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December 02, 2023, 07:12:48 PM
Marc-- thank you!

Royal Sisters Part I

Started by Shiral, April 20, 2023, 01:28:16 AM

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    Araxie Lean Haldane, Princess of Gwynnedd and Baroness of Dunluce closed the door of the bedchamber she shared with her sister. The floorboards were smooth and cool beneath her bare feet as she crossed to the window near the foot of the bed. She wore only her shift now, having shed her green gown and enjoyed the cool sea breeze through the fine carved lattice as she looked north and west.

   Gwynedd..... I will be Queen of Gwynedd. She knew it was impossible to see the Gwynedd coast from here—that wasn't possible even under clear skies at noon. The indistinct dark line of sea fog low on the distant horizon was only an illusion of solid land.
    Other girls would feel giddy with joy and triumph tonight. Why don't I? She leaned her head against the window frame, her temples aching with her tension. She listened to the surf breaking on the base of the tower far below, trying to let the familiar, well-loved sound calm her, intensely thankful for a few moments alone. It wouldn't last long, Richelle would be in shortly, and she would certainly want to talk about the evening's developments before they settled for the night.
   You don't feel triumphant, because this was not a triumph for either of you, and you are clearly not his first choice, she told herself with bitter candor. Her betrothal ring, heavy and loose on her left ring finger, slid sideways. She'd only been able to keep it in place by keeping her three fingers pressed close together.
   Kelson's handsome face close to hers, but somber and unsmiling except for a brief moment when he put the ring on her finger. He had spoken his betrothal vow in a steady voice, kept his demeanor ever dignified, but with so little pleasure in his face and voice. Bishop Arilan had been kind, but so little about tonight had been about anyone's future happiness even if it had been about honor.

   But will it be that way forever? Araxie took a deep wobbly breath feeling her eyes brim with tears.  Will I always be unwanted and second best?  Royal marriages were notoriously unsentimental, and dynastic, she had always known that. Balanced against that was knowing about the adoring if stormy marriage  of King Brion and Queen Jehana and also the lasting devotion of Nigel and Meraude. Her own mother had not necessarily wanted to marry Prince Richard Haldane, a man several years her senior, but they had made a fond life together. She had no doubt her mother had come to love her father and had sincerely mourned his death at the time.
    If they could each make something more of a royal marriage, surely Kelson and I can too! But for that he has to let me in, a little. He certainly spent enough time talking about Rothana, tonight. How can I help him get past that if he doesn't want to get past it?

   She twisted the ring back around straight and looked down at the three stones, the central a clear oval sapphire cut and polished en cabochon with smaller moonstones beside it. Sapphires stood for fidelity, although this one was so pale, it felt like a half-hearted effort.  A trinket chosen from what he had brought with him rather than something Kelson had intended for her. As if doing the honorable thing was as much as the King could bring himself to do. She let her left hand fall to her side, then gasped in dismay as the ring slipped off her finger, gleaming for a moment then chiming as it bounced on the floor and rolled out of her sight. Araxie took a few steps forward, scanning the floor for it in all directions.

   At the same moment the bed chamber door opened and Richelle came in carrying a candle.

   "Stop!" Araxie urged holding up her right hand.  "My ring fell off. It's on the floor somewhere, but I can't see it!"

   Richelle stopped on the threshold, holding out her candle as she too made a visual sweep of the polished floor.  "There it is!" she exclaimed, taking three steps forward and bending down quickly. She straightened in triumph, a bright something gleaming between her thumb and forefinger, smiling in reassurance.

   "Is it all right?"

   "It's fine." Richelle nodded as she inspected it. "No damage." She set the candle down on the table beside their bed and held up her left hand, ready to slip the ring onto her own ring finger, but tilted her head toward Araxie with a smile first. "May I?"

   "Of course." Araxie nodded. They'd been lending and borrowing hair ribbons and other ornaments from one another all their lives.

   "Really it's a lovely ring—but we'll need to call in the jeweler to size it for you in the morning or it will be falling off your finger a dozen times a day." Richelle slid the ring off her wedding finger, and experimentally slipped it onto her left thumb.  "The band is enormous— look, it almost fits over my thumb joint. Did Kelson think he was getting betrothed to Uncle Letald?"

