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The Arrangement, Part Two

Started by Evie, December 09, 2010, 12:36:23 PM

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The Arrangement

   Part Two—Family Matters

   January 10, 1133
   The Solar, Tre-Arilan

   The Arilan family was gathered around a trestle table in their solar at Tre-Arilan, enjoying a private family supper at home now that the festivities of the Christmas season were over and Sir Seisyll had been released from his usual duties in Rhemuth for some well-deserved rest and to tend to his own manorial lands for a few weeks until Kelson had need of his services again.  Sextus was home also, nursing a bit of a headache still from too much revelry on Twelfth Night, followed by whatever had caused that alarming bruise on the left side of his face the following morning.  Jashana decided she really didn't want to know; with her youngest brother, she'd long since learned it was best not to even ask.  Even Uncle Denis had managed to wrest a few free days out of his own busy schedule, and so he had accompanied his nephews home to Tre-Arilan for a brief family visit before his return to his episcopal seat in Dhassa.  Only her elder sister Javana was missing, having reluctantly returned to the Kheldish Riding with her husband the morning after Twelfth Night.  That, too, was just as well, for Javana would probably not have welcomed the news her younger sister was about to disclose to her family.  It would simply have underscored her own misery.

   Jashana decided there was no better time than the present to bring up the subject of High Lord Michael's proposal.  No matter when they found out about it, her family would surely all want to weigh in—they were Arilans, after all; it's not like any of them were ever short of an opinion or shy about expressing it—and while she would make up her own mind about the courtship regardless of what any of them might have to say, at the very least she'd know how they all felt about it.  She couldn't imagine any reason why they might be opposed—well, Denis perhaps might balk at her considering a marriage with a communicant of the Church of Llyr, but at least she'd not be wedding completely outside her faith—but aside from that, she could think of no possible causes for objection.  Still, she toyed with her wine goblet nervously as the meal was being served.  Her family was a strong-willed and sometimes irascible lot, God help them all, and who knew how this might turn out?

   Sophie smiled at her from Seisyll's right.  Ah, there sat a possible ally if things went all pear-shaped.  Sophie could usually be counted on to be the gentle voice of reason in a room filled with mulish Arilans.  Well, that is, if Seisyll hadn't managed to somehow get under her skin and make her mulish also, but that happened only rarely.  Sophie's was a quieter sort of stubborn, bending and swaying before the raging storms of male bluster surrounding her, but in the end unyielding to brute force, still holding fast to her convictions despite all efforts to uproot her.  Jashana smiled back, glad that her sister-in-law had enough energy to join them at table.  She had been unusually sleepy of late, but that was to be expected so early in a pregnancy.

   The kitchen servants brought in the various platters of food for the evening meal, setting each on the nearby sideboard in preparation for serving it.  Two of Seisyll's pages brought the ewer and basin around so each member of the family could wash his or her hands in the scented water before the meal began.  That task accomplished, they bowed and left the room, free to rejoin the other members of the household dining downstairs in the Great Hall.  The kitchen servants also made their obeisance and left, Seisyll's squire remaining behind to serve up the meal once it was blessed.

   "Uncle Denis, would you bless our meal tonight?"  Seisyll, the Laird of Tre-Arilan, asked.

   Denis's gaze swept the table, coming to rest on his youngest nephew.  "Perhaps tomorrow.  Tonight I think I'll cede that honor to you, Sextus."  He gave the younger man an ironic smile.

   Sextus looked up at his uncle, startled.  "Why me?"

   Denis's smile grew.  "Judging from the look of your face right now, if that blow had landed any harder or closer to your temple, you could well have ended up much closer to God than you ever meant to be.  So while you're still within sight of the Pearly Gates, perhaps you could put a good word in for our meal?"

   Jashana hastily controlled a laugh, turning it into a cough instead.

   "Fine, then," Sextus agreed.  "Good food, good meat, Good God let's eat!"

   Sophie looked aghast.  "Sextus!"  She shot a look at her husband, who glared at his younger brother.  Behind them the squire gaped, then, noticing Jashana watching him, hastily composed his features.  Jashana's eyes fell to her plate, exasperation warring within her with grudging amusement.  She disapproved of her younger brother's rebellious streak—must he goad Denis and Seisyll at every turn?--and she certainly couldn't condone his irreverence towards God, but when it came to bucking authority, she had to admit the man had a certain sense of style....

   "Sextus, try to behave for once."  Seisyll gave the black sheep of the family a look that silently assured him that the matter would be discussed again later.  Jashana sighed inwardly, hoping she could make her escape before the next Arilan male pissing contest commenced.

