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The Arrangement, Part Three

Started by Evie, December 11, 2010, 12:30:34 PM

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The Arrangement

   Part Three—Courtship and Choices

   January 21, 1133
   Rhemuth Castle, Seisyll Arilan's apartment

   The High Lord of Llyr took a seat by the fire in Sir Seisyll Arilan's private apartment at Rhemuth Castle.  Seisyll stood on the other side of the hearth, beside a chair on which his youngest sister Lady Jashana sat.  The lady gave Michael an encouraging smile.

   "So," Seisyll was saying, "Easter Court will be on the last weekend of March this year.  That allows you just over two months of courtship time to grow better acquainted, and if you've decided to exchange betrothal vows by that weekend, we could announce the betrothal at Easter Court."  He glanced down at his sister, then back at her suitor.  "Will that allow sufficient time for Jashana to be certain of her feelings, while not delaying a wedding overmuch?"

   Michael looked over at Jashana.  "That ought to suffice for me, Sir Seisyll, if Jashana is agreeable to the timing."

   Jashana nodded. "That suits me also."  She looked up at her brother, then back at the High Lord.  "Mihall, if we do decide to wed sometime after Easter Court, when and where did you have in mind?"

   He toyed with his wine glass.  "The location is unimportant to me; we can have the ceremony  here in Gwynedd if you'd prefer to be among your own family and friends.  I'd prefer to wed as soon after our betrothal as possible, though I realize Gwyneddan weddings are...a bit more complicated than Llyrian ones, so if you need a little time to take care of all the feminine necessities, I think we can spare that."  He grinned.  "Just show a little mercy and don't be too elaborate in your preparations; I'd like to marry while I'm still a young man."

   Jashana smiled. "No worries on that score.  I'm not too much of a fancy fripperies type, and I'd rather marry while I'm still in my childbearing years."  She grinned up at Seisyll.  "And hopefully before helping your Sophie through another labor scares me off the idea again!"

   Seisyll rolled his eyes at her, though he returned her smile.  "She had an easy enough time with Stefania and Jamyl.  If birthings truly do get easier each time like some folks say, this baby should just show up at the front door one August morning demanding his breakfast."

   Jashana laughed.  "I would like to see Llyr sometime before Easter Court, though, if I'm to give my decision by then.  I think Uncle Denis was right about that.  Could that be arranged, Mihall?"

   The High Lord nodded.  "It would be my very great honor to escort you."  Looking at Seisyll, he smiled and added, "And your brother's choice of chaperone, of course."  The smile grew into a challenging grin.  "In case you have any concerns I might take your uncle's other advice too much to heart."

   Seisyll's sister stifled a laugh.  "Did you have to share that?" Seisyll asked her with a wry smile.

   "Don't worry, dear brother.  I promise to behave myself with the utmost decorum, to exactly the extent that I'm certain you did when you were courting Sophie."

   "Right."  Seisyll suppressed a grin.  "I think I'll go along on that trip.  It will give me a chance to spend a little time with my wife in a scenic location and relaxed circumstances before the next baby is born, and in my free time, I can sharpen my swords.  All of them." 

   This would not be the appropriate time to mention to your brother that my bed is quite thoroughly warded, I imagine? Michael of Llyr mindspoke to his intended, a gleam of wicked humor in his eyes.

   Jashana nearly choked on her sip of wine. No, my dear impertinent lord, it most certainly would not be!"  Her dark violet eyes laughed. Behave, Mihall!

   Ladies keep saying that word!  How can I be 'haive' if I don't know what that is? The green eyes teased her a moment longer before the High Lord returned his attention to her brother.   "The weather in Llyr should start turning warmer in early March.  If that will work with your schedule, I can arrange to show you around then.  Your lady might find Transfer Portal travel easier, given her current delicate condition, and if your sister is to become my Ban-Tiarna, you'll undoubtedly want a quicker and easier means of visiting her once she's in residence in Llyr than conventional sea travel.  I have a Portal location in Shiele I'd be willing to share, if Jashana hasn't had any second thoughts about a betrothal to me by the time you're ready to travel."

   Seisyll nodded reluctantly.  "That...would be acceptable."

   Jashana gave him an ironic smile.  "Seisyll, he's not going to have the entire Llyrian Guard awaiting us with a trumpet fanfare and a herald to announce to the entire populace that the Arilan family is Deryni.  You can relax."

   Michael's lips twitched.  "Not a single herald, I promise.  And no trumpets.  Though there might be a piper and one or two bards to record the historic event of an Arilan invasion of Shiele...."

   "Mihall...."  His prospective bride struggled not to laugh.

