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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 6

Started by Evie, July 02, 2010, 02:09:10 PM

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Chapter Six

   Sean Earl Derry approached the City of Rhemuth at a gallop, glad to be almost back at his destination.  He was exhausted, worn out by a fatigue that had less to do with sleeplessness than the stress of having recently had a narrow escape, the adrenaline surge that had come with survival of such peril, and the subsequent physical aftermath of such visceral excitement.

   The gatehouse was in sight now, and so Derry slowed his mount, gradually allowing the horse to slow his gait to a canter, then a trot.  By the time he reached the gate, he'd reached a fairly sedate walk, his horse doubtless grateful for the chance to rest from the journey, although in truth Desse was not all that far from Rhemuth.  

   The guard on duty recognized the Earl Derry on sight, Derry hardly being a stranger to the Court at Rhemuth after all these years of service to two Haldane Kings.  He waved the Earl through.  Derry continued on towards the Castle, wending his way through the crowded streets at a steady trot until at last he was in the stable courtyard.  He handed his horse over into the care of one of the royal grooms and made his way into the Castle proper, though the Great Hall and into the section of the keep where his apartment lay.

   He did not go straight there, however, but stopped a few doors earlier, pausing outside a closed door.  The strains of music sounded from within.  He paused for a moment, hesitating, then raised a hand to knock at the wooden door.


   Constanza reclined on one of the bench seats in the window embrasure, smiling at her young charges as they entertained themselves.  Ailidh stood by the fireplace playing a slow romantic ballad on her vielle.  Sophie sang the melody, her voice a soft alto relating the sad story of the ballad.  Celsie's clear soprano supplied a descant to the song.  The music died, voices quieting and Ailidh's fingers briefly stilling on the strings and bow, and then she started another tune, this one far more cheerful.  Recognizing the song after the introductory measures, Celsie laughed and began singing along, Sophie echoing the refrain after her.

   A knock sounded on the door.  Constanza stood, waving Sophie back down when the girl noticed and faltered in her singing, and walked over to answer the door herself.

   "Lord Derry!"  She smiled brightly in surprised greeting, stepping back from the doorway to allow the man entry.  Her eyes quickly took in his disheveled appearance and the torn state of his clothing, and her expression darkened.  "Oh, sweet Jesú, caro mio, what has happened?" she whispered, turning slightly pale.

   "A bar fight in Desse," he explained, bending reflexively over her hand to kiss the air over it absently.  "Don't worry, Stanzi; I didn't start it, although I very nearly ended it.  Or, rather, it very nearly ended me."  His gaze traveled across the room to the three young ladies who had stopped the music to watch his quiet exchange with the mistress of their household, their eyes curious.  "I need to speak with Celsie," he added.  Not waiting for permission, he crossed the chamber in a few quick strides, drawing the startled maiden into a quick though quite fierce embrace, dropping a kiss on the top of her golden hair before releasing her.  "Thank you," he said fervently.

   Celsie gaped up at him, blue eyes huge.  "F-for what?"

   He reached into his doublet, pulling out the folded handkerchief that lay over his heart, directly beneath a large rent in the doublet's fabric.  "For this."

   She stared at it, dumbfounded at first, and then she looked at him, seeing his exhaustion and his unkempt state with a new understanding.  Celsie lifted shaking fingers to her lips and then, hardly daring to breathe, she reached up to touch Derry's face.

   "It...it actually works?!"  Her eyes filled with tears.  "Mama told me...it's called a 'Miracle Stitch'...she said if I used it and prayed over every stitch, it could make miracles happen, but I never actually thought....Oh God!"  The trembling fingers dropped to the torn fabric over Derry's heart.  "You're not hurt, are you?"  Her eyes filled with wonder at the solemn shake of his head.  

   "I'm not hurt.  I'm afraid some of your hard work has been destroyed, though hopefully not beyond repair."

   "But...you're not hurt!"  She took a deep, shuddering breath, closing her eyes and whispering a quick prayer of heartfelt thanksgiving before continuing.  "Wh-what happened, my lord?"

   He led Celsie to a nearby chair, seeing her safely seated before telling his story, for she looked nearly about to faint.  "We—that is, Earl Burchard and I—had stopped at a tavern in Desse after we finished our day's business at the horse market.  While we were there, a fight broke out.  Some sort of local matter, but we were caught up in the fray.  I tried to slip out the back, but during the brawl someone tried to cudgel me with a broken bottle.  I drew my sword and managed to parry the blow in time, but during that moment of distraction, someone threw a dagger."  He shrugged.  "Actually, I don't think it was aimed for me; I just chanced to step into its line of flight at just the wrong moment."  He glanced down at his torn doublet.  "I felt a thump against my chest, but thought nothing of it at the time, thinking whatever had hit me had just glanced off.  I never actually saw the dagger come towards me.  But Burchard was across the room at the time, and he says he caught sight of me just in time to see the blade go point-first into my doublet, aimed straight at my heart.  But then he says it bounced straight back out.  He assumed I was wearing mail under my doublet, and that I'd just been lucky that the point of the blade must have hit a link of the chain straight-on instead of piercing through the ring and wedging it far enough open to pierce flesh."  Derry looked down at the folded handkerchief, one finger stroking the mangled needlework at the corner.  "But I wasn't wearing mail, Celsie.  I wasn't expecting to end up in the midst of a fight; I thought there was no need for armor.  All I had to protect me was the fabric of my doublet and undershirt...and this."  He handed the handkerchief back to her, closing her shaking fingers around it.  "So thank you, Lady Celsie."