   The bishop sighed, giving Sextus a tight-lipped glower of disapproval. "Well, given your usual laxity, that went about how I expected it might."  He sat, breathing a silent prayer over the meal as he did so before glancing over at his elder nephew.  "Thank God he's your problem and not mine!"

   Seisyll nodded over his shoulder, signaling his squire to begin serving the meal. The lad moved towards the sideboard.

   "Don't despair, Uncle Denis; that's actually an improvement."  Jashana offered with a sly grin at her younger brother.  "The last time I heard Sextus offer up a prayer, I think it went more like 'Father forgive this food, for it knows not what it does'!"

   "Wait, was that at that dump of an inn at Nyford?  Jesú, what a memory!"  Sextus suppressed a shudder.

   "Well, I suppose I ought to be grateful you're staying at inns these days, nephew.  I still feel unclean from that louse-ridden pit of a doxy-house I had to haul you out of the last time I rescued your reprobate arse from--"

   "Denis!!!"  Sophie gave the visiting relative a wide-eyed look of appeal, jerking her head meaningfully towards the other end of the table.  The bishop, startled to be cut off in mid-rant, glanced in the direction of her gaze, belatedly noticing the uncomprehending stares of Sophie's two young children, Stefania and Jamyl.  The angelic little urchins grinned back at him, their nursemaid staring at him in shock from her position standing behind them.  At the sideboard, the squire looked torn between mortification and stifled laughter.

   "What's a doxy-house, Uncle Denis?"  Stefania asked, all innocence.  The bishop had the grace to blush.  He turned to Sophie, apology written on his features,  mixed with no small degree of panicked apprehension, but she simply crossed her arms with an expectant smile.

   "I believe I'll let you handle the question, dear uncle, since you brought the matter up."  Sophie took a sip of her wine.  Beside her, Seisyll looked like he was about to choke.

   "It's...ah...a place where they sell birds, poppet," the bishop managed feebly after a few moments of frantic thought.  Jashana silently applauded the answer.  It was difficult to skirt around the truth with a Deryni child who had recently figured out how to Truth-Read.

   "Oh?"  Stefania pondered.  "What sort of birds?"


   "Birds of Paradise, darling," the girl's father supplied through gritted teeth, glaring at Denis.  Yes, Jashana observed, Seisyll definitely looked to be on the verge of choking.  Their uncle, that is.

   "Oh, I should love to have one of those!"  The little girl's eyes shone with excitement.  Jashana was hard pressed not to laugh.

   "So would I," Sextus said with a stifled grin, "but alas, I fear they're far too dear for my lowly income...."

   "Sextus...." Seisyll ground out in warning.  His squire turned away, seized with a suspiciously convenient coughing fit.

   "...so mayhap we should settle on a pretty sparrow instead.  Would you like that, Steffie?"

   "Oh, could we have a sparrow, Papa?!"  Stefania's eyes pleaded with her father.  He gave his younger brother a look of exasperation mingled with grudging gratitude for the save.

   "Perhaps, if I find any caged ones at the next Fair."

   Jashana found herself suddenly dying to have someone to share her amusement with, someone who could see her family as she saw them, through her eyes and mind.  That would be one benefit of marriage to a Deryni, she suddenly realized.  Which brought her thoughts back to the matter she'd wanted to bring up this evening.  Very well then, she supposed she'd not find a better moment to mention it than this one.  Seisyll would no doubt be grateful for the change of topic; at this rate, he'd probably gladly agree to any potential match she brought forward, even if it were to the village gong-farmer, as long as it would get his precious darling's mind off disturbing matters such as doxy-houses and Birds of Paradise and Sextus's near-blasphemous attempt at a dinner blessing!

   Seisyll's squire began to serve the evening meal, cutting off portions of meat to put on each trencher and adding servings of vegetables, sallet, sauce and bread before handing the trenchers back to each member of the family.  That task done, a nursemaid drew Stefania and Jamyl away to dine in the nursery, a maidservant carrying their loaded trenchers to the children's board already set up for their use.  The squire withdrew, remaining by the door, ready to refill goblets or assist with second helpings of food as required, the color in his face subsiding nearly back to normal.

   "I received a proposal of marriage three days ago," Jashana said once everyone had taken their first bites of food, taking a sip of her wine and mentally bracing herself as every set of eyes at the table swiveled around to stare at her in amazement.  She affected nonchalance as she swallowed, smiling across at Seisyll.

