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The Killing Season Chapter 1

Started by Evie, August 21, 2010, 01:03:25 AM

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Chapter One

   March 5, 1132

   "Mirjana, bring refreshments for our guest!"

   She hastened to do her husband's bidding, knowing that the penalty for disobedience, or even for not complying as quickly as he might wish, would be severe.   Even as she left the room, she sensed the visitor's dark eyes watching her, the bold eyes caressing her retreating form, despite the opaque veils she took pains to wear in his presence.  She shuddered.  She knew he would make no overt move—not only was her husband his liegeman, but his own marriage to the Grand Princess Justiniana was still quite fresh, his position as the newly-created Grand Duke of Phourstania not quite secure enough in Byzantyun's Autokratórial Court for him to be indiscreet in his liaisons.

   But in private, during the rare occasions when they were briefly alone, when her husband was in another room or otherwise occupied, his lord had made covert overtures, subtle yet unmistakable.  

   She loathed him, but dared not show her feelings openly.  Dared show no feelings openly, not to him, not even to her own lord and husband.

   Her husband Nikos von Brustarkia, fully his liegelord's loyal man.

   She hated them both, but was powerless against either.  


   March 9, 1132
   Transha Keep

   "Ye've a fine, strappin' baby boy, Lady Ailidh!"

   Sir Jass's lady wiped a light sheen of sweat from her brow as she watched the midwife clean the creamy vernix from her newborn's skin before swaddling him tightly in a fresh new blanket Ailidh had just finished sewing for him a few nights before.  She reached eager arms towards her child as soon as the midwife had finished, drawing him to her breast and watching in wonder as the tiny rosebud lips instinctively rooted and then latched on, nursing hungrily.

   "Aye, he's Jass's son all right; greedy little piglet!" she said, gray-green eyes glowing with maternal fondness.  She laughed softly.  "Just listen to him grunt!  Shh, mo chridhe, there's plenty for ye there; when one goes empty, I've another.  Ye needn't gulp it down all at once!"

   "All tha' snuffling about an' moanin' jus' means th' wee laddie is complimentin' th' chef, m'Lady," the midwife joked.  "So, wha's his name tae be, then?"

   "Jarrett,"   Ailidh told her, stroking the bit of chestnut fluff atop the baby's head with one finger.  "Jarrett Cauley MacArdry."

   "Well, 'tis a nice strong name.   Let's tidy up a bit here, then, an' I'll inform Sir Jass tha' he has another son.  I'm sure he'll be relieved tae know ye came through safely, and wee Ciaran an' Aine Rose will be glad for a chance tae meet th' new brother."

   "Aye.  An' then shoo them right back out again, would you please?  I feel like I could sleep for a year!"


   March  15, 1132

   Sophie de Arilan stirred slightly, trying to return to her sleep, but it was of no use.  The mild nausea was becoming more insistent, and she knew from her first two pregnancies that it would not subside unless she washed down a few bites of dry toast with a few sips of small ale.  She sat up slowly, taking a few steady breaths to settle her stomach, then reached for the remedy already placed at hand on her nightstand by a chambermaid knowing full well what her mistress would be in need of each morning during these first early months of pregnancy.

   Seisyll rolled over, his blue-violet eyes fixing upon his still slender wife as she nibbled delicately on the toast, washing the crumbs down with the ale.  "You all right?" he asked.

   "I will be in a few minutes, if I can get enough of this down without losing it first," she assured him.

   He sat up, planting a light kiss on her shoulder.  "Poor sweeting.  This stage should pass in another month though, shouldn't it?"

   "Hopefully.  If this babe's like Stefania and Jamyl were, at any rate. "

   Seisyll lay a hand lightly on his wife's abdomen.  "Nothing's showing yet.  Hardly a bump there.  Such a small thing to cause so much disruption!"  He grinned, scooting back down on the bed to kiss the still mostly-flat belly.  "Behave, son!"

   Sophie chuckled.  "That, too, will change in another month or two.  Then he'll be a bigger thing causing different kinds of disruption."

   "Hopefully he won't be quite as active as Jamyl was.  I'd half thought about renaming him Froggy."

   Sophie laughed, washing down the last of the dry toast with a final sip of small ale.  "I'm still wondering if that might not be appropriate.  Jamyl's barely walking, and yet I caught him trying to hop down the back steps last night.  Sextus is rebuilding the barricade today."

   Seisyll snorted.  "He's only 'barely walking' because he figured out how to run first!  Or at least it seems that way.  Even Sextus is having trouble keeping up with him." He grinned.  "Though it's a lot of fun watching my brother try.  Speaking of 'lots of fun,' how are you feeling now?"

