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A Leap of Faith - Chapter 15

Started by AnnieUK, January 03, 2011, 01:19:48 PM

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Night of June 29th / 30th

The sound of knocking woke me.  

My maid was greatly flustered, still in her nightrail with a robe pulled hastily over, and with Sister Luke close behind her.   It felt like I had been asleep some time and had been woken from the depths of a dream, so I was drowsy and took a moment to understand what she was saying to me.  

"My lady, you must get up.  The King is in your dayroom, and he requests to speak with you immediately."

"The King?  At this hour?"  I was fully awake then, and out of bed.

This was not good news.  Good news keeps till morning, when a person is rested and all the better to receive it.  Bad news is a call in the dark, urgent and insistent.  Is my lord dead, that the King visits me in the night?  

Miriam quickly helped me into a white dress, simple bar the embroidery at hem and cuffs and neck.  No time to dress my hair properly, not with the King waiting.  She took out the braid and brushed my hair out, securing a simple lace kerchief round it.  I glanced in the mirror: it would have to do.  A pale anxious face looked back at me, so I pinched my cheeks and bit my lips to make the colour come.  Better.  Still not as I would have liked for my first meeting with the King of Gwynedd, but certainly better.

A quick glance through the door showed Sister Luke and a servant scurrying around tidying and lighting candles against the gloom.  One candle stand was set in a draught and the candles guttered and smoked, sending eerie shadows across the plain bare walls.

Kelson was standing with his eyes downcast, allowing the activity to go on around him. Although I knew full well that the King was only a lad of fourteen, I was still surprised by how young he looked.  Still not into his man's height and growth, he looked like a boy sent to do a man's job, and I was concerned for him, delivering bad news to a woman in the small hours.  

A sudden dread gripped me, and I held tight to the door frame, trying to breathe through the rising panic.  Then Sister Luke was at my elbow, smiling encouragingly, but leading me firmly through the door.  

"Come, daughter," she said, "you cannot keep the King waiting."

I recovered myself as I went in.  Whatever the news I must bear it with good grace as the wife and daughter of a nobleman of Gwynedd, and I entered the room with my head held high and I hoped no outward sign of my nervousness, although my heart fluttered within me.

I sank into a deep curtsey.  "Your Majesty."

"My Lady Countess," Kelson bowed slightly and raised me up.  "I greatly regret disturbing your sleep at this hour.   Truthfully we have been working in the Curia chamber for so long I hadn't fully appreciated how late it was.  But I wanted you to hear the news I bring before it spread too far – even in a city word travels quickly."  He glanced pointedly at the servants still milling around in the background.

"Sister Luke, Miriam, Alice - you may go.  I shall be quite safe here with His Majesty.  Sister Luke, if you would wait in the antechamber for me, please?"

The three left, exchanging concerned glances.  They had obviously formed their own conclusions about the purpose of this visit.

"Thank you for coming in person, Your Majesty, but I take it from your presence that it is not good news which you bring.  Is it my husband, Sire?"

Kelson dropped his eyes, obviously struggling for the right form of words.

"Yes, my lady, the news concerns your husband, but maybe not in the way you had feared."

Praise be, he is wounded then, not dead.  Or maybe captured.  But he still lives.

I swallowed uncomfortably, "Pray continue, Your Majesty.  Whatever the news, I will bear it with fortitude, but please do not keep me in suspense."

Kelson looked me in the eye and continued. "We have received news tonight, my lady, that your husband met up with the forces of Duke Jared of Cassan at Rengarth yesterday, and that his army treacherously fell upon those of Cassan and Kierney.  Many of the Cassani troops were captured or slaughtered and Duke Jared himself is taken - we do not know if he still lives."  Kelson paused a moment, "My lady, your husband's forces were wearing the stag of Furstán under their Marley colours.  Bran Coris has allied with Wencit against us."

I hardly heard the last sentences.  After the King's words of treachery my mind started to whirl and I could not take it in.  I stood silently a moment, turning to the window and staring out into the blackness to try to still the chaos of my thoughts.  Had he truly just said that my husband was a traitor?  Riding with Wencit against the loyal men of Cassan?  Bran's troops would follow him into the mouth of Hell, Joseph had said.  They had followed him much further than that.

"Shall I call one of your maidservants, my lady?" asked Kelson, clearly out of his depth.

No, I needed no maidservants, just to compose myself.   Then my thoughts turned to Brendan.  

My son was the heir to a traitor then, and had a stark future ahead of him.  Bran's betrayal of his King was too great to contemplate.  The betrayal of me hurt beyond anything I had ever experienced.  But the betrayal of Brendan who idolised his father and who would have to suffer most the consequences of what his father had done – that was worst of all.  

