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A Time To Heal Chapter 16

Started by Evie, November 09, 2010, 10:49:16 AM

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Chapter Sixteen

   March 9, 1133
   Ballymar Castle nursery, Cassan

   "I got th' penny!  I got th' penny!"  Duncan Michael displayed the coin proudly on his upturned palm.  From Mirjana's lap, Trina grinned uncomprehendingly, her moist lips and round cheeks dotted with golden crumbs.

   Mirjana smiled indulgently, reaching across to wipe crumbs of honey cake off the ducal heir's chin.  "Oh, quite well done, sweeting!   And do you know what that means?"

   The three-year-old frowned, trying to remember the tradition.  "It means I rich now?"

   Ailidh and Mirjana both laughed.  "Well, I suppose a penny is quite a fortune for a lad your age," Ailidh assured.  "But no, it simply means you'll be wealthy someday.  Or that's what they say, anyway."  Ailidh handed a small portion of the crumbly cake to her youngest son, in whose honor they were enjoying the mid-afternoon snack.  

   "Is Jarrett finally going to start getting interesting now that he's a year old, Ma?" Ciaran asked, setting the mothers to giggling again.

   "Oh, he'll be walking any day now, I'll warrant," Ailidh warned her eldest son, "and you'll soon have such trouble keeping up with him, you're likely to wish he'd get boring again."

   As if agreeing, Jarrett bounced happily on Ailidh's lap, his chubby hand accidentally striking the edge of the wooden trencher before him.  The rest of the cake went catapulting onto Aine Rose's trencher, who grabbed it greedily and started to stuff it into her mouth before her mother intercepted the motion with a stern look.  The MacArdry lass returned half the treat to her baby brother's trencher, a bit worse for wear.

   "Will I get honey cake on my birthday too?" Mikhail asked hopefully.

   "Oh, I think perhaps that could be arranged," his mother assured him with a smile.

   "And can I get the penny next time?" he asked.

   "Well, that's up to the whims of fate, I'm afraid," Mirjana said.  "Remember, Duncan Michael didn't know he was going to find the penny today any more than the rest of us did.  The surprise is part of the fun, my love."

   He frowned.  "But what if I swallow it?  Will I grow up wealthy, or will all my wealth go to the gong-farmer who cleans out the garderobe cesspit and finds it?"

   Ailidh whooped with laughter.  Mirjana grinned.  "That's why we let you crumble your cake first; so you won't accidentally swallow the coin if it's in your slice!"


   March 11
   Ballymar Castle solar

   "How is Lady Mhairi feeling?"  Mirjana looked up in concern from her embroidery.

   "Well, she's not very feverish, thank heavens, but she's coughing and sneezing up a right storm whenever she can force herself to stay awake," Ailidh informed the duchess.  "I've instructed the chambermaids to put her up in one of the empty upstairs bedchambers for now so she can recover in peace outside of the nursery.  I've got Nurse Baillie tending to the younger bairns and Nurse Maeve has the older lads playing downstairs in the Great Hall.  Aine Rose began sneezing a bit last night, so I'm afraid she's caught the contagion as well, but I'm thinking if we can keep the healthier children away from her and Mhairi, we can avoid it spreading to them."

   "Yes, that's a good idea.  Who is tending to Aine Rose now, then, if Baillie is with the younger children and the lads are with Maeve?"

   "Oh, she's asleep in my own chamber for the moment.  Jass is keeping an eye on her until she wakes, then I suppose it will be my turn, once she's up and fussing for her Ma."

   Mirjana gave her a sympathetic smile. "Oh, belike."  She added a few stitches to her embroidery.  "I suppose you could bring her up here once she wakens.  It's quiet enough, and I don't mind a little fussing."

   "Oh, I think not!"  Ailidh raised an auburn eyebrow at her.  "Mirjana, you've a baby to consider.   Dhugal would hardly thank me for exposing you to a contagion."

