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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 21

Started by Evie, July 19, 2010, 10:21:26 PM

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Chapter Twenty-One

   "Come in, Alaric!  Lady Celsie."  Sean Derry stepped back to allow his visitors into his apartment.  The demoiselle's bright eyes flitted around the chamber in avid curiosity.  Morgan, of course, had seen it many a time before.  

   "Would either of you care for a drink before I drag out all those dry accounts?" Derry asked hospitably.

   "You still have Vézairi port on hand?" Alaric asked.

   "I do."

   "I will have a little port."  

   Derry laughed.  He well recalled the last time the Duke had indulged in just a bit too much of the enjoyable but extremely potent beverage.  "Not quite as kind the next day as it is going down, is it?  Lady Celsie, what would you like?"

   "Well...."  She turned dancing eyes up at Morgan.  "Nothing strong enough to fell a Duke, that's for certain!"

   Both men laughed.  "A Fianna, then?" Derry asked.  At her nod, he poured the beverages, bringing them over to the table where they'd seated themselves.  

   Celsie's eyes surveyed the room.  "This isn't a temporary apartment, is it?   You've used it for years."

   Derry sat.  "I have.  How did you know?"

   The exploring blue eyes left off their study and returned to Derry's face.  "It just has the look of having been lived in for a while.  I know you're away from Rhemuth quite a bit, so for it to have so much of your mark on it, it has to be an apartment you return to consistently."  She waved one hand to indicate his furnishings and décor.  "These look to be your personal furnishings, arranged to your personal tastes, not simply supplied by a castellan. And it would be a major pain to have to move it all back and forth with you and into new quarters each time you return to Rhemuth."

   He smiled.  "You're quite right.  One of the advantages of being on Kelson's Council is that I return to Rhemuth often enough, I'm allowed to keep my choice of apartment."  He reached down for a  leather-bound set of documents.  "Now let's see if we can turn that bright and keenly observant mind to today's task, my lady―sorting out Chervignon's accounts."

   Celsie leaned forward eagerly as Derry began to pull the documents out of the pouch.  Alaric leaned back in his chair and gave his ward a dry smile.

   "So, you actually enjoy going over your estate accounts, Celsie?"

   She looked back up at the Duke in surprise.  "Oh, yes, your Grace!  They're like...like working out puzzles and mysteries!  I love to see how the parts all come together to form the complete picture."

   Derry chuckled.  "I told you, Alaric."  To Celsie, he added in a mock whisper, "I'm afraid Lord Robert has to all but sit on His Grace of Corwyn to get him to do the ducal accounts whenever he's back in Coroth."

   "I heard that," Alaric said with a twinkle in his gray eyes as he sipped at his port.

   Celsie's eyes flew over the enclosed letter from her new steward.  "Master Derwin says they've found where Master Rannigan was hiding the money he was skimming!  There was a secret chamber...." She kept reading, looking even more excited as she continued on. "So, I have them too!  I wonder why; it's not that large a manor...."

   "You have what, too?"  Alaric asked.  

   Celsie looked up from her letter and glanced at both men, suddenly appearing a bit self-conscious.  "Um, Chervignon appears to have a secret passage from the upstairs study to the cellars, and another from there to the stables.  I never knew.  But I've read of such things; they're supposed to be common enough features in some older fortifications, I know.  I just didn't think Chervignon would have them."

   "Ah.  Yes, it's a bit surprising in a manor house, though perhaps not quite as much so if your ancestors might have had a need for a secret means of escape.  Like, perhaps, if your father's line as well as your mother's might have been Deryni?"

   Celsie sighed.  "I don't suppose I'll ever know now, will I?  Unless, of course, they've left enough hints behind for me to put together someday and figure it out on my own."  She brightened.  "Oh, I hope they have!  I'd love that."  She put the letter down.  "May I see the books, Lord Derry?"

   He smiled at her.  "Of course.  That is why I called you here, after all."


   "It's too fine a day tae be cooped up inside a castle, Ailidh.  Let's go out ridin'.  I've found ye a fine bay; she's a well-behaved l'il mare, but with a bit o' spirit.  Ye'll like her."

   Ailidh, seated in the window embrasure across from Sir Jass, glanced into the main sitting room with a slight frown.  "I'd prefer that, but the Contessa wants this mending finished by the end of the day," she said, indicating the work basket beside her with a tilt of her head.

   "So what's left tae do?"  Jass lifted a few garments from the small pile in the basket.  "Just a few ripped seams an' hems tae mend?  Well, if it's naught but that, I can help get it out o' th' way faster."

