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The Demoiselle and Derry Chapter 4

Started by Evie, August 03, 2010, 09:19:26 PM

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Chapter Four

   The morning promised to be as fair as the previous evening had been foul.  Celsie and Derry took to the road again, traveling beside what had been a small stream the previous afternoon.  The rains of the day before had swollen it, the floodwaters nearly causing the rushing river to overflow its banks.

   As they neared the boundaries of Celsie's lands, close by the small village which lay just outside Chervignon's borders, Celsie spied a man standing by the water's edge, holding a small, squirming sack he was preparing to fling into the rolling water.  She reined in Aelfscine, dismounting quickly and handing the reins to a startled Earl Derry.  "Hold, goodman!" she called out, catching the old man by surprise.  He paused in his act, lowering the bag, although he made sure to hold it a cautious distance from his leg.  The bag continued to squirm, sharp claws and teeth occasionally poking through the rough burlap.

   "'Ow c'n I be o' service, m'Lady?" the man mumbled.

   "Is that perchance a cat in your bag?" Celsie ventured, pointing at the sack he held.

   "Aye, m'Lady.  I caught 'im at me chickens again."

   "I see."  Celsie took another step forward.  "As it happens, I have need of a cat for my barn.  Might I have him instead?"  She turned her most winsome smile upon the old man.

   "Nay, m'Lady, ye'd no' want this cat.  'E's a feral un, 'e is.  'E's as like ta bite an' scratch ye as look at ye.  Best jes' ta drown 'im an' be done wi' it."  He started to lift the bag again.

   "Oh, gracious, please don't toss him in!  if you do that, I'll just have to go in after him, and I should hate to get wet again.  And I should hate even more the stern tongue-lashing the Earl of Derry here is likely to give me for going swimming in my riding clothes."  Celsie beamed at the man.  "I've a way with animals, though.  Let me at least see if I can calm him."

   The peasant stared at the lady as though she'd grown an extra head, but he slowly lowered the bundle to the ground, no doubt not wanting the blame to fall upon his head if the Lady were indeed so reckless as to throw herself into the roiling stream after it.  He shot a wary look at Derry, then back at the woman.  "If 'e bites or claws ye, m'Lady, don't say ye wasn't warned."

   "I shan't."  Celsie slowly approached the tumbling bundle of burlap and irate cat, dropping to her knees just out of reach of the claws attempting to shred the confining fabric from within.  "Shhhhh....Calm yourself, sweet kitty...."  The old man let out a snort as the Lady of Chervignon crooned words of comfort, but as the cat began to quiet down, his openly skeptical look turned to bemused wonder.  At last, Celsie reached out a fingertip and touched a lump in the bag she judged to be the cat's head.  The form within relaxed completely.

   "Ye be some sort o' cat charmer?" the man muttered, looking at Celsie in bewilderment.

   "Something of the sort, I suppose," she affirmed.  "My mother had a way with animals as well."  She looked up at him.  "He's not a bad kitty; he's just terrified.  I'll take him on with me.  That should keep him out of your chickens just as well as drowning him would, don't you think?"

   The man shrugged.  "Don' make no never mind to me, I don' s'pose, if 'e's dead or not, so long as 'e ain't in me 'enhouse."  He bobbed a crude bow in her direction and the Earl's and took his leave.

   Once he'd retreated a safe distance, Celsie untied the mouth of the sack to see what it contained.  Derry approached a bit closer, curious.  A ginger tabby lay within, half grown and half starved, with one torn ear and a rakish scar across its forehead narrowly missing one eye.  The demoiselle surveyed her new acquisition with a careful eye.

   "You're a bit beat up, but you'll mend quickly enough." A flicker of movement in the bright fur caught her eye, and she chuckled.  "Let's not bring fleas home, though."  She passed a graceful hand a few inches above the cat, and a small flurry of dark specks leaped clear, bounding away from Celsie into the roadside grass and clover.  Derry gave a startled laugh.

   "That's a handy trick!"

   She grinned up at him.  "Isn't it?"  Turning back to the cat, she peeked into its ears and mouth.  "Gums are pink and healthy, ears could use a cleaning—you've probably got mites, poor thing—but I've just the stuff to fix that."  She picked up the sleeping cat.  "He should stay asleep until we're back home," she told Derry, offering the limp form to him.  "Would you hand him up to me once I'm back in the saddle?"

   "If he's as feral as the man claims, is that a good idea, Celsie?  What if he does wake up?"

   "Oh, he won't.  I've set controls in his mind, and he'll stay fast asleep until we're home.  After that, we'll see how he does." She looked at Derry a trifle wistfully.  "I'd really prefer to win him around naturally if I can.  I could set controls in his mind to tame him that way, but it's not real love if it's coerced."

   "I suppose not," Derry agreed, looking thoughtful.  "Though he's just a cat; would it really matter?"

   She smiled gently.  "It would to me.  Besides, it's an ethical boundary I'd not really want to get into the habit of crossing lightly, even with an animal.  After all, there are Deryni out there who would think nothing of saying 'He's just a simple human; would it really matter?'"  She stroked the tomcat's head softly.  "I know there's a vast difference between a cat's mind and a human being's, but I'd like to treat even a cat with respect."

