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A Time To Heal Chapter 2

Started by Evie, September 20, 2010, 05:07:01 PM

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Chapter Two

   November 18, 1132
   Rhemuth Castle, Chapel Royal

   "I, Dhugal Ardry MacArdry McLain, take thee, Mirjana...."  Dhugal's voice faltered as he realized belatedly that he didn't even know his bride's full name.  She realized the problem at the same moment he did, apparently, for a moment later he felt her tentative mind-touch, mind-heard her mental voice supplying the necessary information.   He continued, hoping his momentary pause wasn't too apparent to the small gathering of witnesses behind him, "... Nadezhda Vasilissa Furstána,  to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer or poorer, for fairer or fouler, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth."  She had not supplied the "von Brustarkia" surname of her late husband, and he had no wish to add the painful reminder.

   Father Nivard turned to the Torenthi widow by Dhugal's side.  She glanced up at him, her clear green eyes looking uncertain for a brief moment, but then her quiet, exotically-accented voice repeated the ancient vows.  "I, Mirjana Nadezhda Vasilissa Furstána, take thee, Dhugal Ardry MacArdry McLain, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonny and buxom at bed and at board, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth."  

   They were the traditional vows Dhugal had heard at many other weddings in the past, but it was the first time he had taken these particular vows.  His mind wandered briefly to his first wedding, the ceremony conducted according to his late wife's less formal Llyrian traditions rather than those of Gwynedd.   Somehow, despite the familiarity of the words Father Nivard uttered before them now, something about today's ceremony seemed oddly alien to him.  He wondered if it seemed equally strange to his bride, accustomed as she must be to Torenthi customs and a Mass conducted in Greek rather than in Latin.

   The priest paused, looking at him expectantly.  With a start, Dhugal wrenched his attention back to the present moment.  It must be time for the exchange of rings.  He handed over the small gold circlet for the priest to bless.  The aquamarine cabochons set in it reflected the same pale green as his bride's eyes, one of the few parts of her face visible behind the Eastern style veils she still favored even now after living in Gwynedd these past four months.

   Father Nivard finished speaking, handed Dhugal back the ring.  He took his bride's hand, passing the ring briefly over the tips of thumb, index finger, and middle finger 'in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti' before sliding it onto her ring finger.  It fit perfectly.  Dhugal blessed the foresight that  Princess Rothana had shown in requesting the loan of the ring ahead of time so that it could be properly fitted.  It was the sort of detail he might easily have forgotten in the busyness of the past few days.  

   It was time to kneel before the altar for the nuptial blessing and the Mass.  


   The wedding had been small, given the circumstances, with very little ceremony aside from the exchange of marital vows and the Mass itself.  There would be no great celebration afterwards in the Great Hall, despite the fact that the rank of the newlywed couple certainly entitled them to one.  Such a public assembly would have been extremely awkward for the new bride.  Mirjana, newly-wed second Duchess of Cassan, was grateful not to have to sit at the High Table under the watchful, wary eyes of the people of Rhemuth's Court who were still unsure whether to welcome her or greet her with suspicion because of who her last husband had been.

   Oh, there'd been kindness enough from a few in Kelson's Court, and it had helped a great deal that the Queen and the Duchess Meraude had made a point of helping her settle into her new life here in Gwynedd, as had the Duchess Richenda once she and her family had arrived in Rhemuth from faraway Corwyn.  Among the Servants of Saint Camber she had found acceptance as well.  The Princess Rothana had quickly taken her under her wing, making sure that she and Mikhail had all that they might need.  Their sons had quickly taken to each other, much to Mirjana's relief, and now Mikhail's understanding of the Gwyneddan tongue had become much improved with daily practice.

   But still, a handful of sympathetic women was one thing; an entire assemblage of gawking strangers was quite another.

   Mirjana shot a shy glance at the stranger by her side.  Her new husband was listening attentively to something the King was saying, though as if he sensed her gaze fall upon him, he happened to look towards her just at that moment, catching her eye.  He gave her a faint, almost self-conscious smile, courteously pushing some of the better morsels of meat on their shared trencher to her side of it before turning his attention back to Kelson again.  It was their wedding feast, shared in the relative privacy of the Duchess Meraude's solar, with only a few of the groom's friends and family in attendance.

   Of her own, there were none, of course.  What friends she'd had in girlhood were all far away in Torenth.  As for friends from her previous marriage, there were none.  Nikos had not permitted her to form such bonds, and even had he permitted it, there was no one within his circle of intimates she would have wished to form such an association with.

   Her gaze wandered  around the room, falling to rest on a man in a purple cassock who stood next to the Duke of Corwyn.  The bishop, she now knew, was her new father-in-law and cousin to the Duke he was speaking to now.  His blue eyes intercepted her gaze and he gave her a polite smile before turning to look down at the small boy tugging on his hand.  

   Lord Duncan Michael, her new husband's heir.  With his copper-bronze hair so like his father's, pulled back into its stubby Border braid, and his eyes the clear pale green of his late mother's, the child could possibly have passed for her own as well, save for a certain delicacy of feature and fairness of complexion that she suspected the boy had inherited from the former Duchess of Cassan.  She had once happened upon a portrait of her new husband's first wife.  The woman had been quite lovely.  And it had been whispered, though not quietly enough to have prevented her from overhearing, that theirs had been a love match.