   "From whom?" Seisyll asked, even as Bishop Denis chimed in, "Is he suitable?"  Sophie said nothing, merely gazing at her sister-in-law with an encouraging smile.

   "Does he know what he'd be getting into?" Sextus joked.

   Jashana laughed, turning to answer his question first.  "Oh, doubtless not, though I did my best to warn him."  Turning to Seisyll, she added, "High Lord Michael of Llyr approached me at Twelfth Night feast to request a private conversation with me the following day in the Royal Library.  When I met with him that next afternoon, he brought up the subject of marriage."

   Seisyll stared at her, dumbfounded.  Jashana risked a glance at Denis.  He looked thoughtful.  "Hm.  Well."  The bishop frowned slightly, though not in disapproval, Jashana thought, then finally offered, "As far as Deryni families go, one could hardly hope to find an older or more well-established one."  He glanced at Seisyll.

   "True," the Laird of Tre-Arilan murmured, having found his voice again.  "Though I wasn't aware the High Lord was courting you, or even that the two of you were all that well acquainted, sister."

   "He wasn't until Twelfth Night, and we're not," Jashana told him.  "I haven't given him my answer, but I've promised to consider his offer, and he's said he's agreeable to allowing enough time for a proper courtship so we can get to know each other better and be certain we'd suit, although he doesn't wish to put off marrying for too long.  He has a line of succession to secure, after all."  She smiled disarmingly at her brother.  "I hope you don't mind that he brought the question directly to me rather than consulting with you first.  He said he wanted to see if I was minded to even consider the proposal before making a formal offer to you.  And you have to admit, that only makes sense.  After all, I'm the one who'd have to live with him, not you."

   Seisyll pondered the match.  "Well...I don't suppose I have any objection...he's certainly suitable enough!...but...."  His voice trailed off as he glanced around the table, then back to her.  "Are you sure?  You gave me to understand you weren't interested in any other offers after your last betrothal...."

   "Of course I wasn't!  I was in love, and grieving!  Not to mention...um...the other extenuating circumstances that existed at the time...."  She toyed with her food, carefully not looking towards Denis.  "Which, by the way, I have brought up to the High Lord."  She raised her gaze to Seisyll, noting his upraised brow.  "I didn't wish to start a relationship with him on the basis of a deception."

   He frowned worriedly.  "I suppose that's wise, though he might well withdraw his offer."

   "Oh, he won't."  This came from Denis, who regarded his niece with a look of speculation.  "He's Llyrian; he'd consider her a widow, not a wanton."

   "I'm hardly that, Uncle!" Jashana protested hotly.  "Just because I anticipated my vows...."

   The bishop held up his hand.  "I didn't mean it that way, lass.  Settle down!"  He took a deep breath, summoning up patience, and gentled his tone.  "I simply meant that you're fortunate it's a man of Llyr who is offering for you, and not someone who might take a less tolerant view of your...youthful mistake.  You were under vows to wed already; I know that.  I never meant to imply that you're loose with your favors in general.  Think a little better of me than that, niece!"

   The young woman nodded, feeling a little abashed at his mild censure.  She had assumed the worst from his words when she should have known better.  Her uncle had been quite disappointed in her and upset when he'd found out that a miscarried pregnancy was the reason for her sudden incapacitation following her beloved's death, but he'd never once made her feel like he thought less of her as a person because she'd given in to her desires too early, and he'd forgiven her freely rather than holding her lapse over her head as some might have done.  He loved his family deeply, even though he made no secret of his displeasure when they behaved contrary to his hopes and expectations for them.

   "So you don't mind that he's Llyrian?" Jashana asked.

   Denis snorted.  "I don't imagine that's much different than being from any other Kingdom outside of Gwynedd, though if what you're really asking is, does it bother me that he belongs to the Church of Llyr and therefore his beliefs differ a bit from ours, then yes, that does concern me some.  But the differences aren't extreme enough in the necessities of the faith for me to quibble over, and as for the less essential points of it, well, if I've not managed to teach you proper doctrine by now, I despair of ever doing so."  He gave her a wry smile.  "You're not the sort of gullible girl to believe everything you're told without examining it thoroughly first, so I'm not too worried you'll suddenly lapse into heresy."  He raised his hand to forestall any protest she might make.  "Not that I'm calling High Lord Michael a heretic!"

   She chuckled.  "He'll be glad of that, I'm sure, but I'll leave you two to debate theology at family gatherings, if I marry him and if you're both so inclined.  You seemed to take a perverse pleasure in harassing his sister on matters of doctrine, as I recall.  Were you truly thinking you could convert a Llyrian priest to the Church of Gwynedd, especially knowing she'd have to renounce her vocation if she did convert?"