   She arched a dark auburn brow at him.  "You sew?"

   Jass chuckled.  "I havenae a wife, now have I?  An' do ye see my mother followin' me around from Transha an' back?  Aye, I sew, lass, or at least I can make a few simple repairs.  I'll nae be cuttin' out a new shirt from whole cloth anytime soon, but aye, a ripped hem I can manage."  He lifted the top garment from the pile.  "So, what's this?"

   "My night-rail."

   He grinned.  "I meant what's tae be done wi' it, but it's your night-rail, is it?"  He lifted the garment between them, his teasing eyes focusing first at the face above it, then lowering to give the fine cambric a leisurely appraisal.  

   She snatched it out of his hands.  "Give me that!"  Ailidh's eyes darted to Constanza, sitting nearby, but thankfully she appeared oblivious.

   Jass suppressed a laugh.  "Th' sooner we're done here, th' sooner I can introduce ye tae tha' bay.  Just hand me a needle an' thread, an' somethin' it willnae embarrass ye for me tae have my hands all over."  

   Ailidh sighed.  "Can you at least keep your stitches small?"  She rolled her eyes as she fished out some sewing supplies for him.  "Pretend you're me.  No, better yet, pretend you're Celsie."

   "Aye.  Bonny an' blonde.  Should I giggle?"

   "Don't make me hurt you, Jass."


   "So, between finding Rannigan's stash and the final tallies from the year's last harvest, it would appear you've made a tidy profit," Derry said as Celsie finished sharing her summation of what the books and her steward's report had told her.  "Excellent!  And so now we need to look at how much of that to set aside for your personal expenses, how much needs to go back into the estate...oh, and I think the Duke of Corwyn might have designs on some percentage of that."

   Alaric laughed.  "Indeed I do.  Although a certain portion of it will be returning to Chervignon, after a fashion."

   "Your Grace?"  Celsie tilted her head at him curiously.

   "Some of the money Rannigan stole was meant to be your dowry, Celsie, not just the land tithe.  As your guardian, I intend to restore that to you.  It would hardly be fair to you to expect you to earn back what was rightfully yours to begin with."

   "Oh!  Well...thank you!"  Celsie glanced down at the books, blushing slightly.  She began to divide up the balance, using tally sticks to assist her.  "So, if I pay this portion forward to you, Your Grace, and put this much back into the estate--I figure I'll need around half of that amount for staff maintenance and household needs, a third for establishing this year's crops and buying new stock, and that leaves a sixth part over for minor repairs needing done―that leaves this portion for my personal needs.  Does that look right to you, my lords?"

   "That seems reasonable," Derry agreed.  Alaric nodded, taking a sip of his port.

   "So," Celsie said beaming, turning to the Earl.  "I'm in need of a good ride, and I'm told you're just the man who can help me with that."  

   Alaric nearly choked.  Derry stifled a grin.

   "I know I'll need to reserve enough of this for living expenses here and the like, but have I enough saved up?"  She turned concerned eyes towards the Duke.  "Your Grace, are you all right?"

   Alaric Morgan nodded, finally catching his breath.  "Went down the wrong way.  Excuse me for just a bit."  He stood and left the room.

   "So," Derry said after a moment, blue eyes gleaming with mirth.  "You're wanting a horse?  Yes, you've enough saved up, and I'll be glad to assist with that."

   "Oh good!"  She stared towards the door, bemused, as the sounds of muffled laughter came from behind it.  "What in the world?"  She turned back to Derry in confusion.

   He chuckled. "Oh, I'm certain Duchess Richenda will explain that to you later, sweeting."


   "Well, now tha' I've just had my hands all up yer chemise, ye think there's a hope yer Contessa will let ye out ridin' wi' me?"  Jass teased, handing back the last of the garments he'd helped repair.

   "Not if you're planning on asking her that way," Ailidh retorted, though she had to force down a laugh.  "Jass, pretend you're civilized!"

   "I am civilized!  Just watch me."  He stood, making his way over to where the Contessa was weaving lace.  "My Lady, might I be permitted to take my cousin out for some fresh air?"

   Constanza frowned up at him.  "Where do you intend to go?"

   "Just a short distance beyond the city wall and back again, my Lady.  There's a lovely bay  mare in the stables in need of exercise, and it's a beautiful day.  I thought Ailidh might enjoy taking her through her paces."

