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A Leap of Faith - Chapter 11

Started by AnnieUK, December 30, 2010, 02:08:15 PM

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City of Dhassa
March 28th-29th, 1121

My Uncle Cardiel looked tired when I arrived at his apartments.  He opened his arms to me and we exchanged kisses and a brief, but warm embrace.

"Richenda, my dear.  How lovely to see you.  I am so sorry that you have been left alone today: not the best visit to Dhassa and your old uncle, eh?"

"Please, uncle, don't worry.  Brendan and I have kept ourselves entertained watching the comings and goings, and the time has passed quite quickly, honestly.  I'm just pleased to be able to see you now, although I believe you have another official appointment still to keep."

His face clouded briefly.  "Yes, I'm afraid I have, and not a pleasant one, either.  But you only brought Brendan, then?  Is Rhiannon left at the manor house?  You must be worried about her, you poor girl."

Ah, yes, the letter.  I had wanted to tell my uncle in person, rather than in writing, but now it came to it, it was so hard to explain.  Even these months later I missed her no less, and tears sprang into my eyes as I gave him the news.

"Uncle, Rhiannon isn't at the manor.  She died, just before Christmas.  I'm sorry you didn't know, that was terrible of us.  You should have been told."

He gently laid a hand on my arm.  "Ah, Richenda.  I'm so sorry.  I didn't think ... I mean, when you only said Brendan I thought Rhiannon was maybe too small to come visiting.  How thoughtless of me."  

I bowed my head.  This was going to be harder than I had thought.
"Don't worry." I whispered.  "I only thought ... I assumed everyone had heard by now.  That's partly why I'm here.  Everywhere I went in Marbury reminded me of her.  I had to get away.  And Bran wanted me away from Marley in case war came and Brendan and I were in danger there."

He took my hand, and that spoke more sympathy to me than words could.  A few moments passed in silence, and then he said, "Marley is further north than I would expect Wencit to venture, but Bran is quite the military man, and if he says you should seek safety in Dhassa I'd be inclined to listen to him."

"Indeed, he seems to be held in high regard by King Kelson."  I agreed.

"Our young King needs all the good men around him that he can muster at the moment.  And I fear ... I fear that today's happenings will be a dreadful blow to him."

"Today's happenings?  You mean the fire at the shrine of Saint Torin?  How can that affect the King, Uncle Thomas?"

At that moment a knock sounded at the door, and servants entered with trays of food and a flagon of wine.  They laid the trays on the table and set the food out for us, and then my uncle waved them away.  

"We can do the rest.  No, even a bishop and a countess can serve themselves when they must.  Thank you, you may go."

We settled at the table and fell to.  Certainly the Bishop of Dhassa did not want for good food, if this was representative of his usual repasts.  He poured me a cup of wine.

"Just in case you are worried, I can assure you that this is not Dhassa wine.  All the stories you have heard about Dhassa wine are correct.  In fact they are probably understated.  It is the most wretched brew you have ever tasted."  He raised his goblet to me, "This however, is rather nice.  Not Fianna, admittedly, but a respectable substitute."

"Uncle, you said the King was in trouble because of what happened today?"  

Suddenly my uncle looked older and more tired than usual.  "What have you heard of the day's events?"

"Only what Monsignor O'Sullivan told me.  That the shrine to Saint Torin had been burned down, deliberately, he said, and that several men had been killed and injured in some sort of fight there.  He said that you had heard accounts from people who had witnessed the events, and that the guilty would be brought to justice.  So do you know what happened?"

"I have heard one side of the story, my dear.  In the circumstances I dare say I may hear the other side in due course."

He briefly turned to his food to eat a bare mouthful or two, and then pushed his food around a little with his eating knife - whatever had transpired that day had left him with little appetite.  After a few moments he sighed and his shoulders relaxed.  He had evidently decided to trust me with the story.

"Have you heard of Alaric Morgan, the Duke of Corwyn?"

"Of course, Bran has spoken of him.  He and Bran don't always see eye to eye."  I hoped I didn't look as uncomfortable as I felt – that was an understatement, to say the least.