   "From the sound of it, it's mild enough.  Doubtless it's little more than a winter cold."

   "Aye, it's no fever-flux to be sure, but given how his first duchess died, do you really think he'd want to take any risks with you?" Ailidh said tartly.

   "I...hadn't thought of that."  Mirjana bit her lip, studiously avoiding Ailidh's eyes.  "But that's different.  He loved her."

   "Aye?  Well, so he did, but that's not to say he thinks you're to be used and tossed like yesterday's bathwater!"  The Transha woman's voice softened slightly at the duchess's shocked expression.  "You've been married to the man for barely three months, and hardly had a chance to get to know each other in the months before that.  Love needs some time to grow.  Just give him a bit more time."

   Mirjana took a few more careful stitches.  "What was she like?  He hardly speaks of her, at least not to me."  She thought of the portrait hanging in the guest bedchamber she'd slept in during her first nights at Ballymar.  "I know she was beautiful."

   "Oh, aye.  And quite talented, and blood-kin to royalty, just as you are.  Mirjana, don't go comparing; that way only leads to madness."  Ailidh favored Dhugal's wife with a wry smile.

   "I suppose you're right."  The duke's second duchess sighed.  


   March 11
   Ballymar Castle

   "Is she asleep?"  Ciaran peered curiously at Nurse Maeve.  The two younger boys with him paused in their mock swordfight to wander over.  Seeing the woman's closed eyes and slightly gaping mouth as she slumped against the withdrawing room wall, they giggled.

   "Silly nurse!" Mikhail whispered.  "It's after naptime!"  He glanced at Ciaran worriedly.  "You don't think she'll make us sleep again too, will she?"

   A quiet snore turned into a cough.  The nurse stirred, but settled back into her slumber after a brief moment.

   "I hope no'," Ciaran whispered back.  "Maybe if we let her sleep, she'll no' make us take another nap or gae back upstairs wi' th' weans."  His eyes lit up.  "Hey, wannae gae adventurin'?"

   Mikhail's eyes reflected the same excitement.  "I know...we could go 'xploring!"

   Duncan Michael looked at the older two boys uncertainly.  "What's sploring?"

   "It's when ye wander around an' see where everythin' is," Ciaran told him.  "An' ye're s'posed tae make a map, I think.  Or maybe tha's pirates?"  Jass's lad looked uncertain.

   "We could be pirates," Mikhail assured him.  "We just have to be the good kind."

   "Can I be a good pirate too?" Duncan Michael asked.

   "Aye, matey!"  Ciaran gave the three-year-old a wink and a nod.  "Avast an'...other stuff.  C'mon, let's gae down tae th' undercroft."

   Mikhail frowned.  "It's dark in the undercroft."

   "No' if we bring some lit rushes wi' us.  Pirates would, ye know."

   The Torenthi lad perked up again.  "I suppose they would!"  He picked up a handful of dipped rushes, handing a few to Ciaran, then lit one of his in the fireplace.  

   Duncan Michael watched in awe.  "Can I have one?"

   "No, you're too little.  I'm almost five."  Seeing the youngest boy's face start to fall, Mikhail amended his statement.  "You might burn yourself if you try to carry one while walking, but when we get to a stopping place, I'll let you hold mine for a moment, all right?  Anyway, you get to be the lookout!"  He gave Ciaran a conspiratorial wink.

   "What's a lookout?" Duncan Michael asked.

   "Tha' means ye keep peekin' behin' us an' make sure Nurse Maeve's no' woke up yet," Ciaran whispered.  "It's an important job, th' lookout.  Ye dinnae want tae end up havin' tae go back up tae tha' ol' borin' nursery again, aye?"  At Duncan Michael's head shake, he nodded in satisfaction, lighting a rushlight of his own.  "A' right, then, it's on tae th' pillagin' an' th' radishin'."

   Mikhail followed after Jass's long-legged six-year-old.  "What's radishing?"

