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A Time To Heal Chapter 10

Started by Evie, October 19, 2010, 04:27:58 PM

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Chapter Ten

   January 22, 1133
   The Duchess's Solar, Ballymar Castle

   Mirjana sat in the relative warmth of the winter sunshine streaming in through the window glass of her solar, battling a sudden desire for a nap as she sat stitching together a new shirt for her husband.  Beside her sat Lord Deveril's two daughters, Lady Domenica and Lady Daireen.  The seneschal's wife, Lady Bronea, was elsewhere at the moment, assisting the Dowager Duchess in packing her belongings in preparation for departing for her residence in Kierney.

   It would be a stretch to say that the Cassani ladies-in-waiting had fully warmed up to Mirjana, but unlike her maidservants they at least weren't openly hostile, which was somewhat of an improvement.

   Lady Domenica sat at a writing desk jotting down a few notes about staff changes.  "So, it would seem we need to look into hiring a new tiring maid, two new chambermaids, and four manservants, but the rest of the staff have opted to remain, is that correct, Your Grace?"  She looked up at Mirjana.

   Mirjana nodded.  "That is my understanding, yes."  

   "Well, it shouldn't take too long to fill seven positions.  I'd feared it might be worse."  Domenica shrugged philosophically as she wiped the nib of her pen and pounced the wet ink with fine sand from a caster.  "Will you be looking to fill the openings with folk from Transha?"

   Mirjana looked up from her stitching.  "No, we hope to hire here in Cassan."  She smiled wryly.  "Surely there have to be at least seven people in the entire duchy who won't be unalterably opposed to serving in our household despite the misfortune of having to be answerable to a Torenthi duchess."

   "You may have to hire young, Your Grace," Lady Daireen said, looking up from her mending.  "My age or even younger, preferably.  Newly-adult, if you don't mind having to be patient with them while they learn their duties.  That would be best, I'd imagine," she said thoughtfully.

   "Why so?" Mirjana asked.  

   Daireen risked a quick glance at the Duchess.  "For one thing, the younger they are, the more biddable they're likely to be, and if they've little work experience, at least they've not developed bad habits that need breaking either.  But more importantly, Your Grace, the younger folk are less likely to remember the war.  If they lost family in it, chances are higher they'll be too young to remember them, so less likely to hold such losses against you."  She frowned slightly as she turned her attention back to her work, a shadow crossing her features.

   Mirjana noted the change in her expression, saw also the shuttered look that crossed the older sister's features as the younger one spoke.  "Was your family directly affected?" she asked them, her voice soft.

   After a moment, Domenica nodded.  "Our brother Dé was slain by Wencit's forces, and our brother Deasun—our father's heir—taken captive.  He was one of the lucky survivors.  Lucky in that he's still alive and mostly whole, that is.  He still has nightmares."  She blinked back tears.  " Dé was only sixteen when he died.  Deasun was but twenty.  He has never been able to forgive himself for not being able to protect Dé.  They got separated during the fighting when the men of Marley attacked."

   "I am truly sorry for your loss, and for the pain your family has suffered.  Especially for your eldest brother's continuing suffering."

   Lady Daireen stabbed at her fabric with her needle.  "You were not at Llyndruth Meadows, my lady.  King Wencit, however, can roast on a meat spit in Hell for all I care, and Bran Coris with him as the apple in that swine's mouth!"

   Mirjana looked up as the door opened.  Ailidh entered, taking a seat next to her.  "Sweet Jesú, the lads have run me ragged, and it's not even noon yet!  Mhairi has a saint's patience."   She reached down under the seat for the workbasket she had left there during an earlier visit, bringing up a mass of carded and dyed wool and a drop spindle.  "Something's come up you need to know about, Your Grace."  She spun the spindle like a long top, watching as it twisted the wool in her hand into thread.  "Your Mikhail asked me a very unsettling question this morning."  Her gray-green eyes looked grave as she glanced over at the Duchess.

   "What did he say?"

   Ailidh gave the spindle another turn.  "He asked me why the only good Torenthi is a dead Torenthi.  He said he'd overheard one of the men say so, but he didn't know which one.  I took the liberty of trying to take a peek into his memories, but it seems he never got a look at the man who said it.  He was on the other side of a wall, in the stables I think."  Her nimble fingers fed a bit more wool into the twisting thread.  "Mikhail has fairly decent shields for a little lad, though.  They're developing nicely."  She grinned.  "He asked me what I was doing poking about in his head, so I had to ask him to drop his shields for me so I could see if I could figure out who the mean man was.  Jass is looking into the matter now."

