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December 02, 2023, 07:12:48 PM
Marc-- thank you!

Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 22

Started by Evie, July 20, 2010, 11:49:01 PM

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Chapter Twenty-Two

   Seisyll...you still asleep?

   No.  Dead of old age.  About time you reported back.

 Sextus Arilan, or his image at least, grinned at his brother in a dream-vision.

   What's the news from Nyford?

   Sextus's image turned slightly to one side, as if listening for some distant sound, then turned his attention back towards his brother.  Or, presumably, his brother's image reflected in his shiral.  The brigands you're asking after belong to a band called 'Rimbaud's Men.'  Most have been hunted down and brought to justice by the Earl's men, but there's a small handful still at large.  Maybe three or four at most, but that includes Rimbaud himself.  They're mostly lying low now; I doubt they have sufficient numbers to be a problem anymore.  Shall I leave them alone, or pursue anyway?

   Seisyll considered the question. I'd rather not have us get directly involved, he said at last, but if you should discover where the stragglers are holed up, make sure Carthane gets word of that.  

   Sextus smiled. Oh, let's just say I've been dropping a few hints here and there already.  There's a reason Carthane's men were able to round up so many of the ruffians so quickly.  Not that they weren't doing quite well on their own, but I might have...expedited things just a bit.

   The dream Seisyll nodded in satisfaction. Good lad!  Well, in that case, once you've pointed the Earl's men to where the rest have gone to ground, I don't think there's any need for you to continue on in Nyford.

   Thank God!  A boring place, Nyford.  The ale's nearly as sour as the women here.

   Oh?  Tell me you're not lodging at the Fox and Hounds.

   I am.  Why?

   Well, that's
why, man!  Try the Royal Arms Inn.

   Sextus's image gave an eyeroll.  And now you tell me!  See if I do you another favor anytime soon.

   Seisyll Arilan chuckled in his sleep.


   "Running through the Castle gardens with Ailidh slung over your shoulder!  Sweet JesĂș, Sir Jass, what were you thinking?"

   The Transha knight faced down the Contessa's ire.  "I wasn't, my Lady.  I was caught up in the moment."

   Constanza stared up at him, taken aback.  "Well, at least you're honest about that!" she finally muttered.  She turned to stare out a window for a long moment, reining in her temper.  "If I might ask," she finally said, her voice clipped with exasperation, "what is your exact relationship to my charge?"

   He sighed.  "Fifth cousins, I believe.  I've not fully worked it out yet, but it's not all that close a kinship."

   "I see.  And why, then, have you allowed me to believe you shared a closer kinship than that?  I have allowed you on several occasions―against my better judgment, I might add!--to escort her in public without a chaperone close by.  You must have known I would never have permitted that, if I knew there was so little kinship between you."

   "Aye, my lady, I did."  Jass took a deep breath.  "Permission to speak freely, my Lady?"

   The Contessa arched a dark eyebrow at Jass.  "Oh, indeed!  Full honesty is what I dearly desire from you, Sir Jass...for once."

   The young knight colored slightly but continued to meet her gaze.  "Madam, as you'll recall, I never specified the degree of kinship between myself and Ailidh.  You assumed it was closer than it was, and yes, I allowed you to assume that.  I was wrong in that, but it was quite apparent from our first meeting that, for reasons completely unknown to me, you had taken an instant dislike to me, or at best a strong suspicion.  My intentions towards your ward are entirely honorable; I wish to wed the lass.  But I can hardly hope to persuade her if I'm not permitted to spend time with her.  And a courtship is difficult even under more ideal circumstances, but if you'll permit me to point it out, you appear to be far stricter with Ailidh than with your other charges.  I've observed, for example, that you allow Sir Seisyll the privilege of venturing out with Lady Sophie from time to time, and certainly they share no degree of kinship at all."

   "That's different!" the Contessa protested.

   "Aye?  How so?"

   Constanza looked briefly nonplussed.  "Well...because Sir Seisyll has already established my trust.  And because Lady Sophie is less wayward than Ailidh.  Mistress Ailidh needs a firmer hand."

   "I'll agree that Ailidh is a spirited lass, but I wouldn't go so far as to call her wayward, my Lady.  With all due respect, she's simply young and...feisty."  He suppressed a smile.

   "She acts without thinking, and is more likely to land herself into trouble without meaning to."

   Jass bowed his head.  "I'll concede that point."

   "If I seem extra protective of Ailidh, it's because her impetuosity has led her to great harm in the past."

   Jass studied the Contessa a long moment.  "If you're referring to Callum MacInnis," he finally said, "I agree.  Although I'd call that less a matter of Ailidh's impetuosity than Callum's persistence, having met the bastard."

   Constanza stared at Ailidh's suitor in shock.  "You...know about that?"