My uncle smiled wearily.  "Don't worry, Richenda, Morgan inspires strong emotion in people - few people are truly neutral where he is concerned.  Mainly since he is Deryni, of course, but also because he is so uncompromising.  He takes the stance that you can hate him or you can love him, but you will never ignore him. Our young King loves him, of course, but Bran is by no means the only one who hates him.  He has done something today which will give his detractors plenty of ammunition, for it appears that it was Morgan who burned down the shrine."

If he had said that Saint Michael himself had started the fire with his burning sword, I could hardly have been more surprised.

"Alaric Morgan?  But why?  What ever would he do that for?"

"Morgan was captured at St Torin's.  Warin de Grey and his men were holding him – planning to burn him at the stake, from what I've heard.  He was rescued by his cousin, Duncan McLain, and the pair fought their way out, with the shrine being set alight in the process."  He winced, thinking of the destruction of the shrine. "Well, it was all wood, you know, and despite all the rain we have had recently, it went up like tinder."

"How did they capture him?  I was led to believe that Morgan had certain... resources... at his disposal."  From what I had heard of him he wouldn't have gone down without a fight, at any rate.

"I believe that a drug was involved that incapacitates Deryni.  He would almost certainly have perished without his cousin's intervention but unfortunately that has left Monsignor McLain's own position somewhat compromised."

Merasha.  I suppressed a shudder. "Did he burn it down deliberately?"

"That I don't know, but he was still instrumental in its destruction.  And he and McLain did kill five or six of Warin's men in a holy place and another man will never walk without a stick again, if he even keeps his leg.  In fact, that is why I cannot linger with you tonight.  The Curia will excommunicate the two of them tonight after Compline.  I fear this may make things hard for Kelson, though.  He will struggle to defeat Wencit without his Lord General.  And as things stand in Corwyn he may find himself with rebellion there, as well as Wencit to deal with."  My uncle sighed heavily and rubbed a weary hand across his forehead, then took another piece of meat and ate it with apparent reluctance, before pushing the trencher away. "I had hoped that Morgan would make his way to Dhassa to try to make his peace with the Curia, and I wonder if that was his intention today.  If it was, it went disastrously wrong for all of us."

I had suddenly lost my appetite too.  Alaric Morgan and his cousin would not travel to Dhassa alone, surely.  He must have had some of his men disguised as pilgrims outside the shrine keeping watch and I would wager that my courtly hunter was a Corwyn knight attending his Duke.  I wondered if he had been in the fight to free Morgan and McLain.  My uncle had said that the dead men had been soldiers of Warin de Grey, so I could hope that he had escaped the fray, and was maybe now with Morgan and McLain as they fled – where?  To the King?  To Corwyn?  Would my knight remain with his Duke once excommunication fell upon him, or would he desert him as the church would require him to do?

Uncle Cardiel noticed my sudden pensive mood.  

"I am sorry, my dear.  This is no conversation for a young lady.  I will try to be better company on your next visit.  The day's events have left me drained, and I confess I have no heart for the job I must do tonight."

He drained his cup and indicated our food left largely untouched on the table.  

"What a shame.  My cook will be worried.  I must reassure her that we were both just too weary to eat much."

He pulled the last remaining dish towards him and lifted the lid. A boyish grin crossed his face.

"On the other hand, it is always possible to find a small corner for sweetmeats, don't you think?  Mmm, figs with honey and almonds... one of my favourites.  He took a knife, speared one of the figs and handed it to me, then repeated the action with his own knife and took a bite, rolling his eyes appreciatively.  

"Please keep eating, Richenda," he waved his hand at the dish, "or I am liable to eat my way through them all and then feel rather ill later."

I chuckled and nibbled the edge of my own fig.  He was right; it was moist and sweet.  "Brendan will be sorry to have missed these.  He loves figs."