   Stanzi sighed.  "Sir Jass, the last time I allowed you  to take Ailidh outside the castle walls, you brought her back quite late.  And at any rate, Celsie and Sophie are both away, so I have no one to send with you."

   "I believe there's also a rather nice roan available, if you'd care to come along?" Jass said, adding his most winning smile.

   "Not this time.  The castle garden is far enough for now, if you wish to take Ailidh outside for some fresh air."

   Jass bowed.  "Thank you, my Lady."  He returned to Ailidh''s side.  "She still doesnae know what tae make o' me, does she?"  He offered her a hand up.

   "Maybe she's asked around and heard about your reputation," Ailidh half joked, though she, too, was baffled by Constanza's coolness towards Sir Jass.  She'd not reacted so towards Sir Seisyll, or even towards Sir Stefan, though Sophie had privately told her house-sisters that their guardian might well have had better cause for caution there.

   "Well, if she's done tha', I'm even more baffled.  I may tease a bit, but there's far an' away worse rakehells at Rhemuth than I am."

   "Of course there are.  Because you're as pure as the driven snow," Ailidh whispered as he escorted her out of the apartment.

   "Aye, I am!"  The whiskey colored eyes twinkled.  "Well, all right, maybe the driven-over snow.  But only lightly driven over...."

   Ailidh rolled her eyes at him.

   Jass led Ailidh downstairs and through several corridors until they reached a back door that led into the gardens.  "Oh, I didn't know this route!" Ailidh informed him.

   "Which way do you know?" he asked.

   "The main one, with the entrance that comes in near the Great Hall.  And there's a way down through the...um...back passages as well."

   He raised a brow at her.  "The same back passages you used that night to--"  He broke off suddenly, taking a look around to make sure no one else was  in earshot.  "To visit Dhugal?"

   She flushed slightly, looking away.  "Aye."

   "How do you know so much about the back passages?" he asked, studying her curiously.

   Ailidh shrugged.  "We mapped them.  Or tried, anyway.  They're quite complex; I'm sure we've missed some."

   Jass gave her a quizzical smile. "I'm sure that's not part of your Deryni training.  Doing a bit of extra practice on the side?"

   "Mayhap."  Ailidh glanced up at him.  "It's a bit hypocritical of the Contessa to fuss and fret so much over you wanting to take me anywhere.  It's not like I'm the one who's--"

   "Who's what?"  He tilted his head curiously at her.

   She bit her lip, looking down at her feet.  "Sneaking out of bed at night to visit a man."  She looked back up at Jass.  "Whatever you might have thought that night, that's not why I was in Dhugal's room."

   Jass drew her into a shadowed alcove, still watching warily for anyone else's approach.  "I know it wasnae."  He smoothed a curly lock of hair away from Ailidh's face.  "Is tha' how ye discovered th' passages?  By seein' th' Contessa use them?"

   She sighed.  "I shouldn't have said that, Jass.  But still, it's not fair."

   "Mayhap not.  Then again, th' Contessa could hae some perfectly innocent reason for bein' out an' about  late at night.  Ye might be leapin' tae conclusions, lass."

   "In her night-rail and dressing gown?" Ailidh asked skeptically.

   "I seem tae recall ye turnin' up in yer night-rail an' a cloak," Jass countered.

   Ailidh shook her head.  "No.  Celsie accidentally put a spell on Lord Derry―no, don't ask―and he admitted he and Constanza are having a dalliance."

   "Ah."  Jass drew Ailidh to a nearby bench.  "Well, so mayhap they are. Then again, lass, mayhap tha' explains why she'd want tae be more careful wi' ye."

   "'Do what I say, not what I do?'" Ailidh asked bitterly.

   Jass chuckled. "Well, there's tha' as well.  But do ye really think a dalliance wi' th' Earl o' Derry is  goin' tae lead tae anythin' lastin'?"

   Ailidh snorted.  "No.  At least in her case, it can't.  Sophie says the Contessa can't have children, and wouldn't he need to wed for heirs?"

   He nodded.  "But I'll hazard a guess, if she's sneakin' out at all hours tae be wi' him, chances are she's in love wi' him.  An' I imagine it would smart a bit, bein' in love wi' someone an' knowin' there's nae future in it, but makin' yerself available nonetheless because it's th' only way ye can have any o' him at all.  Ye'd want to spare anyone else in yer care tha' sort o' hurt, wouldnae ye?"

   "I...suppose you might be right. I hadn't looked at it that way.  Still, it's hardly flattering to you that she treats you as if she thinks you're some dastardly seducer ready to make off with me at any moment."