   "We'll be quite discreet.  I understand your family's need for that, even now that social acceptance for our kind has grown here in Gwynedd."  Michael raised an inquiring eyebrow at Seisyll.  "Bishop Arilan's standing in the Church of Gwynedd isn't likely to become endangered anymore even if word of your Deryni lineage gets out, does it?"

   "No, that's no longer an issue," Seisyll affirmed.  "I, however, have certain...discreet business endeavors for the Crown that could well become more complicated should it ever become publicly known that I have, shall we say, a greater range of natural abilities than the average man, and other members of my family could be similarly affected.  I've already had to use my powers more openly that I might have wished during the attack on King Kelson last summer, but so far that knowledge has been kept in confidence by the Royal Guard, both at my request and at the King's command."  He gave the High Lord a dry smile.  "Keeping the family secret is a bloody pain at times.  I envy your ability to be more open about your Deryniness."

   Michael shrugged.  "It helps to be both royal and not Gwyneddan.  King Brion had hopes that Deryni and humans would learn to live in harmony again in Gwynedd someday.  It saddens me that he didn't live to see that come to pass, but I'm glad his son is finally managing to bring it about.  And to be honest, I'm not as open about my powers around non-Deryni as you might think, nor are most of the Deryni in Llyr.  Such is the natural price of peaceful co-existence with humans.  But at least such openness as we do permit ourselves helps keep others' fears at bay, because they understand there are limits to our powers.  And, of course, we've never had an infestation of Festils to deal with either.  One of the advantages of living in the middle of the Atalantic, in what you mainlanders consider the God-forsaken southwest end of nowhere."


   March 5, 1133
   Caisleán Shiele, the Isle of Llyr

   Jashana gazed out the window of her prospective bridegroom's mountaintop castle, over the lush green island landscape spreading out below her and the winding cobbled road leading down through fertile farmlands to the coastal villages and the sparkling Atalantic Ocean beyond.  The morning mists had long since lifted, allowing the High Lord to escort her, Seisyll, and Sophie on a tour of some of the northern parts of the island realm.  The southern half, they would save for another outing.  They had spent the better part of the morning and afternoon exploring various villages and manor-lands (or what Jashana judged to be the rough equivalent to manor-lands, though she was still foggy about the differences between the Llyrian form of governance and Gwynedd's) that lay closest to Caisleán Shiele, and now had returned to the castle in preparation for the banquet that had been prepared to welcome the island ruler's intended bride to Llyr.

   Sophie joined her in the window embrasure.  "Well, what do you think of Llyr so far?"

   Jashana traced the lead between the diamond-shaped panes of glass idly with her finger.  "It's all quite lovely, and the people have been so warm and welcoming.  I'm a bit nervous, of course, now that the time to make up my mind is drawing closer, but I suppose that's only to be expected."

   Her sister-in-law smiled.  "Oh yes.  I was so nervous about whether I was really ready to marry Seisyll, and I only had to worry about moving a short distance away from Rhemuth.  But it seemed like such an awfully huge decision at the time.  Did I really know him well enough to leave everyone and everything I knew for him?  Was I truly ready to follow him wherever life might end up taking us?   Did I even truly love him, or I simply mistaking girlish fancies for genuine love?" Sophie laughed.  "I was terrified!"

   Jashana turned to face her.  "What made you decide to marry him?"

   Sophie's face softened.  "I simply realized, when the moment of decision arose, that even though I knew I could get on with the rest of my life without Seisyll, I no longer wanted to.  Whatever happened, whatever uncertain paths my life might end up taking, I wanted him by my side for it all.  And John helped me work through some of my fears as well."

   "Father Nivard?"

   "Yes.  He and Bishop Duncan both, but it was a conversation I had with Father Nivard, during which he talked about the difference between simple attraction and true love, that gave me the courage to say 'Yes' to Seisyll when I needed it the most."

   "Hm."  Jashana turned to look out the window again, gazing out at the growing twilight, at the villages in the distance beginning to dispel the growing darkness with firelight as the setting sun streaked the ocean waters with flaming hues as well. 

   "Do you love High Lord Michael, Jashana?"

   There, of course, lay the heart of Jashana's indecision.  "I love being with him," she answered quietly.  "I feel more alive when he's nearby.  And I'm definitely attracted to him...."  She bit her lip, thinking back to an earlier love.  "That's how I felt seven years ago, and I didn't hesitate about entering a betrothal then.  I was eager to wed.  But now...."  She sighed.  "I'm not that same innocent girl anymore, Sophie.  I think I'm in love with Mihall, or at least I'm swiftly moving in that direction, but...I'm still a bit scared."

