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A Leap of Faith - Chapter 18

Started by AnnieUK, January 06, 2011, 12:24:39 PM

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July 1st    
Llyndruth Plain

Brendan sleepily reached out his arms for one last cuddle before bedtime.   One final kiss from those rosebud lips and I would have to make him lie down to go to sleep, but he looked past me towards the curtain of the sleeping area and was instantly wide awake again.  His little face lit up and he pulled off the sleeping furs, bouncing up onto his knees on his sleeping pallet.

"Papa?  Have you come to tell me a story?"

I whirled round.  If Bran was here we were all in danger.

A figure stood in the doorway, starting to retreat as if embarrassed to be caught watching us.  Too tall for Bran, thank God.  Alaric?  Heavens, how long had he been there watching?  Had he slipped in past Sister Luke?

Ah well, Brendan was out of bed and awake again, so I took him up in my arms. My word but my boy was growing fast - he was getting heavy for me to lift.  His bare legs dangled as I took him, clad just in his nightgown, closer to where Alaric was standing, still part concealed by the curtain.

"No dear, that isn't your father.  That's Duke Alaric."

Brendan regarded Alaric seriously, and then looked at me for reassurance as children do, for confirmation that this stranger was no danger to him.  I smiled encouragingly and he gave Alaric his appraising look – the one he always gives to new people, which looks like he is sizing them up and memorising every detail about them.  A look that I had seen on Bran's face many times before.  Brendan may look a lot like me, but he has many of his father's ways and mannerisms.

I prodded Brendan a little to remember his manners – Alaric had been suitably taken with Brendan the night before and I didn't want any slip ups tonight to damage his view of my son.  How ever was I to get Brendan off to sleep now?   His routine had been well and truly disturbed and he was unlikely to be keen to get back into bed while there was a visitor in the tent.  I didn't like to make him sleep too frequently, although that was certainly a useful talent when necessary.  
Alaric asked Brendan if he thought I might sing for him again.  Was that what had drawn him in?  In truth, I was a little embarrassed that he had overheard me.  I have heard better singing voices than mine, and plenty much worse, but that song had been meant for Brendan's ears, not Alaric's.  

So I was quietly amused when Brendan asked him for a story.  That clearly wasn't quite what Alaric had planned to happen - serve him right!  But then he looked so awkward that I quite took pity on him.  I gave Brendan a little hug and said, "Perhaps another time, dear.  His grace has had a very busy day, and I'm afraid he's too tired to tell stories to little boys tonight."  

I sent up a little prayer that it wouldn't result in an overtired tantrum from Brendan, but to my surprise Alaric settled himself beside the bed to play the storyteller and Brendan was back into bed and tucked up in no time.  Mothers are all very well, but someone new with a fresh supply of stories is a rare treat.

Alaric ducked Brendan's request for a story about Bran so neatly that Brendan didn't even realise he had been outmanoeuvred, although my heart missed a beat at my son's unfortunate choice.  I watched them from a distance.  They looked so comfortable together, with the blond head and the red-gold one close together, sharing the moment.

"One day Nightwind got out of his paddock and ..."

Alaric kept his voice low so I heard little of the tale, but it was entertaining just watching their faces.  Brendan was clearly enchanted by this story of Kelson's childhood, his gleeful giggles pealing like chimes over the pony's antics and Alaric, well into his stride now, was obviously enjoying it too.  I reminded myself that Alaric had been a friend of Brion's since before Kelson's birth and wondered if he had been required to tell the young Haldane prince stories on occasion – it certainly didn't seem as though it was unfamiliar territory to him.  Alaric Morgan was a man of many surprises, it appeared.

I remembered watching Bran at Brendan's bedside, and felt that familiar tug at my heartstrings at the thought that Brendan might never see his papa again.  If it came to it, would he accept another in his place?

Brendan drifted off, the story still unfinished, and Alaric watched him, content to sit a while at his side while he slept.  Alaric had a curious look on his face, and I wondered what he was thinking - what he saw in my boy that made him so pensive.  He stretched out a hand, gently touching Brendan's forehead and then turned to meet my gaze as I stood in the doorway.  

He held his hand out and I went to him – after last night it seemed natural, even right, to be hand in hand.  He was carefully shielded and I sensed that he did not want to risk a repeat of the mind link we had experienced the previous evening, which had taken us both onto dangerous ground.  We had shared those feelings and accepted them, but for now they must be carefully shuttered away.

"He's Deryni, my lady, you know that."

"I know."