   A mischievous grin.  "Maybe I should live up tae her expectations, then.  Hae ye ever heard o' th' Reivers' Courtship Ritual?"

   "The what?"

   "Th' Reivers' Courtship."  Without warning, he scooped the Border girl up over one shoulder, laughing as she squealed and began to flail at his back.  He raced across a short distance of garden courtyard, yelling "Mine! Mine! Mine!"

   "Put me down, Jass MacArdry; are ye daft?!" Ailidh exclaimed between breathless giggles.  He found another shadowed alcove and complied.  "Oh yes, that's goin' to help matters, once word gets back tae th' Contessa!"

   "You bit me!" he said, grinning down at her.

   "You were actin' like a reiver; o' course I bit ye!" she replied, grinning broadly back up at him.

   His grin faded.  He took a step closer to her, his eyes studying her face intently.


   "A chuisle."  He lowered his face to hers, stringing a trail of soft kisses along her brow and down one cheek.

   "Jass, I don't--"

   He silenced her with a kiss; a gentle one, just enough to stop the flow of words.  She broke it off, staring up at him disconcerted.

   "I love Dhugal, Jass."

   "Aye, I know.  An' yer off men for life; ye've said it enough times, lass.  Still, ye dinnae exactly hate tha' just now, did ye?"

   She flushed, looking away.

   "Ailidh, there's nae future in Dhugal for ye; ye know tha'.  I'm offerin' ye a future wi' me, if ye're willin' tae take it." He kissed her hand lightly.  "Ye may no' be ready tae gi' me an  answer on tha' now, an' tha's fine, but I told ye I'd be tryin'."

   "You said you'd be trying for my smiles, that you knew I wasn't ready for anything else!"

   "Aye."  He grinned down at her roguishly.  "Well, once I've wedded ye and bedded ye good and proper, I reckon ye'll hae somethin' tae smile about."

   "Jass MacArdry!"  Her gray-green eyes flashed as she glared up at him.  To her horror, she felt tears begin to prick her eyes.  She whirled away, hoping to hide them, but the concern in his voice told her she'd been too late.

   "Ailidh?"  Jass turned her back to face him, enfolding her in his arms.  "Lass, I'm sorry. I never meant tae frighten ye."

   "You didnt," she muttered into his shirt.  

   He stroked her hair.  "What is it, then?"

   She pounded on his chest with her fist, leaning back to glare angrily up at his face.  "I don't want to feel that way again!  It hurts too much."

   "Lassie...."  Jass cradled her face in his hands.  "It only hurts so much because ye've given yer whole heart an' ne'er got more than half a man in return.  Callum gave ye his body, but never his heart.  Dhugal's right fond o' ye, but his heart belongs tae someone else, and he's too honorable a man tae use ye as Callum did,   I'm offerin' ye all of me, Ailidh, if ye'll have me."

   "I don't know why you'd want to, Jass," she said bitterly. "You'd hardly get a whole woman back in return."

   "Tha's all right.  Yer no' whole yet because ye havenae found th' other half tha' completes ye.  I'm hopin' ye'll find someday tha' I'm tha' other half.  If ye do, then I'll have a whole woman."  He traced her lips lightly with a thumb.  "Let me love ye, Ailidh.  No' just make love tae you.  There'll be time enough for tha' once ye trust me more."

   "What's the difference?"

   He laughed softly.  "Oh, chuisle mo chridhe, tha's like askin' th' difference between torchlight and th' sun."   


   "Well, are we done here?"  Alaric Morgan stood.

   "I think that's it for now," Derry replied, also standing and offering a hand up to Celsie.  "I'll write a letter to your steward tomorrow to let him know what's been decided...unless you'd rather do that?"

   "I probably should," Celsie agreed, "though I'd like you to look it over before I send it, to make sure I've not missed anything."

   Derry nodded.  "I can do that."

   Alaric opened the door.  "If you don't mind walking Celsie back, Derry, I have a beautiful blonde maiden of my own awaiting me."  He grinned.  "I told Briony I'd bring her down to see the fire jugglers.  They're supposed to be back tonight."

   Derry laughed.  "Well, you'd best not keep her waiting, then."  He offered his arm to Celsie, who took it with a demure smile.

   "Good night, Your Grace!"

   "Good night, Celsie."  