   Wistfully, the new bride wondered if she might be able to please her new husband.  She'd never wanted to please Nikos; it was a new experience for her, this desire to please.  Or, at the very least, not be found terribly wanting.


   Dhugal climbed into bed, taking his place under sheet and blanket beside his new bride.  It was only the second time he'd seen her unveiled.  He tried not to think about that first time, in her prison cell in the castle Keep, when she'd unveiled herself before the King of Gwynedd before offering herself to him in a desperate attempt to bargain for protection for her young son.  That had been an awkward moment for all concerned, and certainly not one he wanted to dwell upon as he lay beside her now, awaiting Father Nivard's blessing on their marriage bed.

   This was not, of course, the same bed he had once shared with Catriona, nor were they even in the same apartment.  He was grateful for the mercy of Araxie's change of quarters for him, so he would not have to bring his bride to a bedchamber filled with another life's memories.

   Dhugal glanced at Mirjana as the priest finished the nuptial blessing.  Her fingers plucked nervously at the bedsheet covering her, although as she noticed his gaze upon her, she stilled them, summoning up a fleeting smile.  The wedding guests sang them a final song of blessing and benediction, and then filed out, leaving the bridal couple to begin their new marriage and perhaps create new life as well.

   The door closed.  The pale green eyes, so much like Catriona's but framed in a cascade of ebony hair instead of the familiar honey-gold, gazed up at him with what seemed an odd admixture of anxiety, determination, hope and...was it fear?  It was this last that shook him to the core.

   Sweet Jesú, I can't do this!  What the hell was I thinking, believing I could go through with this?

   "My Lady...."  Dhugal struggled to think of what to say to this woman who was watching him with the shy wariness of a deer ready to bolt back into the underbrush.  "I realize we've hardly had an opportunity to get to know each other.  If you would prefer to wait...."

   She looked relieved for a brief moment, but then looked troubled, glancing away uncertainly for a moment to study a crack in the wall as if she expected to find an answer there.  At last she turned back to him.

   "It is all right, my lord.  I know you wish for a son, and I am willing to... do my duty."  Her voice faltered only a little at the last phrase.

   It was a far cry from the eager anticipation of his first wedding night, but since she was willing, he couldn't think of any graceful way to back out of the expected consummation.  He hoped he'd at least be able to please her.  Surely this night couldn't be any less awkward for her than it was for him.


   He lay beside her in silence, asleep at last.  Mirjana studied him in the moonlight filtering softly through the window.

   It had been awkward, this wedding night, but not the ordeal she had feared it might be.  She had never known any man intimately aside from Nikos, had not dreamed that the marital chore could be accomplished without pain, so that discovery had been a most welcome surprise.

   She wondered now what else about her first marriage had been less than typical.  Or was it this one that was unusual?  She had once, as a young girl, stumbled upon a book of love poems in her father's library that had spoken of the delights of the marriage bed, and had spent the next few weeks in starry-eyed daydreaming over what it might be like to be courted and won by a handsome young courtier and uplifted to the Gates of Paradise on wings of bliss.  Or some such nonsensical imagery; she had long since forgotten most of the poetic particulars.  Then Nikos had come along—had seen her, had desired, and had approached her father for her.  Upon being refused, he seized the prize anyway, carrying her off to lands far from her homeland, forcing himself into her body but never into her heart.  She had long since given up dreams of courtship and love, much less Gates of Paradise and wings of bliss.

   But tonight...well, she couldn't exactly say she'd seen Paradise, but she was quite certain that, unlike all those other times with Nikos, she had gone nowhere approaching the Gates of Hell either.  This new husband had been very gentle, very kind, as he'd ever been to her on their previous brief encounters.  If his mind had seemed elsewhere, well, she supposed that was only to be expected under the circumstances, but in an odd way that had helped, for she felt less self-conscious without that steady amber gaze regarding her intently.  He had remained tightly shielded, but then again, that too was a relief, for she had no more wish than he to lower her own shields and show him her own vulnerability and brokenness.  That was an intimacy far too frightening to contemplate.

   She closed her eyes and tried to settle into sleep, but her skin still tingled with the memories of this man's caressing hands and tender kisses.  That part had been pleasant.  Mirjana had never experienced that before, just haste and Nikos's suffocating weight.  Fortunately, she'd never had to suffer Nikos's attentions for very long at a time.  A handful of minutes at the most—she'd learned to endure by lying still and forcing her mind elsewhere—and then he'd be done, rolling off her again and returning to his own bedchamber, falling asleep before she did and rattling their adjoining door with his snoring.

   This man of Gwynedd seemed to take an abnormally long time by comparison, but as long as it didn't hurt, Mirjana supposed she could live with that.  Might even come to find it enjoyable enough.  That was a relief; it would make it so much easier for her to do her duty by him.  

   She hoped she could give him a son quickly.  It was the least she could do, for all his kindness to her and to Mikhail.

Chapter 3:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=502.0
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!



Ditto.  Sympathy has been for Dhugal so far as a known character, but sounds like she had a pretty poor time of it.