   "Aye.  It changes nothing, madam."

   "Oh."  The Contessa regarded him appraisingly.  "I'm not certain if that's reassuring or not."

   "In other words, you can't decide if my willingness to court a woman most of Gwynedd would consider 'damaged goods' is a sign of my honest love for her, or simply proof that I consider her fair game since she's been tampered with already."  Jass's eyes blazed.  "Damn it, Lady, how can I possibly prove my intentions are honorable, if you've already decided against me from the outset?

   "And how can I believe your intentions are honorable, when you've lied to me―at least by omission―from the very beginning?  Oh, don't play the injured party with me, Sir Jass!  I know your type―handsome and charming, and quite adept at winning a lady's heart.  But I have no intention of allowing you to hurt Ailidh.  She's been through quite enough already!"

   "Indeed she has.  But you forgot to factor in a few small details in that damning appraisal of my character, my lady Contessa.  I love Ailidh, I intend to marry her, and hurting her is the last thing I intend.  I am courting your ward, not sporting with her.  And damn it all, woman," he growled, lowering his voice to a near whisper, "I am not the Earl o' Derry!  I will wed wi' Ailidh afore I bed her, because I will never treat th' lassie like used goods!"  

   Jass spun on his heel and strode out the apartment door, the Contessa staring in shock at his departing back until the door slammed shut behind him.


   "What was that last bit he said?"  Celsie whispered, trying in vain to hear through the wall.

   "Shhh!"  Sophie cautioned, her ears also straining to hear the argument in the sitting room.  Only Ailidh was silent, leaning against the door, white-faced.

   Sophie squeezed her hand as the girls heard the door slam behind Jass. Are you all right?  she asked.

   Aye, Ailidh replied, though she looked shaken by the exchange they overheard.

   Oh Ailidh, I'm so sorry!  I quite liked Sir Jass.  I can't imagine she'll let him court you now, though. Celsie's eyes filled with sympathy for her friend.

   Doesn't matter.  I'm off men,  Ailidh mind-spoke dully, drawing her knees up to her chest and laying her face on her knees.  

   Sophie's eyes met Celsie's in concern.  No, you're not.  You're just hurting right now.  She'll come around.  She has to!  And even if she doesn't―well, it's not like we'll be her wards forever, you know!  If Sir Jass truly loves you, he'll wait until he can court you freely.

   What makes you think I even want him?  Ailidh mind-spoke angrily, her eyes filling with tears.

   Celsie looked at Sophie and shook her head with a sad smile before draping an arm around Ailidh.  Because we know you!


   Celsie coaxed Ailidh and Sophie into attending the early Mass with her the following morning, suggesting that perhaps their prayers might sway the hearts of whatever saints might be more inclined to mercy towards lovelorn maidens and their suitors.  Ailidh doubted that any saints were taking a particular interest in her situation, but she allowed herself to be persuaded, if only because she'd not managed any sleep at all, and might as well be out and about at that hour anyway.  The Contessa remained behind, pleading a headache.

   Shortly after the maidens left, a knock sounded on the door.  Constanza rose to answer it.  The visitor was Sir Jass.

   "My Lady, I owe you my deepest apologies.   I was quite angry when I left here yesterday evening, but that last remark I made was inexcusable."

   The Contessa regarded him a long moment.  "Yes, it was."  She sighed.  "But I owe you an apology as well.  Come in, Sir Jass."  She stood back to let him enter, closing the door behind him.

   Jass looked around the sitting room.  "Your ladies...?"

   "Are at Mass."  Constanza gestured towards the chairs.  "Have a seat, my lord."

   Jass sat, his whiskey-colored eyes watching as she sank slowly into a chair across from his.  

   "Sir Jass, you were right.  I was comparing you with...others, perhaps unfairly.  However, you were less than fully honest with me, and no matter what your reasons were, I hope you'll allow that makes it more difficult for me to trust you?"

   "Aye, my Lady.  I do regret that."

   She sighed, looking past him to stare out the window.  "How...well known is my...association with Lord Derry?"  A sudden sheen of tears filled her eyes, and she blinked to clear them.

   He studied his boots, giving the Contessa time to regain her composure.  "It's not public gossip, so far as I've heard, my Lady," he assured her quietly.  "Your wards know, though."  He looked up at her.  "Ailidh didn't mean to let it slip, so don't be hard on the lass.  She was just upset because she felt you were treating me unfairly."

   "I see."  She bit her lip, silent for a short while.  Finally she looked back up at the knight.

   "I will allow you to court Ailidh, but I would prefer for you to do so within my sight, or at least always in the company of one of her other house-sisters.  I realize you might find that restrictive, in light of the greater freedom I have allowed Sophie, but Ailidh...."

   "Is Ailidh?"  Jass quirked a wry smile at her.