   Mirjana covertly glanced at the seneschal's two daughters, wondering what they were making of this unusually open conversation between two Deryni in their presence, but if either was disturbed by it, they gave no sign.  Ailidh, noticing her duchess's swift study of the two women, smiled.  "They've grown up around Deryni, Your Grace."   She grinned at Daireen.  "I've not said anything yet that's made you want to shriek and run out of the room ululating at high pitch, have I?"

   Daireen snorted.  "No; the only thing in recent memory that you've told me that might provoke that extreme a reaction was your haggis recipe."

   Domenica chuckled.  "Haggis is quite nice, actually."

   "Right.  Take one sheep; toss all the good bits and turn the rest inside out.  Add oats and barley.  Throw a few herbs and spices at it.  Cook.   Wash it all down with a fifth of whisky.  I think I'll pass."  Daireen grinned.

   "With as many hungry men as we've got around here, you don't toss the 'good bits', as you call them, or you'd have a riot on your hands.  That's another night's dinner."

   "That's the night I'll eat, then."

   Mirjana smiled at the banter, pushing down a sudden wave of nausea.  "Where are Mhairi and the children now?"

   "Back in the nursery again," Ailidh assured her.  "Jass said he'd let them know when they could have another outing, and he'll have a man or two posted to keep them safe."

   "And Dhugal has been informed?"

   "Oh, aye.  And Lord Deveril."  Ailidh gave the drop spindle another twirl.  "And until Jass gets back, I'm to stick to you like an over-fond leech."

   "That's picturesque," Domenica commented, grimacing.


   Lord Deveril's daughters left a short time afterwards, both having duties to attend to.  Ailidh studied Dhugal's new duchess as she finished hemming his new shirt.  Mirjana suppressed a yawn, blinking sleepily in the early afternoon light.

   Ailidh cast out with her senses, confirming what she suspected.  "Congratulations, Your Grace.  When is your baby due?"

   Mirjana blushed, glancing shyly up at her.  "September, I think."

   The border lady grinned.  "That was fast work.  I imagine Dhugal's right pleased."

   The duchess's blush grew deeper.  She ducked her head, attempting to hide it.  "I...have not told him yet."

   Ailidh looked surprised.  "And he hasn't suspected anything yet either?  It's been, what, a month already, hasn't it?  Surely he's noticed you've not had your courses again?"

   The young bride bit her lip.  "If he has, he has not said anything to me.  And he still...."  Her cheeks turned nearly crimson.  "He has not turned me out of his bed yet."

   The borderer looked nonplussed.  "Why would he?"  She laughed.  "Dhugal's a duke, not a monk!  If you thought he'd just get you with child and then stop tossing his breeks over the bedposts to swear off women for life, you're looking at the wrong McLain.  That one's still back at St. Hilary's!"  Ailidh looked briefly disconcerted.  "You...weren't hoping he'd lose interest, were you?"

   "Oh, no, I hope he won't!  That's why I didn't wish to tell him yet," Mirjana whispered, her mortification complete.

   "Well, no worries there, I assure you!  The man's a MacArdry as well as a McLain.  We MacArdrys breed like ferrets."

   "A fair bit less bloodshed than tha', mo chuisle, though just about as much screamin'," Sir Jass teased, making his appearance known from the doorway.  He winked at the Duchess as his wife turned scarlet.  "We've turned our man up and turned him out.  He won't be back.  You'll need to add a stable  groom to your list of new hires, though."


   Sir Jass escorted the Duchess downstairs to the withdrawing room off the Great Hall where the Duke and Cassan's seneschal were discussing some of the staff reassignments necessitated by the recent vacancies.

    "All right, so Grainne and Seonaid will become senior chambermaids—I think they're both ready for that level of responsibility now—which means the two new hires can move into their present positions....Good afternoon, Your Grace!"  Lord Deveril broke off his musing long enough to rise as Mirjana entered the room, sketching her a swift bow and waiting for her to take a seat beside the Duke before sitting again himself and continuing where he'd left off.  "There's still the position of tiring maid to be considered, but it will need to be considered quite carefully, as that maid will have direct hands-on access to the Duchess, so she must be someone who can be trusted completely."