Of course I knew.  Since that first touch of his mind when he was born, I had checked Brendan frequently, not knowing whether to be sad or glad when I detected the first vestiges of shields in his mind.  

"He's much like I was at that age, innocent, vulnerable.  I know the risks involved, but he must be trained.  His secret cannot remain forever, and he must have the means to protect himself."

So he was seeing himself in my son.  I supposed they were similar in many respects, each with a Deryni mother and human father.  From our brief rapport the previous night I knew that Alaric was powerful, but only partly trained at best.  I was determined to see my son well trained in the Deryni ways, and I wondered how Alaric had received his training as a child.  I knew so little about this man, save that he had stolen my heart.  But I did know that Alaric's father had been a king's man through and through, where my son was the son of a traitor.  So similar, and yet so different.

We left Brendan to sleep – Alaric stepping outside first so that I could make sure Brendan was comfortable and give him a last kiss goodnight.  Sister Luke was busying herself in the outer chamber, and I wondered how much she had seen or heard of what had gone on.  It would have been a charming family tableau, had the man in the bedchamber been my husband.  At least she could hardly suspect us of anything dishonourable with a four year old present.

Sister Luke had looked out goblets and wine and by the time I left Brendan and returned to him Alaric had helped himself.  He handed me one of the goblets.

Thoughts of Bran were still on his mind, as they were on mine.  "Bran must die.  You know that."

I know.  I can hardly think of anything else.  "What will become of us, Alaric?  What will become of all of us?"  My hand trembled and the fear crept in.  Fear for him, and for Brendan and me.  We had been terrified earlier when noise erupted from the lines, and we had clung to each other for comfort, fearing the worst.

"We were scared this morning.  All that noise - the yelling and the banging of shields – we thought it was the battle starting." I stared into the wine, remembering the stomach-churning fear I had experienced at those voices raised in anger.  I wondered how he could bear to be at the front of it, knowing what was to come. "It suddenly struck me how stupid I had been, bringing Brendan here.  If things go badly when the battle comes, anything could happen to him."

"Battle won't come.  At least, not in the way you mean.  There were parleys today, with Wencit and his henchmen, and things have changed a lot since last night."

His henchmen?  I had to ask the next question, but I couldn't meet Alaric's gaze while I asked it.  

"Did you see Bran?"

"Yes, I saw him," I could feel him looking steadily at me, "he was with Wencit at the parley."

"How did he seem to you?" and then softly, "Did he say anything about me?"

"No, my lady.  Bran didn't say anything about you."

Why did I get the feeling that he wasn't telling me everything?  His body language was tense and he was picking his words carefully, almost as if he were worried that I would truth read him.  I was in no mood to play games with him.

"Alaric, there is something you aren't telling me.  If it's something about Brendan or me I need to know.  Why did you say battle wouldn't come the way I expected it?  People here hardly even want to speak to me, so when you visit you can at least tell me what is happening out there.  Anything that affects you affects me too, after last night, so don't say it's nothing to do with me."

He looked startled by my outburst, and moved to take my hand gently in his own.

"Richenda, I'm sorry.  I can't get away any more than I do.  And the king needs me."

"I know that, and I don't expect you to take time away from your duties to see me.  But you are here now and you're still not telling me anything."  I took a deep breath and looked entreatingly up at him.  "Please, Alaric."

The tense shoulders slumped slightly, and he took a long draught of his wine.  He went to refill his goblet and waved the flagon at me in question, but I shook my head.  I had barely touched mine.  

"A lot happened today, and not much of it was good.  We rode out to a parley with Rhydon of Eastmarch and Lionel, Wencit's brother-in-law, but we didn't agree to... what they proposed.  They brought my aide the Earl of Derry out to parade him as a prisoner."

So this was the sadness I detected in him, was it?  The loss of a friend.

"As we returned to our ranks they executed some prisoners."  He sighed.  "Richenda, one of them was Duncan's father, Duke Jared of Cassan.  He was taken prisoner after the battle at Rengarth.  They hanged him, Richenda - him and many other noblemen - right in full view of our lines.  That was what the noise was about, to start with."  He took another long draught of wine.

"Did they... did they hang Lord Derry?"

"They didn't get the chance.  I rode Lionel and Rhydon down and snatched him from under their noses."  

"You did what?"

"Rush of blood to the head, I suppose."  A rueful grin. "Don't look at me like that, my lady.  Kelson had a few choice words for me in private afterwards.  I wasn't going to let Wencit do that to him though.  Derry deserves better."

"So what happens now?"

"There won't be a battle - at least, not a normal one.   It will be settled by a duel arcane.  Four on each side, to the death, winner takes all."