A single tear fell to the windowsill.  Whatever would become of my poor boy now?

Kelson was speaking again, and I pulled myself together in time to hear "...not hold your husband's treachery against you and your son. You shall have my personal protection for as long as - ".

He was interrupted by a short, urgent knock at the door.  

"Kelson?" the voice outside the door was somehow familiar.

The King opened the door and a tall, blond man entered.  He gave me the briefest of acknowledgements, not really seeing me, and turned to start talking urgently to Kelson.  The two of them bent over a letter and discussed its contents animatedly.

Then my world turned upside down, for here in my dayroom was 'Alain the hunter' - the man who had assisted in pushing my carriage out of the mud near St Torin's some months before.  So my feeling that he was associated with the Duke of Corwyn was likely, then, but he must be high placed indeed to call the King by his given name, and to enter with scarcely any acknowledgement of him.  

The King remembered my presence.  "My lady, you will pardon me, this is important news."

He looked up then, my stranger, and I could see from his face that he remembered me too and that he was as confused and distracted as I was.  He took an involuntary step towards me then stopped, swept into a rather more accomplished bow than Alain the hunter had managed and murmured, "My lady".

What did we say then?  I can scarcely remember, as it was just so wonderful to be speaking to him again, and when he said that he had seen me in his dreams, it was as if he echoed my own thoughts, for my dreams had been haunted since Saint Torin's by a man with grey eyes.

At that moment all thoughts of my husband fled from my mind, for it seemed to me that I had been waiting for this man for all my life.  And the most glorious thing of all was that it appeared that he was reacting in a similar way.

Then the King introduced us and it all fell into place, for it had been no Corwyn retainer who had put shoulder to wheel at Saint Torin's, but the Duke of Corwyn himself.  A Deryni like me but openly, even brazenly so.  Could this captivating man really be the Alaric Morgan whom Bran had hated so much?

But then I watched his face as he heard my name, and though he tried to conceal it, I saw the flicker of reaction when he learned who I was – and to whom I was married.  He hid it well, but the emotion was there, however he tried to cover it up with another courtly bow.  Suddenly I wanted him to think well of me, not to think of my husband and their disagreements, or of Bran's treachery, but to know me for my own sake.  I wanted him to like me.  

Had I really thought that? I looked over as he explained the circumstances of our meeting to a clearly bemused Kelson, and realised that, yes, I genuinely had.  I tried to push the idea firmly to the back of my mind.  Here I was, a married woman, albeit now of questionable status – I should not be having these thoughts about a man not my husband.  

Yet I had been intrigued by the man at the shrine and unable to get him out of my thoughts, and now that he was here I had to admit that I found him fascinating and... yes... disturbingly attractive.  I began to feel a giddiness that had nothing to do with the lateness of the hour or the shocking news I had just received.

My head told me that I could never trust Bran again and that even if the King were to spare his life Bran's influence in Gwynedd was at an end.  But my heart replied that I had to fight for him, for Brendan's sake, even if to be seen to support Bran was repugnant to me.  If my son was not to lose his inheritance and to be branded forever the son of a traitor, his best hope was for Bran to renounce Wencit and return to Kelson.  

But could he ever be forgiven, even if repentant, with the blood of Cassan and Kierney on his hands?

Suddenly I knew that I had to go with the King when his army left Dhassa.  If I were with the King's party, then I would know what was happening, maybe almost as soon as the King himself did.  After all, I had only been told of Bran's treachery tonight as I was in the same city as the King - had I been in Marbury the news could have taken days to reach me.  I had to know - being left behind not knowing which side had prevailed would be unendurable.  

There was another reason too, that I began to admit to myself.  A little voice whispered in my head that having just found him, being parted from Morgan would be unendurable too; I could not let him disappear from my life so soon.

The King and Morgan made to depart and I made another of those impulsive decisions that mark my life.

"A moment, Sire."

I had to accompany the King and his army, wherever that might take me, and I had a feeling that if I appealed to the King now, Morgan might take my part.  It had felt as if we had reached out to each other somehow, he and I, and although I might dance dangerously close to the edge of what would be considered honourable, I had to see where that path would lead.  

I took a deep breath and tried to keep my voice level, for I could hear it tremble and I felt sure that they could too.  I folded my hands and once more I knelt to my king.  This time it was to make an extraordinary request, for I knew as well as he how unusual it would be for a Countess to accompany the army, far less my son, for I would never leave him behind.