   "I suppose I can't argue with that," Derry said with a faint smile, "especially having encountered Deryni of far less scrupulous conscience."  He took the furry burden from her.  "Who are you naming this ragged bit of fluff for, then?  Not me again, I hope?"

   She laughed.  "I'll have to think upon it.  I don't suppose I could get away with naming it Alaric?"

   The Earl laughed as he gave her a leg back up into her saddle.


   The two travelers continued up the road until they reached the fork leading to Celsie's manor.  They veered off, soon rounding a low hill to see Chervignon in the distance.  Laborers working in the fields bowed to their Lady and her companion as she passed with a bright smile and a wave.  One man ran ahead to alert the steward of their arrival.

   The riders approached the Chervignon stables.   The groom and a stable lad came out to greet the new arrivals.  Celsie listened as her groom gave her a quiet welcome and then brought her up to date on how her new stallion had fared on the trip to its new home.  She nodded, thanking him, and handed Aelfscine over into his care.  The cat, she entrusted to the boy.

   Derry watched as the dusky-skinned lad, who looked no older than Brendan but whose dark brown eyes spoke of far harsher life experiences than Alaric Morgan's stepson had ever known, listened intently to the Lady of Chervignon's instructions as he took the cat from her.  She rested a gentle hand on the cat's brow briefly; it stirred slightly but did not awaken.  The lad turned to take the sleeping cat away.  Derry was startled to see faint scars on the boy's neck and upper back where the neckline of the loose tunic he wore dipped low.

   "He's new to your household since last time I was here, I believe," Derry whispered to Celsie once the boy had retreated a short way.  He handed his horse over to another groom who had come out for it.

   The Lady waited until the groom had retreated before answering.  "Yes, that's Hassan.  I found him—or rather, he found me—in the souks at Andelon.  He was a street urchin.  We met when he tried to cut my purse-strings."  At Derry's upraised brow, she added.  "He belonged to a stern master who would beat him severely if he didn't return at the end of each day with sufficient coin."

   "Ah."  Derry's blue eyes studied Celsie's face as he thought back to her own abused past.  Parts of a puzzle were beginning to fit together.  "Another stray, then?"

   "Yes."  She smiled faintly.  "I seem to be accruing a collection.  Speaking of which, come see another one that's finally on the mend, though I despaired of its survival at first."  

   Celsie took him behind the stables.  A short distance away was a small yard.  An emaciated mule stood there, quietly eating as a stable lad tended to his scarred coat.

   "Jesú," Derry breathed.  "And where did you acquire that one?"

   "His last owner was beating him for falling in the road.  He was trying to pull a cart in that condition."  Celsie's eyes flashed fire.  "Worse than that condition, actually; he's had a couple of weeks now of fattening and mending.  He was practically skeletal before."  She looked up at Derry a trifle shame-faced.  "It's a good thing Master Derwin was with me when we came upon them.  I wanted to beat the man with his own whip."

   Derry shook his head at the sight before him.  "Better Master Derwin than me; I might have let you."  He sighed.

   She studied him a long moment.  "You truly don't mind, then, that I collect them?"

   He glanced down at her.  "No.  Why would I?"

   Celsie smiled faintly and shrugged.  "There was a man in Andelon who was courting me for a time.  But once he learned about my 'strays,' he said I should give up my silly endeavors, as he called them.  He told me a Lady shouldn't soil her hands with such matters, and that a gift of alms to others more suited for such work would be more appropriate to a noblewoman's station."  She turned her gaze back to the mule.  "I decided such a man would never suit me, if he truly believed I could see a person or a creature in need and think I would be content to ease my conscience by simply throwing money at it, or leaving it to be someone else's problem."  She took his hands in hers.  "But come, Sean.  I've other things to show you, much more pleasant than this."  

Chapter 5: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=532.0
"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!


Quote from: Evie on August 03, 2010, 04:09:57 PM
Yo, Classics major!  If I wanted to name a style of embroidery "Andelonian work" or "Work of/from Andelon", in much the same style as "Opus Anglicanum", or "English-work embroidery", would that be "Opus Andelonum"?  Or is it some other wonky word ending? 


This sort of thing is what I mean, but it needs a more Eleven Kingdoms sounding name.

Try "Opus Andelonicum" perhaps?  "Intextere" means "to embroider", so perhaps "intextendum modo Andelonico" ("embroidery in the Andelonic manner.")


Sounds good. I think I'd stick with "Opus Andelonicum" as a way of paying homage to the original name for that sort of work, not to mention to help any readers familiar with Opus Anglicanum easily identify that that's actually what I'm referring to.
"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!


Quote from: Evie on August 03, 2010, 10:11:10 PM
Sounds good. I think I'd stick with "Opus Andelonicum" as a way of paying homage to the original name for that sort of work, not to mention to help any readers familiar with Opus Anglicanum easily identify that that's actually what I'm referring to.

Good.  The other could refer to needlework using motifs common in Andelonic folk art in general