   "Of losing him too someday?"

   "Yes.  Or perhaps just of losing myself."  Jashana gave Sophie a wry smile.  "I've grown used to not belonging to a man.  I'm stubborn and headstrong and independent and every inch an Arilan.  What if I can't learn when to hold fast and when to give ground?  What if he tires of me, if he wishes he'd sought out someone more biddable?"

   Sophie smiled.  "Oh, I don't think Michael of Llyr is looking for someone too docile to be his Ban-Tiarna.  I suspect he's courting you because those feisty Arilan traits are some of the very qualities he hopes to see passed on to his daughters."  She laughed.  "In moderation, of course.   You could use a few lessons in moderation at times."  Sophie grinned.  "Maybe that's the best argument of all for marrying.  You're hardly likely to learn moderation and meeting others halfway while cooped up in a house with Seisyll and Sextus!"

   Jashana laughed.  "I suppose not."

   A knock sounded on the door, and Sophie turned to answer it.  A page in the colors of the Ard Tiarna's household stood in the corridor.  "My lady, the feast will be served shortly.  Ard Tiarna Mihall and your lord husband await you both in the Hall."

   "We'll be down directly; thank you," Sophie assured him.  The page bowed and left.

   "Well, shall we head downstairs?"  Sophie gave Jashana an encouraging smile.

   Jashana took a deep breath to stir the sudden butterflies within.  "Yes."


   The room was dark save for the warm firelight from the bedchamber hearth.   The feast in Jashana's honor had ended hours before.  She lay in the darkness, thinking back on the wonderful repast she'd enjoyed in the Great Hall of Caisleán Shiele, similar in some ways to the one at Rhemuth Castle or even her family's more humble Tre-Arilan, but in other ways so very different.  The feasthall, like so many other features of Llyrian life that she'd taken note of that day, was a far more relaxed and informal place in Mihall's Court, with nobles and commoners alike seated on soft hides and cushions scattered around the low tables raised only a short distance from the floor.  Pots and cauldrons clustered around the hearth fires sent up tantalizing aromas that permeated throughout the Hall, and the castle bards entertained their newly arrived guests with songs and tales of Llyrian history and heroic feats of old.  Mihall, as Ard Tiarna, was given a place of honor at the head of the Hall along with his guests of honor, as was also customary in Rhemuth, but he wasn't on a dais, and somehow the whole affair had managed to feel less daunting as a result.  She had seen signs here and there that the Hall was occasionally furnished in a more conventional manner—well, what a woman of Gwyneddan upbringing might regard as 'more conventional,'  she corrected herself—if necessity demanded, and there were a few things she found familiar, such as the squires and younger rideres serving at table and the pages assisting, but on this occasion she sensed Mihall was deliberately giving her a glimpse of what Llyrian Court life was customarily like when mainlanders weren't expected at the Ard Tiarna's table.

   A soft stirring in the adjoining room caused Jashana to sit up.  It was probably nothing more than one of the logs in the other chamber's fireplace shifting, but since she was far from sleepy, she decided to check just to make sure.  Sophie and Seisyll had retired for the night at the same time that she had, Seisyll laying claim to the chamber closest to the outer corridor for himself and Sophie, leaving the smaller chamber beyond for Jashana's use.  Jashana had suppressed a smile at this.  The bed in the other chamber was no wider than the one in hers, but evidently her brother was taking no chances on his younger sister deciding to venture forth on any nocturnal wanderings that might result in a romantic tryst. 

   Jashana peeked into Seisyll's room, barely able to hold back a laugh as she saw exactly what she expected.  The door was warded, the deep violet energies of Seisyll's magic dimly visible from across the dark room.   The ward was not for their protection, Jashana surmised—Seisyll wasn't so paranoid as to expect that their host might seek to do them harm—but to alert him if anyone tried to walk through.  The faint glow around his curtained bed told him that it, too, was enclosed within a separate ward.  That, too, Jashana guessed, was not for defensive purposes, but simply to provide his modest lady with greater privacy in case he should feel amorous during their visit.  Seisyll's sister grinned.  She had no doubt the soundproofing built into that ward was unidirectional and that Seisyll's sharp ears would detect even her lightest footfalls should she be foolish enough to set foot into their chamber or, worse, attempt to venture beyond it.

   No, there was no use to even try to leave the confines of her nocturnal cloister.  She had evidently guessed correctly as to the source of the sound she'd heard, for a small log had fallen off to  one side of the cheery fire in the hearth as the wood beneath it had been consumed, causing it to shift.  A few sparks flew forth from it even as she watched, though it became clear that the firewood had not rolled so far out of place as to cause any hazard to the sleepers nearby, and the sparks were contained behind a screen.  Jashana returned to her bed, drawing the bedcurtains closed to keep out the springtime chill. 