   A quiet laugh.  "Yes, indeed.  And you still need to prove to me that I can trust you with her."

   "I shall do my utmost to prove myself, my Lady."


   Constanza raised her hand to knock before her courage failed her entirely.  Instead, the door opened without warning, revealing the apartment's occupant, startled to see her there.


   "May I come in, Sean?"

   Derry stepped back, waving her in.  "Of course.  I've only got a few minutes, though."  He did a quick study of her, frowning slightly as he noticed her distressed look.  "What's wrong, sweeting?"

   "I...won't be by tonight."

   "Oh?  Well, that's all right.  Kelson's sprung an unexpected meeting on me, and chances are it's going to run a little late."

   The Contessa shook her head.  "No, I mean...."  She turned away, picked up an objet d'art on display, turning it in her hands and setting it back down.  "I need to make a clean break, Sean."

   "Oh."  He studied her, puzzled.  "Well, if that's what you want...."

   "It's not."  She looked up at him.  "My wards know."

   Stunned understanding in his blue eyes.   "Oh.  Damn.  I'm sorry, Stanzi.  How?"

   Her eyes slid away.  "I'm...not entirely certain."

   He drew her close, kissed the top of her head.  "I'm sorry, sweeting.  Hopefully it's gone no further.  Nothing's come back to me, if it has."  He stroked her hair. "Are they upset?"

   "I don't know.  They've not actually said anything directly to me."  She drew away.  "But I can hardly expect them to listen to anything I have to say about not allowing their suitors any liberties, if...."  She laughed hollowly.  "You understand."

   He nodded, smiling ruefully.  "I suppose not."  He kissed her hand.  "I'm quite fond of you, Stanzi.  I hope we can still continue as friends?"

   "I hope so."  She closed her eyes.  "Except...I might need a little time, Sean.  I haven't been fully honest with you about something."

   "What's that?"

   She gave a dry chuckle.  "I fell in love with you, despite my best intentions and against my better judgment."  Constanza reached up to stroke Derry's cheek.  "So it's for the best if we break things off now, before the situation gets any messier than it already is."

   "Stanzi...."  Derry looked like a man who'd just taken a blow to the gut.  "I never meant to hurt you."

   "I know, caro mio."  She kissed him tenderly.  "Don't worry about me, Sean.  I've lost enough men in my life; I've gotten used to it by now.  Time heals all wounds, you know."

   She left.  Derry leaned against the door for a while after her departure, feeling strangely empty.

Chapter 23:
"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!


QuoteShe left.  Derry leaned against the door for a while after her departure, feeling strangely empty.
*sigh*  Hugs to both of them, methinks.

And Jass is ... well, Jass.  I admire him all the more for going back and apologising.   And I'm glad that Ailidh and her friends now know what Jass really feels about things :) 


Oooh, ouch, Jass!  That was a bit of a low blow, mate!

And :( for Derry and :( for Stanzi.

But at least Stanzi finally talked to you about why she's being harder on Ailidh and Jass than on the others.


Heh.  You should've seen my major freakout after Jass delivered that last blow and stormed out.  "OMG!  OMG!  No, you CAN'T SAY THAT to Stanzi, Jass; are you MAD?  Do you not UNDERSTAND that this woman is acting in loco parentis to your Ailidh?  You may never see her again!  She could send her to a convent, you know, just to keep her away from you!  Do you THINK Ailidh will be happy at Arc-en-Ciel? Does she seem like the convent type of girl to you?  DEAR SWEET HEAVEN ON A POGO STICK, WHAT THE BLAZES ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!

"It needs saying."

"NO IT DOESN'T!!  At least it doesn't need saying like THAT!!!  Where is your tact, your diplomacy?  Don't they teach that in Transha?  Did hanging around with Dhugal for the past few years not teach you ANYTHING?"

*snort* "Dhugal wouldhae said th' same."

"When are you going to get it through your head that I am the author here!  This is my story; I tell you what to do!"

*folded arms*  "Fine, go on thinkin' tha', lassie, but ye'll no' get very far tha' way.  Look, ye want biddable characters?  Then dinnae make us real.  If we're no' real tae ye, we'll do anythin' ye like.  But ye made me real, an' so ye'll just have tae cope, won't ye?  So stop yer frettin'; I'll be back after a bit."

"I can't possibly see how!"

"Well, tha's my problem now, aye?"
"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, it was a low blow by Jass - but it was a true one.  Jass is quite correct about Stanzi's double standards and apparent hypocrisy - the "do as I say, not as I do" part. 

Though I am quite sure he never meant his words to lead to a break-up between Stanzi and Derry - all he wanted was the opportunity to court Ailidh on what he saw as 'equal' terms to Seisyll.  Alas, the unintended consequences of his anger ...