"So that will be you and Kelson and Duncan and... Uncle Thomas?"  In the absence of a fourth Deryni, my uncle was the most senior clergyman with us.

He shook his head.  "Denis Arilan.  And on the other side Wencit, Lionel, Rhydon and Bran."

So my worst fears would be realised.  Rather than Alaric and my husband fighting on opposing armies, they would be facing each other across a warded circle.  How would things be between us if Alaric had to kill Bran, not with a sword in his hand, but by Deryni magic?  So much riding on these eight men.    

The end game approached.  One king would soon be toppled, but where would we be at the start of the next game?  Lined up or swept off the board?  

Let us at least have this one moment, I thought.  Even if this is all I have of him, it will have been worth it.  I met Alaric's gaze and could tell that he was feeling the same way, and all thoughts of keeping an honourable distance crumbled away.

A brush from his mind, of longing and needing.  He was close now – closer than he had ever been.  My whole body trembled as his lips met mine, gently at first and then more urgently.  The light in the tent dimmed as our minds touched despite our best intentions, making my head spin and leaving me breathless.  Nothing had ever been like this before – so intense, so perfect - and I felt safe and secure for those moments in his arms.  In that instant I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted this man - whatever had to take place for that to happen.

I don't know who drew back first, but we stared intently at each other, each shaken and overwhelmed by our feelings.  I knew he wanted to stay, and I wanted him to, so desperately, but we both knew that things must be done correctly, with no stain to either's honour, and that we had already gone as far as we dared, and further than we should.

My heart was still pounding as he held my hands in his and gently kissed my fingertips, sending shivers through me once again, and I knew he was about to leave.

Come back to me.   Please God, let him come safely back to me.

I intend to.  A hint of amusement in my mind.

I was amazed how natural mindspeak was with him.

I'm sorry, I have to go.

One last mental caress and he turned and quietly left.  

So it ends tomorrow, one way or the other.  God help us all.

http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=633.0  Chapter 19


Yay!  Just one more chapter of trying to work around KK's dialogue (and I've filled in the words spoken and wine drunk gap, since if I had been Richenda I'd have been going bonkers sitting in that tent not knowing what the heck was going on outside) and then I get to play a bit more freely ;)  And bear with me, we're almost there. :D


Will we get the scene where she tries to incinerate Bran?


oh yes, so you get her using her powers against someone at LAST ;)

maybe she could turn him into a frog and then incinerate him? :D


I've heard frog legs are pretty good....

*Richenda licks fingers*  "Hm, I think I like my late husband better this way...."

OK, perhaps not.   Ew.   :D

"You did what?" -- LOL!   ;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!


QuoteIt would have been a charming family tableau, had the man in the bedchamber been my husband.  At least she could hardly suspect us of anything dishonourable with a four year old present.
Yes, even asleep a four year old can make a very effective chaperone!    Though I wonder what Sister Luke is already thinking about them ...

And Richenda says she doesn't like frogs' legs, toasted or roasted! ;) 


Well in the book there is no indication that she knows he is there until Alaric emerges from the bedchamber and blushes when he sees her, so I think she's got a pretty shrewd idea what's going on.


And being a very nice and diplomatic sister, says nothing.    I've always wondered whether she ever says anything to Richenda after they leave Llyndruth Meadows, and what she eventually thinks / says when Richenda ends up marrying Alaric the following year ;)

Ah yes, the three wise monkeys ....


It's about time for the magic (bleep) to hit the fan!  Maybe we will find out what happened to the fake Camberian Council witnesses.  KK only said that they were dealt with, but no details were provided.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


Quote from: Evie on January 06, 2011, 01:13:15 PM
I've heard frog legs are pretty good....

*Richenda licks fingers*  "Hm, I think I like my late husband better this way...."

OK, perhaps not.   Ew.   :D

"You did what?" -- LOL!   ;D

Plenty of women end up devouring their husbands.  Psychologically, if not physically.

"I'll ask the wife."  "Yes, dear."


Quote from: derynifanatic64 on January 06, 2011, 06:08:56 PM
It's about time for the magic (bleep) to hit the fan!  Maybe we will find out what happened to the fake Camberian Council witnesses.  KK only said that they were dealt with, but no details were provided.

Sorry, this is from Richenda's POV and she knows nothing about the fakes.  She sees the real CC arrive, but didn't know there was any treachery afoot and afterwards she and Alaric have other things to talk about.  I assume they were "dealt with" by the CC anyway, not Kelson and Co.