her brother's friends among his fellow squires. She had loved it when he had time to play with her or tell her a story. She had been greatly looking forward to seeing him again. But it had been a long time since she had seen him. He looked older, more grown up and serious. She suddenly realised, this wasn't just her friend, he was a king now. She hesitated.

"Come now, tell us what happened." Everyone was waiting for her to speak. Liam and her mother both smiled at her encouragingly.

She took a deep breath and began. "I went to my workshop early to prepare because Princess Stanisha and Lady Lionella were coming to see it. They came escorted by Payne and another squire. They looked all around and  I told them some of what I am learning at the Schola and answered their questions. As soon as  they left, I had a task I needed to do in order to  complete my assignment for my Schola teacher. I needed a few leaves from two of the herbs in my garden to make the potion that was assigned. They grow right outside the garden door, and I thought I could snip them off quickly and be back inside without anyone knowing I had gone out." she paused, blushing and glanced at her mother. Meraude was looking displeased.

Eirian hurried on. "I didn't mean to disobey maman, really I didn't. I know I wasn't supposed to go outside unaccompanied, but I was very close to the kitchen and it would only take a minute. I was sure it would be safe. I had gotten the leaves I needed and was starting to go back inside when I heard voices on the other side of the back wall.  When I realized they were speaking Torenthi, I was curious so I tried to get closer to hear what they were saying. Their voices were very low and I could only make out a few words, but the words I heard filled me with fear." She paused briefly then continued to describe what had happened. Liam was listening with concern in his face. "I needed to try to hear more, but when I tried to get closer I made a noise which alerted them that someone was near. I thought I heard them coming toward me looking for the source of the noise. I started to run but I knew I couldn't get to the door without being seen so I hid. Fortunately, one of the cooks and a pot boy came out looking for me. They saw no one in the garden or on either side of the wall, so the men must have left to avoid being seen. I slipped back in unseen behind them when they re-entered the castle but I was really scared."

He looked down at her "You were very brave to try to learn more even though you were frightened. What did you do after you got back inside?"

Payne had been listening quietly as they talked.  Now worry produced a frown on his face as he realised what might have happened if the men she heard were Torenthi agents and they had caught her listening to them. Was she aware of the danger she had been in? He would have to talk to her after Liam left.

Meraude's expression of concern had increased as she also listened to her daughter's tale. "Eirian," Meraude began, frowning at her daughter with both fear and anger in her voice.

Liam held up his hand and Meraude fell silent. " Let her tell us the rest"

Eirian wriggled uncomfortably under her maman's disapproving gaze. She took a deep breath and continued. "I knew I had to tell someone what I had heard so I went to look for papa. I found him with the king and told them what I had heard. I also told them what I had done. Papa was very stern when he told me what might have happened as a result of my disobedience. 

Liam put an arm around her shoulders. "Eirian, although you should not have disobeyed, you were very brave to try to hear more even though you were frightened. I am sure you have learned why it is important that you follow your parents' instructions."

"I am truly sorry that I went out when I wasn't supposed to. But I am glad I was able to tell papa and the king about the men in the garden. The words I was able to hear scared me a lot. I was scared for myself but even more for you. I heard 'king', 'attack' and 'vigil'.  I knew they had to be talking about the knight's vigil tonight. At least I was able to tell Papa and the king about the men and they will tell Duke Alaric and he will make sure all is safe." Eirian looked at Liam with tears in the corners of her eyes.

Liam put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a hug. Payne commented, "You were indeed brave to take action even though you were afraid." 

Eirian looked over at the duchess who was no longer frowning at her but whose expression was grave  "You were brave to try to hear more and to warn your papa and the king. But you must realize that when we warn you not to do something, we do it for your safety and the safety of others around you. This turned out well, but another time we might not be so fortunate."

"Yes, maman," Eirian assured her mother that she had learned a valuable lesson.

She then turned to Liam. "Has it been hard, learning to be a king? It must be scary knowing there are people who want to hurt  you or kill you because they want to take your place. Do you have to watch all the time to find and stop such men? " She looked up at him with real concern.

"It has not been easy. I had so much to learn and I had been away from my kingdom and my people for four years. They did not know me well nor I them. I had to learn about governing in Torenth and even though Kelson did much to prepare me for the responsibilities I would face, Torenth is different from Gwynedd and our ways are not all the same. One of the most difficult things has been learning who I can trust, which of my lords is truly loyal and which ones are not. It is important that I know when I am being lied to and when I am being told the truth. And I had to reassure my people that they could trust me to make decisions that put their interests first. I am very fortunate to have my Uncle Matyas to advise and support me. You will find as you grow that it will be very important that you can be sure who is truly your friend." Liam's face was serious as he looked at her. She gazed back at him solemnly.

Then his smile broke out as he continued. "My time is limited, so tell me of your progress toward becoming an herbalist, using your plants to heal those who are ill."

Eirian leaned into Liam's side and began to talk, as she had when he was still one of Kelson's squires. She told him of finding and growing her gardening ability. .