   Jass frowned slightly.  "If I might make a suggestion, my lords, Ailidh can serve as Her Grace's tiring maid for now, at least until a more permanent one can be carefully screened and hired.  Chambermaids can do their work without having the Duchess directly present, after all, but a tiring maid can hardly help her dress from a distance."

   Mirjana considered the idea, then shook her head.  "Lady Ailidh is already overextended, I think, and I feel the children are much safer with her present.  Not that Lady Mhairi doesn't do an excellent job of keeping them when Ailidh is away from the nursery, but Mhairi isn't Deryni, and I don't know the two junior nursemaids very well...."  At least not well enough to entrust either with Mikhail's safety, she thought to herself.  She considered the castle staff she'd met over the past few days.  Not all had reacted negatively towards her, or at least if they had, she had seen no sign of it.  One particular face came to mind.  "What of the young woman who collects the laundry in the mornings?"  Mirjana had taken notice of the girl shortly after her arrival in Cassan because she was one of the few strangers who had greeted her with a smile.

   Lord Deveril looked surprised.  "Do you mean Caoilainn, the laundress's daughter?"

   "I don't know her name," Mirjana said apologetically.  "She's a fair-haired girl with rosy cheeks and a pretty smile.  That's why I took note of her.  She's been unfailingly polite, and usually in a cheerful mood when I've seen her."

   The seneschal looked thoughtful.  "Well, I suppose she could be trained for the job easily enough.  I don't think there'd be any cause to question her loyalty.  She seems to be a quick enough learner, from what I've seen.  And I'm certain her mother would be willing to spare her, under the circumstances."  He chuckled slightly.  "It would be quite a promotion, going from laundress's assistant to a duchess's tiring maid."  Deveril glanced at Dhugal.  "What do you think?"

   Dhugal shrugged.  "I've only got a vague impression of the girl, but if my lady thinks she would suit, we can always try her out."

   "Maybe we could speak with her first, just to make sure she'll suit?" Mirjana suggested.

   'We could do that."  Deveril glanced at one of the guards standing at the withdrawing room entrance.  "Could you send for Caoilainn, please?"

   The man returned in a few minutes, the blonde maiden following close behind him.  She dipped a low curtsey to the Duke and Duchess once she spotted them, her face a study in confusion.  "Have I done summat wrong, Yer Graces?" she asked.  Despite the question, she regarded them with an expression more curious than truly fearful.

   "No, no, it's nothing like that," Dhugal assured her.  "We are considering assigning you to other duties within our household, but we wanted a chance to speak to you first."

   "Other duties, Yer Grace?"  Her face lit up.  "I'd no' mind tha' at all, especially if they be inside.  Is't inside work?"

   "It is," Mirjana said after mentally translating the girl's Border accent.  It was quite pronounced, yet the new Duchess of Cassan realized she'd need to grow accustomed to the local accent sometime.  Daily exposure to it should certainly help with that.   "How long have you been assisting your mother with the laundry?"

   Caoilainn shrugged.  "Ever since I was big enough tae tote baskets o' washin' an' stand over kettles o' boilin' water, I suppose.  Six for the laundry-totin', an' maybe eight for th' rest?"

   "That's hard work for such a young child," Mirjana observed.  "And how old are you now?"

   "I've had fifteen summers, Yer Grace."

   "And would you like a chance to move up in the household?" the duchess asked.

   "Aye, Yer Grace, o' course I would!" the girl said, beaming.  "Wha' sort o' work did ye have in mind for me?"

   Mirjana glanced at Dhugal, then back at the lass.  "I'm needing a new tiring maid.  It's quite different work from what you're used to, although with your laundry experience at least you'll already know about fabric care."

   Caoilainn looked startled.  "A tirin' maid, Yer Grace?  I'm willin' tae learn, o' course!  But...." She glanced down at her hands.  "My hands are a bit rough from laundry work for handlin' fine silks, an' I don' know nowt about arrangin' hair.  But I can learn, if ye're sure ye want me for th' job."

   "Well, fortunately it's winter, so you'll not have to worry about handling silks just yet.  And as for my hair, that's easy enough to learn.  I mainly wear it in a single braid anyway, unless I'm dressing for a formal Court, and you'll have lots of time to practice putting it up in more elaborate styles before we have one of those.  So, you'd be willing to serve in that way?"

   "Oh, aye, Yer Grace!"  Caoilainn laughed.  "I thought ye might be hirin' for one o' th' junior chambermaid positions, an' I'd hae been happy enough tae do tha', but this is even better work."