   She raised a dark brow at her husband, noting the gleam in his eye.  "Better, but not that much better."  Sophie said with a quiet laugh, leaning over to give him a tender kiss on the forehead.  "Tonight, mayhap?"

   "All right.  I need to pop over to Rhemuth for a bit anyway, but I should be back by nightfall."  Seisyll winked.  "Especially now that I have incentive to return quickly."


   March 21, 1132
   Rhemuth Castle

   "Duncan Michael, come here right now!" the toddler's father told him sternly.  The young Lord, dressed in Kierney colors somewhat dulled by the addition of a light coating of mud spatter, grinned up at his father from the edge of the fish pond.  "Why did you run off from Nurse Mhairi?" the Border Duke added as his son approached.  He took the lad by one hand rather gingerly, trying not to get any mud smears on his own Court clothing, and turned to return to their apartment.  With any luck, he could hand his son over to his household's keeping and still make it to the Great Hall in time for the start of Court.

   "She din't wanna come teach th' fishes.  I like teachin' th' fishes!" was his son's enigmatic reply.  

   Dhugal stared down at his son in puzzlement.  "What do you mean, you like teaching the fishes?"  

   Clear green eyes, so like his mother's, shone back up at him.  "They do trickses.  Like swimmin' in circles an' stuff."

   Dhugal came to a stop in the garden path.  "They do...tricks?"  He tilted his head at the lad curiously.  At only two and a half years of age, little Duncan Michael had certainly not started any formal sort of Deryni training yet!  "Son, can you show me?"

   The boy beamed, all too eager to show off his newly discovered talent to his father.  At the edge of the pond he stopped, carefully approaching the slick bank so he wouldn't fall in—though at least this time, Dhugal stood ready to catch him if he looked to be in danger of doing so—and dangling one chubby toddler hand over the water.  A small school of fish, maybe five or six in number, swam over to investigate.  Pointing one finger at them, the lad began to move it in a slow circle, tracing a halo above the little school.  As one body, the fish began to follow the motion, swimming around and around in ever expanding circles in mimicry of the little boy's finger.

   The finger began doing a serpentine motion, waving up and down, left to right, over the water.  Again, the fish followed.

   He gave the finger a sudden flick upwards.  Only one fish jumped, shiny body arcing out of the water briefly before descending again with a splash.

   "I can't do it good yet," Dhugal's son said with a slight frown.

   The Duke chuckled.  "Oh, I think you did quite well.  But you mustn't come back down here—or to the other pond nearer the practice yard either—unless you're in the keeping of your nurse or your mother.  Or myself, of course.  Actually, you shouldn't be out of the nursery at all without one of us."

   "Not even with Papa Duncan?"

   Dhugal smiled.  "Well, all right, you can come back with Papa Duncan too.  I'm sure he'd love to see you training the fish.  But come along, now; you need a bath and I need to get to Court!"


   March 30, 1132
   St. Hilary's Basilica, Duncan's study

   "All right then, anamchara, what of the question of Junia the apostle?"  Catriona MacArdry McLain's clear green eyes sparkled in challenge as she leaned forward in her chair and took a sip of cider.

   Duncan grinned at his daughter-in-law.  "What of Junian?" he riposted.  "Or should I say,  Junianus?  Granted, Paul's use of the accusative case makes the name's gender unclear, but it's been quite thoroughly argued that the form of the name Saint Paul used in his reference to his relative and fellow sharer of the Gospel is merely a shortened form of the name 'Junianus' or 'Junius'.  Which are, of course, masculine."

   Cat snorted.  "Aye, it's been thoroughly argued by Gwyneddan churchmen too blinded to see the patently obvious, or look beyond their own local church history, you mean.  You're too good a scholar to let such biases cloud your judgment, though.  You do realize, don't you, that there's absolutely no evidence in written record that the male name 'Junianus' was ever shortened in that manner, while on the other hand there are at least 250 extant records to show the common use of the name 'Junia'?  The very female name 'Junia'?"  The corners of her lips twitched as she saw his grin widen.

   "Of course," Duncan averred.  "Or at least I do now, since you sent me scurrying to the ancient texts after your last visit to research the matter.  I just wanted to see the fire flash in your eyes and smoke pour out of your nostrils."  He chuckled, taking a sip of his ale.  "Of course, none of that changes the fact that Paul's phrase 'They are outstanding among the apostles' may simply have meant that they were outstanding in the eyes of the apostles, not necessarily that they were outstanding apostles.   The phrasing lends itself to both interpretations, as I'm sure you must know, being a scholar yourself."  Duncan raised an admonishing eyebrow at his soul-friend and sparring partner.  "And since when has any scholar been immune to the blinding effects of bias?"