   She had barely set head to pillow again when she heard Mihall's voice in her mind.

   Awake, are you, a chuisle?  A kiss, feather-light, brushed her cheek.  She blinked in the darkness.  Surely she'd only imagined it!  She quickly raised her hand to kindle handfire.  A furtive glance around her bed assured her that she was still alone inside its heavy curtains.  She doused the magical glow and rolled back over onto her side.

   Mihall?  She knew it was  his voice, but a part of herself needed to ask anyway.  She'd not been expecting him to be awake, much less attempting to contact her in such a way.  Where are you?

   A chuckle in the darkness, more felt than heard.  Above you.  Not, alas, in quite the way that I might wish. She sensed his amusement even as her mind filled with a scene of another bedchamber, this one more brightly lit with a bedside lamp, one curtain still tied open to reveal the luxuriously appointed room beyond.  My chamber is directly above yours.  Or more likely above Seisyll's.  Am I correct in assuming he has taken the bed closest to the outer door?

   Jashana stifled a laugh.  Yes, the Guardian of my Virtue lurks without, ready to pounce upon unwary intruders.  So if you were hoping to ravish me in my sleep, you're quite out of luck, I'm afraid.

   She heard his quiet laughter in her mind.  In your sleep?  How boring!  I'm quite counting on you being awake for that.  A soft touch trailed down her neck, leaving goosebumps in its wake.  Jashana realized it felt like a series of gentle kisses, wandering from beneath one ear to just above her collarbone.  She felt her face flame.

   How are you doing that, Mihall? It's...disconcerting, to say the least!

   But not unpleasantly so, I hope?

   Far from it, but Jashana felt a little nervous nonetheless.  No, but it's a bit like being made love to by a ghost.

   The quiet amusement again.  If that bothers you, I'll stop.  The softest of brushes against her lips, then a feeling like a warm presence lying behind her, curled up against her back, one strong unseen arm draped across her. I just wanted to spend a little more time with you without your brother watching hawk-like over your shoulder.  Mihall sent her a mental image, albeit slightly exaggerated, of Seisyll avidly watching his every move.  Jashana muffled a laugh in her pillow.

   He's not that bad about it, is he?

   Yes! Mihall's arm seemed to tighten slightly around her waist.  Jashana closed her eyes, allowing herself to imagine that he really lay beside her in the dark room.

   Have you given further thought to your answer, chuisle?  May I hope for a betrothal between us at Easter?

   I have, and I'll give you my answer come Easter.  Three weeks more of waiting won't kill you.

   Impertinent minx!
  The sigh in her mind reflected mingled frustration and amusement.  I can't persuade you to give me an answer sooner? The invisible lips brushed her shoulder.

   I can tell Seisyll had his gimlet eye on you for good reason, Jashana teased.  Are you hoping you can seduce me into marriage? 

   The silent chuckle again. No.  Unfortunately, I really can't keep this up that much longer, and we both need our rest for tomorrow's journey to the southern reaches of the realm.

   Jashana's lips twitched.  You can't keep what up much longer, my lord?  That's a bit disappointing....

   A mental burst of laughter.  The magic, chuisle!

   Ohhh, it's magic, then?  She giggled as the invisible presence smacked her on the backside.
   I'll let you determine that for yourself on our wedding night.  A brush of something silky—his hair, perhaps?—against her shoulder as a kiss landed on her cheek.  Sweet dreams, my lady.  The unseen presence withdrew, leaving Jashana to drift off to sleep alone, though far from lonely as she fell into delightful dreams in which he had never left her bed.


   March 26, 1133
   Rhemuth Castle, Easter Court Feast

   "...and it is my very great pleasure to announce the betrothal of my sister Lady Jashana to the Ard Tiarna Michael O'Shiele, High Lord of Llyr."

   A murmur of surprise filled Rhemuth's Great Hall at Sir Seisyll's announcement, though this was swiftly followed by warm congratulations and huzzahs from well-wishers among the gathered assembly.  Jashana beamed up at her husband-to-be, seated beside her at Kelson's High Table, where they'd been seated that evening both in deference to the High Lord's rank and the news the King had given them leave to announce the evening before, after a brief private conference with him to inform him of their desire to wed and to secure his official permission both for the wedding itself and for the announcement of their betrothal to be made at the feast following Easter Sunday's Court.  Seisyll and Sophie had been in attendance for the short meeting as well, Sophie arriving slightly breathless and muttering something about veils in apology for their slight tardiness.