"Sire, grant me a boon, I beseech you."

He was startled, that much was clear, and he did his best to dissuade me before raising me to my feet again, but I can be determined and I was not backing down, not even to the King.  Finally he gave in on condition that my uncle agreed to me travelling with him.  I hoped desperately that Uncle Thomas would see how much this meant to Brendan and me, although he doubtless had enough arrangements of his own to make without any extra concerns.

As Morgan left, I could feel his eyes on me although I kept my own downcast.

I had to force myself not to look up.  If I had met those grey eyes at that moment, as vulnerable as I was and with my emotions so high, I could have let my shields waver and I was not ready to let him know that I was Deryni.  Not yet.

Even as he let out a perplexed sigh, my mind screamed at me to meet his gaze, let my shields fall away and enter rapport with him – to show him what I was feeling.  But he turned away and shut the door.  And the danger passed.  For the moment.

http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=628.0  Chapter 16


Ah yes, walking along that dangerous path on the very edge of a cliff - which might crumble any moment ...

QuoteAnd the danger passed.  For the moment.
Yes - for another day or so!  ;)

Nice turn of phrase about bad news coming in the dark. Yes, you don't usually get woken up for good news  :(


Yes, the moment to reveal one's self would have to wait for another time.  Which is what happened at the site of the temporary transfer portal.

I have always wondered how Bran's entire army was persuaded to join Wencit.  Was it just their loyalty to Bran or did Wencit somehow enchant Bran's men?
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


KK has said it was loyalty to Bran, see here

My speculations/ramblings on this will follow in due course.


Short answer: What KK said.  :D

Longer answer:  Oaths of fealty were to one's direct overlord, and for most of the men of Marley, if not all, that would be to Bran directly.  Bran, in turn, had oaths of fealty to his overlord, the King of Gwynedd, so indirectly his men would owe fealty to Kelson through him; however, once he changed his allegiance to Wencit, Bran's men's fealty would still be owed directly to him, so by default they too would have changed over to supporting Wencit's side.

To avoid situations of this sort, of course, a lot of men in dual-overlord relationship ended up swearing vows of fealty with phrases added in like "I, ___, will be your loyal man in all things, excepting what duties I owe to X, my King" (or whomever), precisely so that such conflicts of interest could be better avoided and the chain of command made clearer.  If Bran's knights, who swore fealty to him directly for their lands in his demesne, also had sworn vows to Kelson, then if they later followed Bran into battle against Kelson, they'd be considered as traitors to the Crown just as Bran was, because they'd sworn direct vows to the Crown of Gwynedd.  But if they had only sworn fealty to Bran, expecting that Bran would remain Kelson's loyal man, but that later changed and they followed him in battle against Kelson because that's where their primary allegiance was sworn (whether they agreed with his decision or not), then they aren't guilty of treason, because they were loyal to their liegelord.  They'd have been guilty of treason against Bran if they broke their vows with him.  It's a "rock and a hard place" situation, and Kelson would know this, which I suspect is one reason he didn't have mass executions of Marley men and just went after Bran (so far as we know from what's shown in the books, anyway).

And as for the peasant levies, they'd not have the option of swearing homage to Kelson directly at all, so they'd be following their Earl no matter what King he happened to be fighting for on any given day.

"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!


Exactly.  And that is why England and France were able to consolidate themselves into nations fairly early while Germany and Italy didn't do so until the 19th C.  The Kings of England and France were able to break the power of the regional dukes and counts and bind the whole country to them; the Holy Roman Emperor was not able to do that with the German and Italian States.  (The historian's joke--the Holy Roman Empire wasn't holy, wasn't Roman, and wasn't an empire.)

That's why the United States under the Philadelphia Constitution was so counterintuitive from the European standpoint.  The idea of a decentralized federation not falling apart, the individual member-states thinking of their own interests before those of the federation as a whole, was madness--any European political scientist would have pointed to the Holy Roman Empire as an example of why that was NOT the way to go.  But we made it work; more or less.  200-odd years--some very odd indeed--and counting.


Quote from: Evie on January 03, 2011, 07:00:22 PM
It's a "rock and a hard place" situation, and Kelson would know this, which I suspect is one reason he didn't have mass executions of Marley men and just went after Bran (so far as we know from what's shown in the books, anyway).

I'm guessing that he would have them each declare under truthreading by Alaric that he (a) only followed Bran because his oath required it and (b) personally disagreed with the decision.  Those who could make such a declaration would be required to swear to Richenda and Brendan with the clause above; those who could not would be given safe-conduct out of Gwynned.