   The bishop smiled.  "Hardly.  I just enjoyed getting her riled."  He gave a wistful sigh.  "A personal failing, I'm afraid, like Sextus's habit of annoying the hell out of me just because he can."  He gave his nephew a knowing look before turning back to her.  "I disagreed with the lady on a great many issues, but we respected each other nonetheless."  He studied his niece.  "Are you minded to accept the High Lord's offer, then?"

   Jashana glanced at Seisyll again.  "Well...since Seisyll has no objection, and I rather enjoy Mihall's company, I'm inclined to at least allow him to court me.  I don't know that I'm ready to exchange betrothal vows just yet, but I'm open to the possibility."  At Seisyll's nod of acceptance, she breathed a quiet sigh of relief and added, "Actually, a bit more than open.  If he does prove suitable, I'm as eager to marry as he is, I think.  I want children."  Jashana glanced at Sophie, feeling a bit wistful.

   Sophie gave her a delighted smile.  "Well, I hope it does work out for both of you, then!  You'd make a wonderful mother; you're so patient with Steffie and Jamyl, and I'm sure you must be longing for a family of your own.  I'd been hoping you'd find a man to love someday...."  Sophie's voice trailed off, and she bit her lip.  

   Jashana laughed.  "Don't worry, Sophie. I know how you meant that, and I won't take that to mean you wish I'd get on with marrying and move out of your house."  Sophie's blush confirmed her guess.

   Denis watched the two women, a slight smile on his face.  "Allowing him to court you is all well and good, but before you move on to anything as binding as a betrothal, I'd strongly suggest you wait until after he's kissed you to decide."

   "Wait...what?!"  Seisyll stared at his uncle, his face a study in shock and near outrage.  Sophie looked as if she was struggling not to laugh, and Sextus gaped at the normally strict bishop as if the man had just grown another head.  

   "Well, assuming the man has normal urges, he will try, after all; if he doesn't, then that's another cause for concern, and Jashana might well be advised not to marry him!  I'm not suggesting she play the wanton, Seisyll; I'm merely being a realist.  Marriages aren't merely matters of the mind or of mutual convenience, after all; there are hearts and bodies to be taken into consideration as well.  Jashana's not known the man long enough for an affinity of the heart to have grown between them.  A meeting of minds is all well and good, but if she marries the man, she'll be spending the rest of her life sharing his bed as well, and likely quite frequently if she wants children by him, and if that's not bearable to her, that hardly bodes well for her future happiness, does it?"  The bishop gave Seisyll a challenging look.  "I'd be the first to warn any couple that mere physical attraction is a poor foundation for any marriage, but if it doesn't exist at all, that's a strong warning she needs to look elsewhere.  And don't bother trying to convince me that you never once kissed Sophie before you exchanged promises to wed; I know better!"

   Sophie lost her struggle, dissolving in peals of rosy-faced giggles at the dumbstruck look on her husband's face.  Jashana stifled a laugh. "Somehow I don't think a lack of attraction is going to be a problem for either of us, but thank you, Uncle Denis.  I'm glad to know you won't think me a shocking libertine if I allow him a kiss, but if the mere thought is going to turn Seisyll apoplectic, I think I can manage to ascertain whether the man will please me or not without allowing him to take undue liberties."  She grinned at her eldest brother.  "Don't worry, I promise not to ravish the High Lord of Llyr on a library desk."

   "No matter how much he might beg," Sextus quipped.

   Seisyll rolled his eyes ceilingward, evidently wondering how he'd managed to lose all control of his family's conversation.  Either that or he was praying for patience, Jashana wasn't sure which.  "All right,  I'll concede that you'll want to be certain you can live with the man before you agree to wed him, so I suppose one kiss before you're betrothed will do no harm, but can I trust that you'll conduct your courtship with the proper decorum otherwise?  And I do insist on a chaperone...."

   "Because you and Sophie always had one...." Sextus helpfully supplied, earning a glare from his brother.

   "Damn it, Sextus!" Seisyll growled as Sophie collapsed in another peal of giggles.  She glanced at the bishop.  A faint rise of his eyebrows and the amused gleam in his eyes set her off yet again.

   Seisyll looked at his wife, a sheepish smile lightening his expression.  "Nearly always.  All right, all of you, you've made your points and I've made mine."  He turned to his sister.  "If I seem unduly insistent on the point of chaperonage, Jashana, it's not that I'm unwilling to trust you, it's only because I know what it's like to be a man in love.  And there's no need to protest that you haven't known the man long enough for this to be a love match yet; if he's got any sense at all, he'll be in love with you in no time, and then I will insist on a proper betrothal before love can make idiots of you both!"  He grinned.  "When did you tell him you'd give him an answer?"