Uncle Cardiel replaced the lid on the dish and pushed it towards me.  "Take the rest then.  No protests, he can have them in the morning, or in the carriage on the way home, if you prefer.  Who can feed a small boy lots of sweets if not his indulgent uncle?  Well, great great uncle, I suppose, but too many greats make a body feel old, so I'll stick to uncle.  You will be doing me a favour, Richenda.  I cannot resist them, and if they are safely in your apartments I will not be tempted to overindulge."

"But I may - they are lovely.  Thank you, uncle.  I have enjoyed this evening.  It is a shame you didn't get to see Brendan, but he isn't nice when he is over-tired, and he needed his bed.  Will we see you in the morning?"

"I'm afraid not.  The Curia meets tomorrow and is not scheduled to end before midday.  With the Morgan and McLain issue sure to take up most of our time, I fear that even midday is being optimistic.  But you must come again soon, my dear.  And hopefully next time will be less eventful."

"I should love to, of course.  Uncle, would you mind if I returned to my apartments?  Brendan and I have had a long day today."

"Of course not, my dear.  I'll get O'Sullivan to escort you back.  I trust he has been taking good care of you?"

He kissed me briefly on the cheek and with an affectionate squeeze of the arm, bade me good night and entrusted me to the faithful Monsignor.

Back at my rooms, I found a pack roll from Marbury with all I could need for an overnight stay and I blessed my maids who had packed so well for me and the lone rider who had made his way there and back.  A maid from my uncle's staff was waiting to assist me, and she brushed out my hair and braided it for sleep.  

Although I was tired, my mind was racing too much to sleep, so rather than disturb Brendan with tossing and turning I crossed to the window of the apartment and opened it to look out.  The air still smelled faintly of wood smoke, but now also crackled with frost and my breath swirled in front of me.  

The bells of the Cathedral rang muffled through the night and twenty or so cloaked figures – the bishops and archbishops, I supposed - assembled outside and began to enter.  I could see the flicker of flame as they lit candles just inside the door, but the light dimmed as the men moved further into the nave.   It was no great time before they began leaving the Cathedral again - obviously the ceremony of excommunication from the Church was not a long one - and in twos and threes dispersed through the city to their apartments.

The following morning, Brendan and I prepared to leave Dhassa.  As Uncle Thomas had indicated midday came and went with no sign of resolution.  Alaric Morgan and Duncan McLain and what to do about them was likely causing the Curia something of a headache, I fancied.  I wondered if news of Saint Torin's would reach Bran's ears and to whom he would be ranting about Morgan if it did.

The carriage was rolled out of the stable block, with no trace of the previous day's grime - the stable boys had evidently been busy.  The horses, which last I had seen mud-caked and tired looked well cared-for and rested.  

Brendan sat at the window as we drove out, spotting the private soldiers in the employ of the bishops and archbishops gathered for the Curia.  He had a quick eye for the different emblems and was kept well occupied for quite some time.

I confess to scanning for Alain the hunter, but no-one paid our carriage particular attention as we left and no attractive stranger noted our passing, despite Brendan waving happily from the window.  It appeared I was not to see my 'Alain' again.

http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=624.0  Chapter 12


*Hugs Thomas Cardiel*  He's one character I wish we could see a bit more of in the novels.  A very courageous and sympathetic bishop ever since we meet him.   LOL at his sweet tooth and 'little boy' indulgence in honeyed figs.

Interesting POV of 'darkling' Alaric.  (The Codex says that Cardiel was actually a junior priest in Coroth for a few years from 1103, on the staff of the then Bishop of Coroth.)   Shame Cardiel and Arilan hadn't thought to get a message to Alaric and Duncan asking them to try and get in contact secretly ...:(     And poor Deryni Richenda, understanding the very real fear of being burnt at the stake, knowing what merasha would do to Morgan, and what it must have been like for them to fight their way out of the shrine like that.  And her fears for her "courtly knight' faced with the implications of excommunication.


Well, Richenda is halfway right...'Alain' is a Corwyn knight....   :D

And as ever, Cardiel is delightful, and it's nice to see him in a story.
"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!