   Cat laughed.  "So, you're admitting you're arguing from a biased perspective?"

   "Of course!  And so are you.  No matter how much either of us might try to view the matter—or any matter—from a strictly objective viewpoint, it's humanly impossible."

   "And now you're trying to sidetrack me.  Well, Junia or Junianus aside, there's no disputing the fact that the Church in Byzantyun, which even the most hidebound of your Gwyneddan clergy has to admit was in full flower long before your particular branch of Christendom sprouted a bud, has at least forty references to female diakonos in their early church records."

   Duncan poured himself more ale.  "All right, then, I'm willing to yield on the matter of female deacons, at least for the moment, although I'm sure even you clergy of mist-shrouded and insular Llyr must admit that deacons are not priests.  More cider?"  Duncan tilted his head towards her nearly empty goblet.

   "Admittedly."  Cat smiled.  "And no, although I'd love more, I think your granddaughter has had quite enough."

   The bishop gave his daughter-in-law a delighted smile.  "Oh, then it is a girl!  I'd hoped she might be."

   "Aren't you supposed to be hoping for a spare Ducal heir instead?" she teased.

   "All in due time.  I can't imagine you and Dhugal were planning on stopping after only two babies."

   "Now that we've figured out what's causing them?"  She grinned.  "Not on your life!"

   Duncan laughed.  "Well, good.  I suppose I should be delighted, for the sake of my son's Ducal posterity, that our two churches have theological differences on the subject of mandatory celibacy for clergy as well."

   Cat leaned back in her chair, kicking a soft-booted foot out in front of her and examining it  idly.  "So, tell me, does the mere mention of me still make Denis Arilan break out in hives?"

   "You'll have to ask him yourself; he's supposed to be stopping by sometime this afternoon."  The bishop smiled.  "Denis doesn't hate you, Kitten; he has a certain grudging respect and admiration for you, actually, despite your many differences.  He's just wary of your teeth and claws. Must you take such delight in sharpening them on him?"

   "Iron sharpens iron," Cat joked with a feral grin.

Chapter 2:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=537.0
"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!


Pregnant women drinking alcohol?  Surely they knew better even back then!


Nope.  Until quite recently pregnant women were recommended to have a pint of Guinness a day to help keep their iron levels up.


A lot of nursing mothers still drink beer (in limited quantities) to boost milk production.  Some gets through the mother's system to the infant, but generally not enough to cause harm if the mother is having the beer in moderation and with a meal, rather than in excess to get drunk.

In the Middle Ages (and other historical periods up until fairly recently, actually) even children drank alcoholic beverages, although those were usually cut with some degree of water, because "small beer" and watered wine were safer to drink than plain water in many areas.  The small amount of alcohol in the beverage killed the harmful bacteria in the water.  Alcoholic beverages in general also had a lower alcohol content in period.  Distillation was a more recent invention, and if I'm remembering correctly, modern distillation methods create a higher alcohol content than the earlier ones.

So given a choice between drinking "small ale" and plain water (which may or may not have been contaminated by run-off from towns or manor houses with insufficient drainage or primitive sewer systems), a pregnant woman would have been far better off drinking the ale.  Unless she were drinking it to excess (and given the lower alcohol content in the beverages available, she'd probably really have to be chugging!), she was less likely to have to worry about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome than cholera or, if nothing else, chronic diarrhea.

From the Wikipedia section about "small beer/small ale" found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-alcohol_beer:
"Small beer (also small ale) is a beer that contains very little alcohol. Sometimes unfiltered and porridge-like, it was a favoured drink in Medieval Europe and colonial North America, where George Washington had a recipe for it involving bran and molasses. It was sometimes had with breakfast, as attested in Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. In these times of lower public sanitation, water-transmitted diseases were a significant cause of death. Because alcohol is toxic to most water-borne pathogens, and because the process of brewing any beer from malt involves boiling the water, which also kills germs, drinking small beer instead of water was one way to escape infection. Small beer was also produced in households for consumption by children and servants. It was not unknown for workers in heavy industries and physical work to consume more than ten pints or five litres of small beer during a working day to maintain their hydration levels. This was usually provided free as part of their working conditions, it being recognised that maintaining hydration was essential for optimum performance."