As she talked, Eirian became more excited. "After I was able to save the queen's favorite yellow rose, Master MacFarlane gave me a part of the garden for my own where I grow my herbs, and he tells me what the plants need and how best to grow and harvest them. The Queen gave me an unused storeroom behind the kitchen for my workshop, and I am attending classes at the Schola to learn about the healing properties of my plants. I am learning to prepare remedies which help people recover from illnesses. I will be a healer, using plants to make people well." She smiled at him happily

"That is a very praiseworthy goal for a young lady, and I am very moved by your wish to heal people and help them regain their health. I am also impressed by the progress you have made toward your goal." Eirian glowed as he praised her.

"Ronal is the one who put the idea in her head."  Payne addressed Liam while grinning at his sister. "She did not see her gardening as an important talent until he told her about her green thumb and encouraged her to attend Schola classes to learn about how to use her plants for healing. I hear she is one of their prize students."

Liam then addressed Payne. "How about you? We have both changed much in the past four years. As I have had to learn to be a king, you have had to learn to be a duke. You are now only a year from your own knighting. Do you feel ready to manage your own duchy and perhaps start a family?"

"I have spent the last year in my own duchy as well as acting on my father's behalf  in Carthmoor. I have learned a great deal from his lieutenants, and I do feel more confident in  my ability to manage my own lands. And I have managed to spend some time with my future wife, your sister, while she is here. We didn't do any fishing but we were able to talk and to become better acquainted. Our time together has been most valuable." Payne grinned at his friend as he spoke.

"And what about your arms training?"

"My father is satisfied with my progress. I have joined some of the senior squires on the practice yards while I have been in Rhemuth to brush up on my skills, especially in swordcraft. I have even managed to spar with Alaric once or twice and learned valuable pointers from him."

Liam responded with a look of approval. "It sounds as if you have your future well in hand. I know your father is very proud of you."

Liam smiled at them as he rose from his seat. "I must return to my quarters to begin my preparations for tonight. I am pleased that I have been able to have this visit with both of you and to learn that things are going well with you. For the rest of the afternoon, I want to spend some time in meditation  to ready myself for tonight's vigil and tomorrow's ceremony. If you would summon my squire, I promised not to walk the halls unaccompanied."

Payne stood and bowed. "I will escort you, your Majesty.  It will be my honor." Meraude and Eirian stood and curtsied. Payne opened the door and held it for the king to pass. Goodbyes were said as the king left the room.

The late afternoon sun streaming in the high windows of Liam's quarters painted bars of light on the floor. The tub for the ritual bath was already in place. The formal observances would begin at Vespers when all the candidates with their sponsors would assemble at St Hilary's Basilica where the archbishop would remind them of the duties and responsibilities of the estate they were about to enter' They would then receive the knight's attire proper for the vigil and tomorrow's ceremony

After his return to his quarters, Liam relaxed in front of the fire and thought about what he had heard that afternoon. He thought about his meeting with his brother who had shown much promise in his understanding of his future role in Liam's court. Liam considered that Ronal had benefited from his time under Prince Nigel who filled a similar role in Kelson's court. 

He then thought about Eirian. He smiled to himself as he reviewed her description of what had taken place in the garden. He was impressed with her willingness to take responsibility for her disobedience in leaving the castle without an escort. She readily admitted that she should not have done so, and she understood what might have happened. He was convinced she would not do such a thing again. He also thought of her desire to help people and the steps she was taking to become an herbalist. He saw in her the makings of a queen who would be a valuable consort and loved by his people. 

Liam turned his thoughts to the night to come. He had confidence in King Kelson and in Duke Alaric. He knew they would take every precaution for his safety as well as for the safety of all the participants in the ritual and knighting ceremony. Still, it was hard not to feel some apprehension. What Eirian had overheard made it more likely that some of his enemies were in Rhemuth and might attempt an attack, probably during tonight's vigil. He knew that there was risk associated with his decision to take part in the ceremony of knighthood, but he was not willing to change his course based on threats.

He knew that Alaric would have guards in the church and would be present himself. Liam took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself. He would also remain alert for any hint of danger during the night. As he turned his thoughts inward, he focused on his determination to complete the knighting ceremony. It was not solely for himself; he was convinced that it would forge a strong bond between the two kingdoms and support the ultimate goal of both Kelson and himself that there would never be another Killigford.

He arranged himself more comfortably in a carved chair before the fireplace staring thoughtfully into the flames and waited for the arrival of his escort to the basilica.

Many thanks to Revanne, Launa and Jerusha for their insights
"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

Jerusha

I do hope we eventually find out what Ronal's parting story was that Liam found so amusing.  A lighthearted moment for him was a nice touch as he prepares for the events and possible dangers to come.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

revanne

Lovely to see the developing relationship between Liam and Eirian as they learn to know each other.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)

HoundMistress

I enjoyed reading the new chapter! Things are moving right along. I'm sure the enemies will try something at the Vigil. I can hardly wait to read more! Good job!!
Judy Ward
You can buy a pretty good dog with money but you can't buy the wag of its tail.

Laurna

Excellent day as seen through the eyes of the King Liam of Toranth. I like how Liam exerted subtle authority when Maraude would have admonished her daughter. I think a see that quiet authority of his kingship throughout his interactions of the day.  I think Liam has learned his position well. He may very well be the first Toronthi king that I like. And I think that will reflect well to all of Rhemuth's citizens. Wish Teymuraz would think about the good of the people before doing something that helps no one but himself.
Good Job DFK.
May your horses have wings and fly!