   "The job will require some travel," Dhugal told her. "Do you have any family responsibilities that would make that difficult for you?"

   "None, Yer Grace."

   "And you seem to have no reservations about working closely with my lady," he observed.

   "Should I?" Caoilainn asked.  "Do ye mean because Her Grace is Torenthi?"  She flashed a dimpled smile at the Duchess of Cassan.  "I dinnae think she's likely tae sack Ballymar while we're all abed, if tha's wha' ye mean."  The thought belatedly occurred that the Torenthi duchess might not find the thought as funny as she did, and she bit her lip in sudden worry that she might have caused offense.

   Mirjana chuckled.  "Ballymar and the rest of Cassan may sleep safely knowing I have no designs on it. I just want a household I can be at peace with."

   Caoilainn looked relieved, then mildly startled.  She tilted her head curiously at Dhugal.  "Wha' was tha'?"

   Dhugal looked equally startled.  "What was what?" he asked.

   "I felt a tickle in my head just now. Was that one o' you readin' my mind?"

   It was Dhugal's turn to look curious.  "I was Truth-Reading you as you spoke just a few moments ago.  You shouldn't have felt anything, though.  You're not Deryni, are you?"  He did another quick mental brush, but detected no shields.

   "Nay, I'm no'.  Got a bit o' th' second sight, but tha's about it.  An' ye just did it again."

   Dhugal smiled.  "Aye, I did, but I'll stop.  I didn't read your thoughts, if that's concerning you.  I just wanted to make sure you were being truthful about not minding my lady's Torenthi background.  We've had some...recent problems to deal with."

   She shrugged. "I dinnae mind, Yer Grace.  I ain't got nothin' tae hide, it's just tha' it was such a queer feelin', an' I wondered what ye were doin'.  I figured it might be summat o' th' sort, an' I was half expectin' it.  I heard a few o' th' chambermaids got th' sack on account o' being rude tae Her Grace."  She looked at Mirjana.  "My grandsire was killed at Llyndruth Meadows, but I reckon tha' wasnae yer fault.  My own pa was hanged for killin' a man in a brawl, an' I know for certain tha' wasnae mine.  We cannae help wha' our kin hae done, Yer Grace, just what we do."

   Mirjana looked satisfied.  "You'll start in the morning.  Report to Lady Bronea after breakfast and she'll instruct you in your new duties."   

Chapter 11: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=587.0
"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!


Poor Caoilainn has had a rough start in life then, poor lass.

And haggis is yummy, especially with neeps and tatties.


Mirjana certainly has been a kick in the seat for Cassan, but maybe they needed it.  I think Caoilainn will work out just fine.
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

James Herriot (James Alfred "Alfie" Wight), when a human client asked him if animals have souls.  (I don't remember in which book the story originally appeared.)


QuoteWe cannae help wha' our kin hae done, Yer Grace, just what we do."

A shame many others in Cassan do not understand that.   Mirjana would seem to have been quite astute in her suggestion for a tiring maid.   I think young Caoilainn's career has just taken a very pleasant upwards turn, and Mirjana will appreciate her down to earth attitude.


This was definitely a case of extreme spring cleaning in the wintertime.  At least there are some people who are willing to give Mirjana a chance.

All that is left now is for Dhugal to find out he's going to be a Dad again.  Mirjana's plan seems to have worked to perfection.

We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


Quote from: derynifanatic64 on October 20, 2010, 07:08:12 PM
This was definitely a case of extreme spring cleaning in the wintertime.  At least there are some people who are willing to give Mirjana a chance.

Some.  Then again, in a duchy the size of Cassan, it would be surprising if there was no one willing to give her a chance, and given the good wages a ducal household would pay for loyal staff, it's not surprising that most would try to stick around long enough to see if she's going to be as bad as they fear or might prove to be much better than they'd hoped.

All that is left now is for Dhugal to find out he's going to be a Dad again.  Mirjana's plan seems to have worked to perfection.

Well, I don't know about that being all that's left now, but at least in Dhugal's case, she's made a lot of headway.  He's beginning to act and feel more like a true husband again instead of just a grieving widower who just happens to have a beautiful woman in residence who's willing to give him more sons.  But again, Cassan is a big duchy, and she's still got a whole lot more winning over of hearts and minds to do.  A dozen years of hatred is a mighty big obstacle to overcome....
"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!