   "Maybe he'd rather he were!" Araxie muttered.
"Oh don't be silly, of course he doesn't!" Richelle replied laughing.
    Araxie surrendered, and buried her face in both hands, her sob startling even herself.

   "Ari!" Richelle enfolded her in both arms, hugging her and rocking her a little as the brief fit of tears shook her. After it passed, Araxie rested her aching head against Richelle's shoulder, appreciating the comfort of the other. This was her sister whom she had always trusted as an extension of herself.

   "It has been a momentous day for you, hasn't it?" Richelle asked.  "Not surprising you're feeling tense. You've been preoccupied about it all day."
      Araxie groaned.  "Does everyone at Horthanthy know?"

   "No, you concealed it very well from most everyone. Just not from Maman or me. But that's why she suggested we spend the morning working on my underclothes. Sewing is so mundane, it's enough to calm anyone down. But I could tell your mind wasn't really on it while you were embroidering green rosebuds and scarlet leaves and stems."

    "Oh no! I'm sorry, Riche!"

   "It's not a disaster," Richelle laughed a little. "I doubt Brecon will notice, or that he'll judge me by the embroidery on my shift." She drew Araxie over to the bed and they both sat on the edge.  "Now, what's got you in this mood on the night of your betrothal to the man of just about everyone's dreams?"

   Araxie sighed. "Because I am sure I'm not the woman of his dreams, Riche. I started wondering if I'll be his wife just for the look of the thing, to preserve everyone's good reputation and for dynastic reasons so that his Privy Council will give him some peace.  But after tonight, I'm afraid I won't ever come first, for him, or ever be allowed to be a real companion and partner because he'll be mooning over Rothana all the time.  I doubt any other man has ever talked more about his first love to the woman he was going to marry instead as Kelson did to me, tonight."
  She felt more tears prickle in her eyes and dashed them away impatiently with her hand until she felt Richelle tuck a kerchief into her hand used that to dry her eyes instead.

   "Damn him, did he have to make it so clear he was making this move unwillingly?"

   Richelle squeezed her shoulders and leaned her head against Araxie's. "That does seem hard," she agreed slowly.  "But Ari, you and I have always known that as Haldanes, our marriages were going to be matters of state. And we were never going to be the ones making the decisions about the who or the why. We might not like it much, but we can't either of us pretend we were never warned about the reality of Royal marriages or about where our duty lay.
   "Kelson is bound by the same rules and duties that you and I are, and even more so as King. It is hard to turn one's back on love. I'm sure for her part, Rothana wishes she could just give in and marry Kelson, at least on some level of her being. But she doesn't want the notoriety of that for either of them and I can't blame her for that.  We both know how vicious a thing court gossip can be."

   "I thought you weren't sure you trusted her."

   "I wasn't, at first, but Rothana and I have had some talks of our own," Richelle admitted. "I do trust her now. I believe she's telling the truth about her motives for promoting you as a Royal bride for Kelson. I don't know that I could give up the man I loved, and also choose the woman he should marry in my place, so I give her a lot of credit for that. But then I don't have a vocation for the religious life, and she does. Being Conall's widow is already more than enough notoriety for her. Returning to the religious life is the most effective way she can think of to silence any future rumors. And your reputation is as blameless as a March lamb's."
     "I'm not really worried about court gossip, at least not on my own account," Araxie said. "What I dread is hanging about, married but unwanted. Before Kelson made his actual proposal, he said he could never stop loving her."
    "Tactless of him, I must admit, especially right before a proposal." Richelle sighed and gave Araxie's shoulders another squeeze.

    "Still Ari, I don't think you give either yourself or Kelson enough credit to think the two of you can't build a successful marriage. I don't know that everything will work out right away, certainly. But I did think the two of you will make a very attractive royal couple tonight while you were making your betrothal vows."

"Oh Riche! " Araxie rolled her eyes and Richelle laughed but gave her a shake.

   "I know you think I'm too focused on external appearances, but don't just dismiss what I say! When you're trying to fall in love, it's very helpful to find your future spouse attractive rather than repulsive, especially at the start.  It helped me with Brecon. And you," she tapped the end of Araxie's nose with a fingertip, "are completely adorable. Kelson has certainly matured well. All he has to do is walk into a room to have every woman present watching him wherever he goes. Can you honestly say you don't find him absolutely beautiful?"