   The Duke departed.  Derry walked Celsie back across the short distance between their apartments.  As they walked back, Derry said, "Lady Celsie, I'm embarrassed to admit this, because I know how much hard work you put into my Christmas gift, but I appear to have misplaced it.   I think it must have fallen out of my doublet somehow.  When you have time, do you think you could stitch me a replacement?"

   Celsie stopped in her tracks, looking up at the Earl in consternation.  "Oh!  Um...I could, but...."  She turned crimson.  "I'll have to ask first.  The last time I made one, I...ah...made rather a muck of the spell work somehow...."

   "All right," Derry said, looking somewhat baffled.  "There's no hurry.  Maybe the first one will turn up."

   I certainly hope not! Celsie thought, feeling a bit sick at the thought.

   "I just hate that you put so much time and care into it, and I've lost it," Derry said, his eyes filled with apology.

   "Well...."  Celsie had a flash of inspiration.  "Have you a handkerchief on you now?"

   "Yes," Derry said, "but it's just a plain one."  He reached into his sleeve and pulled out a plain white square of cambric.

   Celsie took the fabric, holding it close to her heart.  She closed her eyes and breathed a silent prayer over it, then opened them again, kissing the handkerchief reverently and giving it back.  The Earl watched her curiously.  

   "Another sort of spell?" he asked.

   Celsie laughed.  "Oh, no!  No, just a prayer.  I doubt it will protect you in the same way that a spell would, but God heard, and maybe it will work anyway."

   Derry chuckled.  "Maybe it will."  He tucked it back into his doublet and held out his arm to walk her the rest of the way home.

Chapter 22:
"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!


Poor Jass!  Give a dog a bad name. . . .


Great new chapter - well worth waiting for.   LOL @ Jass and his Reiver's Courtship - he's a delicious rogue, but you can see the gentleness underneath and how much he loves Ailidh.   As for innocent Celsie - oh dear!  :)


"Don't make me hurt you, Jass"  LOL.


Quote from: Elkhound on July 19, 2010, 10:58:34 PM
Poor Jass!  Give a dog a bad name. . . .

Constanza has, from the very outset, been suspicious of Jass, and she hasn't bothered to tell me why yet.  I'm going along with it mainly because I can either write her that way, or else she goes totally silent when I try to put her and Jass in a scene together (which is pretty unavoidable, since she's Ailidh's guardian).  I'm hoping maybe I can either bring someone else into one of those scenes who will help her see Jass in a different light, or else at least figure out why she's got such a bug up her butt over him in the first place.
"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 July 20, 2010, 12:08:54 AM
Great new chapter - well worth waiting for.   LOL @ Jass and his Reiver's Courtship - he's a delicious rogue, but you can see the gentleness underneath and how much he loves Ailidh.   As for innocent Celsie - oh dear!  :)

LOL!  OK, the story behind the "Reiver's Courtship"....  (BTW, I kept wanting to type "Reaver's Courtship," but for any Firefly/Serenity fans out there, I'm sure you can understand why I don't want to go there:D )

As some of you may know from other threads I've posted in here, DH and I met in the SCA.  At the time, I had a 14th Century Scottish persona, and he had a French/German persona from around the time of Agincourt. But he was squired to a man with a Viking persona.

Well, we were newlyweds, having married after dating for less than a year, and I was teasing DH about not having had a long enough courtship.  And I pointed out that his SCA persona had never even bothered to court mine at all.  "Jamelyn (my SCA persona) wants to be courted too!" I told him.

So there we are, having this discussion in the parking lot of a steakhouse where the SCA group used to get together to eat after weekly meetings.  And my DH turns to his knight with a twinkle in his eye, then looks back at me.  "You realize I'm a Viking's son, right?"


He picks me up, tosses me over one shoulder in a fireman's carry, and starts running around through the mostly empty parking lot yelling "Mine!  Mine!  Mine!!!!"  And that's as much "courtship" as my SCA persona ever got out of him.  *pout*

"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: AnnieUK on July 20, 2010, 02:37:56 AM
"Don't make me hurt you, Jass"  LOL.

And that, with a slight name substitution, was pretty much my reaction when DH introduced me to "Viking Courtship."   ;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!


kirienne (RIP)

I'm glad Celsie is in good financial shape, it's nice that the missing money was found :-)
I really liked the bit of Derry teasing Morgan about the Vezairi Port, I could 'see' the look on Alaric's face. LOL

It was so sweet of Jass to help Ailidh with her sewing, and the bit with her night rail had me nearly falling off my chair..The man is surely smitten with her and I hope she will not hurt him, I think they'd be a good match.