   "You'll be taking one of my brightest jewels from my Kingdom, Michael," Kelson said, smiling down the table at the blushing bride-to-be.  "I trust you'll allow her to return to us often?"

   "Of course, bráthair.  After all, my son is still in your service.  I expect I'll still want to see Corin on rare occasion...."  He grinned at the squire standing dutifully behind the King.

   The young man's eyes glanced over at his father's lovely new fiancée, then back at the High Lord.  "Sure you will, athair," he teased, green eyes sparkling in uncanny resemblance of his father's.  "I'll be lucky if you ever emerge from Caisleán Shiele again before you've given me a sister."

   "Yes, Llyr needs a new Banoidhre."  Duke Dhugal, sitting next to his new Duchess, gave his late wife's brother a slightly wistful smile, though the tender glance he turned to his new wife afterward assured the High Lord that Dhugal's heart had already begun to heal.  "Have you chosen a wedding date yet, Mihall?"

   The High Lord glanced at his affianced bride.  "It's not been finalized, but we're considering the first weekend in May."

   "The merry month of May," Queen Araxie said, smiling at them both.  "The month of fertility and new beginnings.  That certainly seems like an auspicious time for a wedding."

   "Aye, we thought the same thing."  Michael took hold of Jashana's hand.  "A new beginning for us both."

   The hope of springtime was in Jashana's smile as she gazed into the High Lord's eyes.


"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!


This is a sweet story, Evie.  I like Mihall, and I love feisty Jashana. :)
"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.)


And I say again, it's just as well that Alaric didn't have rooms closer to Richenda in Alkari's fic, or she'd never have got Richenda back off to Marley with virtue intact ;)

Mihall is cool, can we have more of him, please?  (After the other fics that you are planning, of course ;) )


I'm glad y'all enjoyed Jashana's story.  I've started writing her older sister Javana's story now, though I'm afraid that one will be better categorized as psychological horror rather than a sweet love story. I've been dropping little hints in previous stories that Javana did not end up in a "happily ever after" love match, but even I didn't realize what she's been going through until she started talking to me while I was writing Jashana's story.  So brace for a grimmer story ahead, with Sextus showing a much more serious side, and perhaps a glimpse of the darker & more ruthless Denis Arilan we've seen from time to time.  (Thinks back to that 12 year old choirboy with frightening competence in more than just singing.)

Duncan Michael will spend his younger squire years in his Uncail Mihall's Court, so there's a good chance we'll see Mihall again.
"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!


Yes, great fun and a lovely romance.   Mihall is deliciously wicked / mischievous, and LOL at not looking for a 'docile' bride.  Loved Sophie's comment about Jashana not being able to learn moderation in a household containing Seisyl and Sextus  :D   So I'm looking forward to more Mihall and I hope we also see Corin again at some stage?

You are quite right - in Gryphon, Alaric asked for Richenda's rooms to be some way from his for a very good reason ;)  They were both very restrained, considering!


This is the wedding that Javana deserved to have and the one I hope she gets to have in the future once Walter is out of the picture and into the dungheap of history.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


Quote from: derynifanatic64 on February 17, 2011, 06:28:26 PM
This is the wedding that Javana deserved to have and the one I hope she gets to have in the future once Walter is out of the picture and into the dungheap of history.

I'm beginning to fear that after Walter Javana might have such a case of PTSD regarding men that withdrawal to a convent might be her only option.


And if she does eventually decide to marry again, any prospective suitor will be vetted much more carefully.  Javana deserves better.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


Javana hasn't told me yet if there will be anyone she might become romantically involved with in the future, but it's pretty certain that after living in an abusive situation for seven years, she will need to do a great deal of healing before she's ready to even consider another relationship.  But all of this is best commented on in Javana's story, where it's less likely to confuse late-arriving readers.  If you want to refer back to scenes in earlier stories, a better way to do that might be to say something like "After re-reading The Arrangement, Part Three [link optional], and in light of what we're seeing in this story, I think...." in the current chapter's comments.  That will also help to avoid "spoilers" for future readers who might be reading the series in order and may not have read the current story yet.  Thanks!

((For those of you readers who are coming to this series late, reading the stories in the order they were originally posted, and wondering "Who the heck is this Javana chick, and why is she getting all this discussion when she's barely mentioned in this story?", the last few comments have been about Jashana Arilan's sister Javana's disastrous marriage to Walter Branigan, which you'll read about when you get to Possessed.  So if your curiosity is piqued, please keep reading the series!))
"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!