   The Transha lad shrugged.  "Somethin' tae do wi' fair maidens, but we dinnae hae Aine Rose wi' us, sae we can jus' stick tae th' pillagin', I s'pose.  We can try radishin' once radishes come back intae season."
   The three boys ventured down the stairs to the undercroft level, Duncan Michael taking the rear, clutching the banister as he tried to descend down the steep stone spiral while casting glances over his shoulder every few seconds.  "I'm not keen on radishes anyway," Mikhail declared.  

   Their explorations took them to the storage rooms beneath the Ballymar Great Hall.  Ciaran looked around at the first cavernous room, trying to decide which trunk or chest to explore first.  His gaze landed on a familiar doorway down a short corridor.  "I know...let's try tae go tae Rhemuth!  It's warmer there; maybe th' snow's melted in th' parklands a'ready!"  He opened the door to the Transfer Portal chamber.  With unerring instinct, all three Deryni boys found the charged Portal stone, feeling the tingle beneath their feet, but nothing happened.

   Ciaran frowned.  "It's nae workin'."

   Mikhail looked lost in thought.  "Maybe you have to think of Rhemuth real hard or something."

   "Tha' might be it."  Ciaran screwed up his face, thinking of Rhemuth as hard as he could, and muttered "Here, Rhemuth!  Heeere, Rhemuth!"

   Mikhail broke into giggles.  "It's not a hound pup, Ciaran!"

   Duncan Michael, his attention wandering, moved back towards the doorway, stopping there as he saw that the undercroft was quite dark, since the lighted rushes were behind him now, still in the firm grasps of his companions.  "What's down that way?" he asked, pointing off into the darkness.

   The older boys left off their experimentation with the Transfer Portal to investigate.  "Oh, good job!" Ciaran praised the youngest boy.  "It's another corridor.  Let's hae a look."  He and Mikhail explored the short passage, but it came to an abrupt end at a thick iron-bound wooden door with an imposing lock.

   "Well, tha's out then," Ciaran grumbled.

   "Wait a moment," Mikhail mused.  "I saw my Mama open a locked chest once when she'd lost the key.  It's a Deryni trick, and we're Deryni.  Maybe we can try it?"

   "Do ye know how she did it, though?" Ciaran asked.

   Mikhail shrugged.  "No, Mama hasn't teached me Deryni stuff yet.  But Duncan Michael can teach fish how to do tricks; maybe he can figure it out."  He looked at his little stepbrother expectantly.  "Can you?"

   Duncan Michael looked up at what, to his shorter perspective, looked like a giant door.  He set both chubby hands on the lock, thought really hard, then said, "Maybe you could use that big key hanging up on the wall!"

   Both older boys turned astonished eyes up in the direction of Duncan Michael's gaze.  Sure enough, there hung a large iron key.  Unfortunately it was beyond even Ciaran's highest reach.  The three lads pondered their dilemma.  At last, Mikhail's eyes lit up.

   "Duncan Michael, would you like to hold the rushlights now?"

   At his eager nod, Mikhail handed his light to the toddler, showing him how to hold the lit end at an angle away from himself so that he wouldn't get burned.  "Now, you've got to pay close attention to that glowy end, and don't let it touch anything, or we might start a fire.  All right?"  

   Duncan Michael nodded solemnly, standing proudly as he took on this new responsibility.  Mikhail motioned to Ciaran to hand Duncan Michael his rushlight as well.  "All right, Ciaran.  I need a hand up the same way that Father or Sir Jass gives you a hand up to mount a pony."

   "Aye, a' right!"  Ciaran beamed as Mikhail's plan became clear.  He obliged, boosting the smaller boy up until his fingertips brushed the key.  Mikhail gave it a nudge, and it fell from its peg to the stone floor below with a clatter.