    "Oh, all right, yes, he is," Araxie admitted. "Only—"


    "What if he still thinks of me as an annoying little girl?"

    "You don't look like a little girl, Ari. You look like a young lady of an appropriate age to marry. Cyric told me some of his gentlemen in waiting sigh romantically over you."

     Araxie snorted.  "Rezza is the one they sigh over romantically!"

    "Well Rezza..." Richelle nodded reluctant acknowledgement, cocking her head to one side. "She's definitely competition, not that she deliberately tries to be. But Araxie, Rothana didn't approach Rezza as she did you. And you are the one Kelson has committed to marry.

     She smiled playfully. "That puts you in a powerful position, because Kelson will need an heir, and soon. It means he's going to have to spend at least some private time with you. That will be your opportunity to make him want to spend quite a lot more private time with you."

      "I'm under no illusions about his and my respective dynastic duties," Araxie muttered.

       "We-ell, even kings and queens have to be dynastic in the same room, don't they?" Richelle teased. "Better yet in the same bed, since you can't very well be dynastic from opposite corners of a room. Kelson won't think of you as a little girl for long under those circumstances. According to Maman the act of love itself builds the bonds between husbands and wives."


        "She and I have been having some very enlightening conversations over the winter," Richelle replied. "She says she thinks it's much the best if women are prepared for the realities of marriage, rather than being kept ignorant, as she was on her first wedding night with Papa. I'm sure she'll be telling you many of the same things, starting tomorrow."

      "Riche, how do you feel about being married to Brecon, and well, the dynastic aspect of it?"

   "I can hardly wait."  Richelle smiled, stretching her arms over her head.  "I'm ready and eager to be married, be a wife and a mother and the mistress of my own home, and I'm delighted that Brecon will be the man in my life."

     "You truly love him?"

    "I believe so, yes. And...." Richelle tilted her head smiling, grey eyes sparkling with mischief, "I am looking forward to being extremely dynastic with him, starting on our wedding night."

   "I'll admit I was a little surprised that you showed Brecon so much favor last summer," Araxie said.  "After all, the Ramsays, while they're a good, and respectable family, they're not at all grand in their own right, certainly not by Royal standards. Brecon wouldn't even be considered as a match for you if it weren't for the cause of creating a lasting peace with Meara. They were completely out of their element while they were visiting Rhemuth last summer, and it was apparent to everyone."

       Richelle shrugged. "I was in a frame of mind to be cooperative about the betrothal because I was absolutely giddy with relief that Kelson wasn't asking me to marry Duke Mahael or Count Teymuraz, in the cause of creating a lasting peace with Torenth, instead!"

     "Nobody ever suggested that, Riche!"

    "Nevertheless, that was the private fear I lived with before my betrothal to Brecon, Ari. I couldn't be sure that some courtier somewhere in either Rhemuth or Beldour wasn't thinking very much along those lines, and suggesting that possibility to either Kelson or Duke Mahael. I was the likeliest bride in either case. And I hardly dared ask, because I didn't want to be the first person to bring up the subject, and maybe make the thing I dreaded more likely just by mentioning it. Just imagine having to live with Mahael Furstan-D'Arjenol!"

       "Or Teymuraz!" Araxie  agreed with feeling.

       "Even worse!" Richelle exclaimed. "Believe this, if Kelson had asked me to marry either of them, I was prepared to be very difficult and uncooperative about the entire thing, even if I ultimately had to give in at the end. But he didn't, thank God."

      "So instead you'll marry a simple knight and go live in Meara."

      "In terms of strict rank and birth, and in terms of wealth and property a Furstán Duke is a more eligible match," Richelle admitted.  "You'll never hear me say such things are not important, but they're not the only important thing."

    Richelle took a deep breath, gazing down at her feet. "When I first met the Ramsays, at first it was about my relief at not being asked to marry a Furstán. Then as I got to know them, I came to like all of them more and more. I can see myself being part of the Ramsay family and feeling far more natural and at ease among them than I could ever feel as a Duchess of Arjenol. Both Brecon and his father give me the feeling that I can always trust their honor. They're both genuinely kind, good and sensible men.