   She nodded, looking overwhelmed.  "Is...is he all right?" she finally managed to whisper.

   "Earl Burchard?"  Derry nodded.  "Yes, for the most part.  He took a few bruises and cuts during the fray, but they were shallow.  He was wearing a leather jerkin, fortunately, which offered him a bit more protection than mere fabric.  I left him nursing his injuries at a monastic infirmary in Desse; he could've managed the ride home, but it would've hurt, and he had no real need to rush back, so he's taking a day or two to allow the worst of the cuts to start healing and make sure they don't grow infected.  And, I suspect, to drink enough Fianna to keep quite numb while he heals."  He smiled slightly.

   "And to think...."  She lifted the handkerchief to her lips, holding it there for a long moment, then continued, "at first, I was just going to pray to keep you safe from any of Master Rannigan's men.  I thought, if you'd be in danger from anyone, it would be from one of them, for coming to my aid in Chervignon.  But then I remembered you're a knight and an Earl, and that you might have to ride into battle again someday, so I just prayed a more general prayer for your protection instead."  She laughed softly.  "And besides, that made for a much shorter prayer.  It takes a long time to embroider even a small device on a handkerchief, when you constantly have to stop and pray over every stitch!"

   Derry, crouched beside Celsie's chair, looked up as Contessa Constanza walked over to join them.  "Can it be repaired?" he asked.

   "Celsie, dear, may I see the handkerchief?" Constanza asked.  Celsie obediently handed it up to her.  The Contessa surveyed the damage to the stitching, then closed her eyes and passed a finger over it.  She nodded, opening her eyes again, and handed the handkerchief back to Celsie.

   "The power's been spent, dear.  There's a little residual power remaining in it, of course—do you feel that slight tingle?—but most was released when the spell bore the brunt of the attack, and what might have remained was probably lost when the stitches gave way.  But it lasted long enough to do the job it was meant to do, and that's the important thing."  She sighed.  "Where did you learn cording lore, sweeting?"

   "Is that what it is?"  Celsie looked up at her, confused.  "My mother's mother was a master silk-worker; I just assumed it was a tradition from that trade."

   Constanza shook her head.  "I very much doubt that it is in general, "she said, "although I've no doubt it became one in your own family's practice.  Perhaps that's how she ended up a silk-worker in the first place.  There's more than one Gwyneddan landed family who had to go into hiding and learn a trade in order to survive once their lands were taken away for the capital crime of being Deryni.   For that matter, even your own Haldane Kings spring from the loins of one who barely survived a coup, and who had to make a living as a draper before his heirs could resume their rightful place on Gwynedd's throne."  She shrugged.  "One does what one must to survive in harsh times."

   "Is it really Deryni magic, then?"  Celsie asked.

   "It is.  Or possibly even an older sort of magic, one which might actually predate the Deryni.  I know very little about cording lore, my dear, and most of what I know is restricted to creating illusory effects in woven goods, very minor magic.  But if you will show me sometime how you work this sort of cording spell, I believe in turn that I can show you what you should know in order to have better control over what you're doing."

   "Just be sure you pass that knowledge on, whatever you do," Derry said, rising to his feet.  "I'm off to bed, ladies.  It's been an eventful day, and I'm yearning for a warm bed and a long sleep."  He sketched a bow towards Constanza and Celsie, then turned to give the other two ladies-in-waiting a weary parting smile as well.  "Good night, lovelies."  He saw himself out of their apartment and back to his own.

Chapter 7: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=551.0
"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!


Phew!  Wouldn't have done to lose Derry to a bar brawl.  Who would keep my favourite Duke out of trouble then? 

Oh yeah, his wife.  Right.  :)


Glad our young Earl has survived to live and love another day.  Bedtime conversation between the three young ladies will be interesting ;)

kirienne (RIP)

I agree wholeheartedly with AnnieUK :-)

This was another lovely chapter, with such excitement of Earl Derry getting home safely.


Ohhh, yes, as a matter of fact, my ladies are having a rather interesting conversation right now.... *snicker*

Also currently working on how to bring the young knight from the end of Chapter Five more into the action (any guesses on who he is yet?), and possibly also a Duncan scene, if I can figure out how to lead into it.  I've been dying to get Duncan and Sophie into a conversation ever since In Pulverem Reverteris.  My ladies aren't always getting into mischief and mayhem....   :D
"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!


Well, that was a little unexpected.  I'd love to see some more explorations of cording lore.

I'd suggest looking in the handcrafts section of the library.  You never know what might be lurking in what looks like an innocent book of needlepoint/crewel/bargello patterns, knitting/crochet/tatting patterns, or the like.


I hope Celsie makes him another one. I'm sure he'll need it
"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