I think one reason modern women are usually warned to abstain completely during pregnancy is partly due to the higher alcohol content in beverages now, but also in part because of cultural changes.  At least in the US, there's a greater tendency on the part of many to see alcohol as the "party hearty" legal drug of choice, not simply as a beverage to drink with a meal, and the whole point of drinking is to get drunk or at least "buzzed."  And yes, that sort of drinking, especially on a regular basis, can harm the developing fetus.  I saw less of a tendency towards that when I used to live in Europe as a child (one doctor in Italy told us that public drunkenness there didn't just mean drying out in a jail cell overnight, it meant a trip to the mental ward, because the assumption was that if you were drinking enough to get drunk, you had an alcohol problem and needed intervention!)  It could be in part because this was the 1970s rather than 2010, but I remember seeing pregnant women having wine with a meal without giving it a second thought.  But pregnant women getting drunk, or even coming close?  Never.
"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!


Thanks also for putting in a nod to the Church of Gwynnedd's hierarchical vapors over women as priests, and non-celibate ones at that.  Some of the arguments echo the ones I remember from when the Episcopal Church were debating women in the priesthood.  (Yes, I'm old enough--barely--to remember.)


An argument that is still going on in certain Churches of course!   Alas, the issue has by no means been resolved, so fits of ecclesiastical vapours are still occurring at the thought of this ...


Well, Duncan made a passing reference in ANAMCHARA to their theological debates, but I never actually showed one in that story.  You gave me the perfect topic to use as a point of difference in one of their friendly disputes.  :)
"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: Alkari on August 21, 2010, 06:37:39 PM
An argument that is still going on in certain Churches of course!   Alas, the issue has by no means been resolved, so fits of ecclesiastical vapours are still occurring at the thought of this ...

What other churches may or may not do is of small concern to me.  When I read about RC women wanting to become priests, my first reaction is, "Well, just become Anglicans!"  We have women bishops for crying out loud.  The Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA is a woman.  Let the moldy old Church of Rome continue as a boys' club if they want to be!  If I were a cartoonist, I'd draw the RCC as a treehouse with a sign "NO GURLZ ALOUD!"


Anent drinking in pregnancy or while nursing, I thought that the rule was that whatever a pregnant or nursing woman put into her body she was also putting into her baby's body.

Nobody knows exactly how much the mother can safely drink without giving the baby FAS, so shouldn't one err on the side of caution?

As for infection from bad drinking water, boiling water before drinking it will get around that; as the Chinese and the Arabs discovered.  (Why do you think they drank tea [in the former case] and coffee [in the latter]?)

Why do you think that the centers for scientific progress while Europe was enjoying (?) its Thousand Years Without a Bath were China and the Islamic world?  And why the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution coincide almost exactly with the introduction of coffee and tea in Europe?


The thing is, though, you can't go on the assumption that medieval peoples (even in KK's somewhat idealized version) will act on knowledge not commonly known--if at all--until the 19th-21st Centuries, because they didn't.

Did FAS exist in the 12th C.?  Almost certainly. Did they know what caused it? Almost certainly not. It's easier to figure out a correlation between drinking bad water and getting sick shortly thereafter; much harder to figure out that alcoholic beverages that are the norm for one's culture might be causing birth defects in some babies but not in all.

Yes, they knew bad water could make one sick.  That doesn't mean they necessarily knew what could be done about it, aside from not drinking plain water.  They might not have known that the boiling involved in beermaking could "cure bad water" in and of itself, or it's also possible that the combination of boiling plus a low alcohol content made for a purer beverage than boiled water alone.  In any case, we have historical evidence that the connection between cleanliness (including hand washing) and disease prevention wasn't fully known.  Babies delivered by doctors in hospitals as late as the 19th C. died of entirely preventable reasons--as did their mothers--because the doctors didn't wash their hands between patients. Why bother, if their hands would just get dirty again?  Midwives were often safer, but not always.  Similarly, Elizabethan women (and probably medievals) often saved their childbearing bedsheets to reuse (unwashed) at the next birth, and lent the stained sheets to friends, resulting in the spread of postpartum infections and higher mortality.  From their standpoint this made sense--why stain new bedsheets if one had used ones that were already ruined?  Sheets were expensive!  Laundering and boiling the sheets would have helped...but they didn't know!

Medievals acted according to medieval logic and knowledge, not according to what we know today.  Unless KK expressly shows otherwise (for instances, her Healers seem a bit more advanced than their real life counterparts, but not a great deal more), I assume a medieval mindset.  Sophie and Cat are simply acting like sensible 12th C. women, believing that water is often hazardous, but small ale or other mild alcoholic beverages are safer for children, so why not equally safe for the unborn?    And given a choice between some chance of birth defects, and more likely maternal death before childbirth due to cholera or other water-borne diseases....not much of a choice there!
"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!