   All three boys held their breaths, fearing that some wandering guard or manservant might have heard their noise, but no one came to investigate.  After a minute, Ciaran fitted the key to the lock, giving it a turn.  The tumblers inside clicked into position, and with all three lads pushing on the door, it slowly swung open.

   Duncan Michael stepped forward, holding the rushlights aloft.  All three boys gaped at the wondrous sight spreading out before them.


   March 11
   Ballymar Caverns

   "It's a pirate cave!"  Ciaran stared out at the untold wealth before them.  Well, perhaps not wealth exactly—it was more like an assortment of old, broken casks, chests, and wooden pallets scattered here and there, along with other discarded detritus of castle life.  Still, to three young boys it all looked like treasure.  But more exciting than those finds was the natural cavern that held them, its mineral walls glistening faintly in the dim rushlight, fascinating the youngsters with its stone columns and curtains and the sharp projections of damp stone looming overhead and jutting up here and there from the rock floor below.

   Mikhail frowned as he glanced at their dying rushlights.  He held out one of his spare rushes, holding the tip of it to one of the glowing ends of the much shorter reeds Duncan Michael held.  Once the new rushlight flared to life, Mikhail handed it to Ciaran and lit another, then took the nearly spent rushes away from his younger stepbrother.  "You did a good job," he said, "but they're getting too short for you to hold safely now."  He blew the shorter rushes out then glanced around the cavern.  "Ciaran, do you see a torch anywhere?"

   After a moment, the oldest boy spotted one.  "Up there!"  He held his rush light aloft, lighting a torch on the stone wall the doorway was set into.  The circle of light created by the torch was much brighter than the feeble light created by their rushes, and the far side of the cavern became visible.  Along the wall, a swift current ran towards some unseen destination.

   Ciaran gave a satisfied nod.  "A' right, lads, let's put out th' rushlights an' save them for th' trip back."  Mikhail nodded agreement, and the boys put out their newly-lit rushes, laying them in a neat pile next to the doorway.  Duncan Michael stepped forward into the circle of the torch's glow, moving to the other side of the lit area and gazing in fascination at the water.  "Here, fishies!" he said, holding out a hand over the underground stream.

   "Dinnae fall in, Duncan Michael!" Ciaran cautioned.  "Mikhail, ye'd best gae keep an eye on him.  I'll build us a pirate hideout."  

   "I don't think there are fish underground," Mikhail said as he went to care for his stepbrother, "but if you see any, let's catch one.  I'm hungry."  He grinned.  "We can start a bonfire and roast it!"


   Nurse Maeve woke up with a start.  Her neck felt stiff from leaning against the cold stone wall of the withdrawing room, and her face felt flushed and feverish.  She looked around the room for her young charges, intending to bring them back upstairs to the nursery for Nurse Baillie to look after, but the boys were nowhere in sight.

   She frowned.  Surely, if either Baillie or Lady Ailidh had come down to fetch the lads, they would have noticed her asleep and would have awakened her and sent her off to bed, wouldn't they?  With a sharp censure for falling asleep on the job, doubtless.  Her heart sank.  No, it was more likely the boys had wandered off.  She could not have been asleep for long, though, surely, or they would certainly have been missed, and someone would have come looking for her and would have discovered her there.  The nursemaid stood, steadying herself against the fireplace mantel as a dizzy spell nearly sent her reeling.  If she'd only been asleep for a few minutes, the lads couldn't have got far.  She'd just fetch them back, take them upstairs to Baillie, then be off to visit the duke's physician.

   The dizzy spell passed.  Nurse Maeve peered into the Great Hall, hoping to spot the boys there, but the large chamber was empty.  She sighed, trying to imagine where three active little boys would have wandered off to.  The stables, most likely.  The lads were pony-mad.   She hugged herself for warmth as a shiver coursed through her and headed out of the castle keep into the inner bailey.


   "I wonder what's down that river?" Mikhail asked no one in particular, gazing downstream at where the current disappeared around a bend.