   "In just under a fortnight, when he returns to Rhemuth.  I said I'd do my best to be available at that time."

   Seisyll nodded.  "I'll go with you, then.  I'd like a private word with him myself before I give official consent to a courtship, but I don't anticipate he'll give me any cause to deny it."  He glanced at his uncle with an ironic smile.  "Any other sage advice, O celibate one?"

   The bishop chuckled.  "When have I ever been short of sage advice, wanted or not?"  He winked at his niece, who laughed.  "Yes, as it happens.  Before you make up your mind on his offer, I'd take a trip to Llyr first.  It's a quite different culture from ours, and while you might like the man well enough, you may find you can't see yourself living happily in his kingdom.  That would be a hard thing to discover after you've exchanged vows with him, especially since you'd be that kingdom's High Lady."  Denis glanced at Sophie.  "And as for proper chaperonage, have you ever been outside of Gwynedd, dear?"

   "Me?"  Sophie shook her head, startled.  "No, never."

   "Ah.  Well, perhaps it's time to change that."  Denis tilted his head at Seisyll.  "I think Sophie would find the experience quite educational as well."

   Seisyll nodded slowly.  "Yes, and Deryni didn't suffer the same persecutions in Llyr, so they're bound to have some written lore available that would be advantageous to her studies...."

   "Assuming Sophie ever learns to read Llyrian?" Sextus added with a wry grin, though he too looked intrigued by the thought.

   "Well, no, you're right, but I mean in future...."  Jashana could almost see the wheels turning in her brother's head as he worked through the implications of having a highly placed Llyrian brother-in-law who was Deryni.  She suppressed a smile, knowing that once he worked it all through, she was more likely to be ordered to marry Michael of Llyr rather than to have his suit denied her.  "All right, we can keep that in mind in the long term, but for the short term, if you're going to visit Llyr,  I'd suggest you do so in late spring or early summer.  Sophie should be past her morning sickness by then, but not so far along yet that travel will be too uncomfortable or hazardous for her."

   "Or I could chaperone Jashana," Sextus offered.

   The entire table laughed, not bothering to consider the notion seriously.  Sextus laughed as well, but to Jashana's surprise, her younger brother actually appeared a little disappointed.

Chapter Three:

"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!


ROFL @ "Arilan male pissing contest" - yes they do all seem pretty strong-willed in that family, and I enjoyed the behind the scenes look.

And Denis admitting he sometimes likes riling people?  He'll be admitting he turns into a wind-up merchant whenever Alaric Morgan comes into view next. ;)


Great family scene, and LOL at "almost human" Denis.   Loved the "birds of paradise" - perhaps a mischievous family member should give him a small picture or carving of a bird for next birthday or Christmas?! :D

And the idea of Sextus as chaperone?   ROFL.


Quote from: AnnieUK on December 09, 2010, 01:46:31 PM
And Denis admitting he sometimes likes riling people?  He'll be admitting he turns into a wind-up merchant whenever Alaric Morgan comes into view next. ;)

Oh, it could just have been that Denis enjoyed seeing...oh, how did Duncan put it again, when he was arguing theology with Catriona?..."I just wanted to see the fire flash in your eyes and smoke pour out of your nostrils."  Yeah, that could be it.   :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: Alkari on December 09, 2010, 03:20:43 PM
Loved the "birds of paradise" - perhaps a mischievous family member should give him a small picture or carving of a bird for next birthday or Christmas?! :D

Sextus says "Shhh, don't ruin the Christmas surprise...."   :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!


I bet Alaric, Duncan, and Kelson would love to have witnessed Denis explain to his grand-niece what a "doxy-house" is.  They wouldn't mind seeing Denis squirm just a little bit.

Excellent chapter and side-splitting as well!!
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


Quote from: derynifanatic64 on December 09, 2010, 06:52:21 PM
I bet Alaric, Duncan, and Kelson would love to have witnessed Denis explain to his grand-niece what a "doxy-house" is.  They wouldn't mind seeing Denis squirm just a little bit.

Excellent chapter and side-splitting as well!!

Thank you!  And given that Duncan and Sophie have developed an almost father/daughter bond over the past few years, I suspect they'll hear the story eventually...or better yet, Sophie might show Duncan her memories of that evening, so he'll see "visuals" as well....  :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!