     "But the Furstáns....well imagine always having to be on your guard and always trying to keep the upper hand, even while en famille everything being a kind of endless Cardounet game. It would be exhausting!"

    Richelle's face hardened. "A high-born brute is still a brute, and both Mahael and Teymuraz are brutes, especially Teymuraz. I always have the feeling he has an active contempt for everyone not born a Furstán male. That would definitely include Haldane females. I just know I didn't want to have to touch him as a wife touches her husband, and I absolutely didn't want him touching me. After an encounter with Teymuraz, I feel like I've been coated with dirty grease."

    "I feel the same way, although I haven't liked the way Mahael has looked at me, lately.  My ruse to help Cuan and Gwenlian was useful in more ways than one. But tomorrow I must write to both Cuan and Gwenlian. I don't want them blindsided by the news once my betrothal to Kelson becomes public."

    "It will absolutely destroy the illusion that you're going to marry Cuan as far as King Colman is concerned." Richelle giggled.  "But speaking of tomorrow, you and I should probably turn in. It is very late, and we have to see Kelson and Liam and Uncle Letald off for Torenth first thing in the morning."
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


makes another tally mark in the Who-thinks-Kelson-is-hot? board


Lovely Shiral. Let's just hope Brecon isn't a closet botanist.

Seriously, such a lovely and believable picture of two sisters together.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Thank you Shiral for this very believable glimpse into Araxie's feelings about the betrothal to Kelson. No one wants to feel that they have agreed to a lifetime of being second best. We know that this marriage will turn out much happier than Araxie expects at this moment. I almost wished i could tell her what the future holds  for her and Kelson. But she has too much courage and intelligence to accept second best and she will soon draw Kelson into her clever plans for reconciling Nigel to his grandson and granddaughter and resolving Rothana's place in building the Schola. He will learn to both love and respect her and they will be partners in ruling Gwynedd, a very fortunate outcome for the kingdom.
This story  was a delightful treat.
"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


Quote from: Nezz on April 20, 2023, 01:37:42 AMmakes another tally mark in the Who-thinks-Kelson-is-hot? board
He's a total babe, yes!
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


I thoroughly enjoyed this.  I'm glad it's part 1; looking forward to part 2.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Wonderful Shiral.  The beginning of your story caused me to think of a real life prince unable to marry his beloved and then marry a lady of court instead. (Think "The Crown") That marriage did not turn out as happy as everyone had hoped. And from that experience I can honestly see where Araxie's concerns about her future are very real. I am deeply touched by the two sister's conversation.
May your horses have wings and fly!


I really like the start of this story, Shiral.  I like how you blended Araxie into the natural setting of her island home.  I'm happy to see that your appraisal of Araxie is what I thought it was. I believe she was ambivalent to Kelson initially before she fell in love.

It's regrettable that dynastic marriages begin cold because many times they are not for love but rather for money and power.  But if a dynastic couple are gifted and are able to fall in love, the relationship becomes more intimate, even hotter.  I think that, in your story, you're going to give us all a good demonstration of that relationship between Kelson and Araxie.

Thanks again for your story.   :) 


Quote from: Salic on April 21, 2023, 02:30:32 PMI really like the start of this story, Shiral.  I like how you blended Araxie into the natural setting of her island home.  I'm happy to see that your appraisal of Araxie is what I thought it was. I believe she was ambivalent to Kelson initially before she fell in love.

It's regrettable that dynastic marriages begin cold because many times they are not for love but rather for money and power.  But if a dynastic couple are gifted and are able to fall in love, the relationship becomes more intimate, even hotter.  I think that, in your story, you're going to give us all a good demonstration of that relationship between Kelson and Araxie.

Thanks again for your story.   :) 

Exactly! I do agree!


Quote from: revanne on April 20, 2023, 02:46:41 AMLovely Shiral. Let's just hope Brecon isn't a closet botanist.

Seriously, such a lovely and believable picture of two sisters together.
THanks Revanne, I'm glad you enjoyed it......Um...a closet botanist?
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!