   "We could 'xplore it, but we'd need a pirate ship," Ciaran said.  The boys looked around the cavern, but no one had obligingly left a ship down there.  There was, however, what appeared to be some sort of wooden hand-cart, one handle broken about midway down, and sporting a broken wheel.  If one were to look it at just right, it might look almost ship-like.

   "Duncan Michael, come help us with this," the older boys urged.  The younger boy left off trying to mind-call fish and went to assist them in their efforts to half roll, half shove the cart towards the stream's edge.  They got the front end of the cart partially down a shallow slope when Ciaran thought of a new problem.  

   "Oh, wait...we havenae any sails or oars!"  He glanced behind them at the pile of discards.  "I see a board we can use.  I'll gae fetch it."  He turned, headed back towards the entrance to the castle.

   Mikhail gave Duncan Michael a boost into their new 'ship,' then clambered up after him.  Both boys turned to watch Ciaran as he tugged at the board, trying to dislodge it from the pile of other discards atop it.  At last he worked it free, raising it victoriously and turning to show it to his friends.  

   The two boys on the cart grinned, jumping for joy in a victory dance.  The cart slipped further into the water, then with a lurch rolled completely in, stopping about a yard from the water's edge.

   Ciaran stared at them in consternation.  "Hey, wait f'r me!"

   The fast flowing water slammed into the side of the cart.  Slowly, it began to move, inching sideways at first, then as it edged into deeper water, beginning to half float, half bump across the rocky stream bottom, moving downstream.

   Mikhail felt the first stirrings of panic.  "We can't stop it!"

   Duncan Michael, too young to understand what was happening, smiled and waved at Ciaran.

   Ciaran stretched the board as far as it could reach, hoping that maybe Mikhail could catch hold of it, could think of some way to use it to row the cart back to shore or at least stop its progress, but the gap between them was already too wide.

   Duncan Michael looked down with a sudden frown.  "My feet are wet.  Are pirate ships s'posed to leak?"

   Mikhail bit his lip, on the verge of tears.  "Do you know how to swim yet, Duncan Michael?"

   His little stepbrother looked up at him with trusting green eyes.  "No."

   Mikhail's panic grew.  "Neither do I.  Ciaran...I think you'd best fetch your Da!"


   Caoilainn was hemming one of the duchess's gowns when the premonition flashed before her.  There was dim light, fading in the distance to darkness, and the sounds of flowing water.  The sounds of crying, shouts and a bustle of activity, a quick scream, and then nothing but wetness and bone-chilling cold, a growing roar in the distance, and a piercing wail, suddenly silenced.

Chapter 17:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=599.0
"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!


Nurse Maeve might want to consider updating her resume....   :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!


Quote from: AnnieUK on November 09, 2010, 11:25:05 AM
Uh oh.  :o

Yup.  Three small boys on  an adventure = trouble.  I was waiting for them to start a fire, but oopsie.

Nurse Maeve should definitely update her resume!

You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


QuoteMikhail followed after Jass's long-legged six-year-old.  "What's radishing?"

  The Transha lad shrugged.  "Somethin' tae do wi' fair maidens, but we dinnae hae Aine Rose wi' us, sae we can jus' stick tae th' pillagin', I s'pose.  We can try radishin' once radishes come back intae season."
*snorts*  Had no idea that Ballymar salads were quite that 'interesting' ...:)

Poor Nurse Maeve, obviously coming down with cold/flu as well.  Mind you, keeping an eye on those three would tax even someone in the best of health!

And assuming you don't intend to drown or otherwise kill our three young pirates, I just hope they have a very good line in explanation for the grownups who have to rescue them.  :D  And even worse, an explanation for Jass and Dhugal later, too ...  


So how long are you planning to keep us on tenderhooks, then? ;)


Chapters come out on Tuesdays and Fridays, barring USB drives going on unexpected camping trips.   :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!


Then make sure you keep Luke inside!