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A Leap of Faith - Chapter 21

Started by AnnieUK, January 09, 2011, 11:03:18 AM

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July 2nd
Llyndruth Plain

Would I have been summoned anyway, or did Uncle Thomas remind Kelson of my presence?  Either way, a squire soon appeared at my tent to escort me to the King's pavilion.  Sister Luke took charge of Brendan once more promised to take him for a walk around the area occupied by the ecclesiastical armies – the poor boy was going crazy cooped up in a tent for so long.

Kelson was dictating a letter as I was shown in, his clerk writing feverishly as the young king paced the room, his circlet discarded on the desk nearby, "...second day of July 1121 and so on and so forth."

I sank into a deep curtsey as I entered and Kelson broke from his pacing to say, "My lady Richenda, pray excuse me a moment – I have riders ready to take these letters and I want them on their way as soon as possible.  Please, take a seat."  

The second day of July?  I counted the days in my head.  Yes, it must be.  I had forgotten the date in the whirlwind of events of the last few days.  What fate had made Bran meet his death on the day that Rhiannon would have had her second birthday?  My eyes brimmed with tears and my throat constricted with the effort of suppressing them.  I would not cry in front of the King – I simply wouldn't.

"So that's Duke Ewan notified of today's events," said Kelson returning to his clerk.  He signed the letter, adding his elaborate flourish at the bottom.  "Make a copy for Rhemuth before you seal it and bring the copy back to me for signing.  If you would see my squire on your way out and get him to ask His Grace of Corwyn to attend us."  

Kelson turned his attention to me.  "My lady, before we proceed I want to assure you that today's events were of great personal regret to me.  As you know, my father and I both valued Bran's support and counsel.  I want you to know that I intend to keep the promises I made regarding Brendan becoming Earl of Marley in due course, and you and he will remain under my personal protection for the time being.  I understand that Bishop Cardiel has spoken to you about your immediate plans, and I wanted to reassure you that you won't be rushed into anything.  Take all the time you need."

"Thank you, Your Majesty.  You have been more generous than I could have expected, in the circumstances."  The kindness in his voice touched me and my own voice wavered as I spoke, bringing me perilously close to the tears I didn't want to shed.

He drew a package wrapped in a cloak from beneath his desk.  "This was retrieved from your husband's tent by the Duke of Corwyn.  He thought you might want it for Brendan when he is old enough."

I opened the folds of the cloak.  Inside were Bran's sword and dagger, with the Marley crest inset into the pommel of each.  I was glad they were wrapped – they screamed to me of death and destruction and I would not have wanted to hold them in my bare hands.  "Thank you for the thought, sire, but this sword is tainted by the blood of the loyal men of Kierney and Cassan.  With your permission, I will take the dagger, for Brendan loved his father dearly, and I would like to have something of Bran's to pass on to him.  But he will have his own sword and God willing it will only be used to defend Gwynedd, never to harm her."

Kelson nodded his approval, and picked something up from the table.  "We took this from your husband's hand.  You will recognise it, I think."  The seal of Marley lay on the King's palm.  "I shall keep it safe for now.  Marley will be taken into crown control pending the establishment of a regency council which I intend you to head on your son's behalf.  We shall appoint several good men to assist you."

"Thank you, sire."

"Kelson?"  Alaric came into the tent, dishevelled and tired-looking.  He appeared briefly surprised to see me, but bowed slightly, "My lady."  He wouldn't meet my gaze, and I hardly wanted him to, for fear that he would think my tears were for Bran.  I didn't see how Kelson could be unaware of the tension in the air. Bran's death hung between us like a shroud.

"Ah, Morgan.  Her ladyship will take the dagger for her son, but she has declined the sword.  Could you see to its disposal, please?"

"I believe the burial of Rhydon of Eastmarch and the Earl of Marley is to take place shortly, sire.  Maybe the sword could be interred with him?"

Kelson looked at me for confirmation, and I nodded slightly.  "So be it, then.  Lady Richenda, while I have guaranteed the safety of the majority of the Marley men, you have mentioned the atrocities against Cassan and Kierney yourself.  It is entirely possible that some of Bran's commanders were not entirely blameless in these matters.  When Morgan retrieved Brendan from the Torenthi camp, your son was in the care of one of Bran's men."  He looked at Alaric, who supplied the name.

"Joseph, sire.  The Earl of Marley's clerk, I believe.  He asked to speak with her ladyship."  Alaric was coolly formal.

Dear faithful Joseph.  I was glad that Brendan had been with someone familiar, at least.

"His Grace and I have certain... abilities at our disposal when it comes to establishing guilt and innocence in such cases," Kelson continued, "however Joseph may be able to provide that information without recourse to these measures.  Would you be prepared to talk to him and see what you can find out?  We would bring no pressure to bear on Joseph, believe me, and would only hear information freely parted with."

I knew the abilities to which he was referring to, of course, and though Alaric kept his face carefully neutral, it crossed my mind that I might tell Kelson my secret, too.  

Should I tell him? A mental touch and a quick thought sent mind to mind.

Alaric's face flickered briefly.  It might make things easier.  It will show you will be open with him, and you can trust him implicitly.

Very well.

"Your Majesty, I would like to speak to Joseph.  If I could find out from him why Bran did what he did it might make it easier for me to understand, and to explain to Brendan when he is older.  I am familiar with the abilities of which you speak, and have access to them myself.  I would be willing to use them in your service, sire, if you should bid me do it."

Kelson looked confused for a moment, and then looked from me to Alaric.  "My lady..." he paused for a moment – speaking mind to mind with Alaric? – and then asked gently, "Are you Deryni, my lady?"

Was it really less than a day since Father Duncan had asked me the exact same thing?  "I am, sire, and willing to use my talents to serve you, as I say."

"Who else knows of this?  Morgan, I presume," he raised an eyebrow at the duke, "since despite his legendary self-control I would have expected at least some small reaction to the discovery of a Deryni in our midst, and he has shown not one speck of surprise at your news."  He looked curiously at Alaric, then back at me, as if a glimmer of understanding was starting to form in his mind.

"His Grace knows, sire.  Father Duncan does also, since I confided in him when Brendan was taken from me.  I... heaven forgive me, sire, but I tried to kill Bran with my powers rather than allow him to take my son."

Alaric's self-control failed him then, as he and Kelson exchanged shocked glances at my news.  I wondered again who had struck the killing blow – almost certainly one of these two.  I guessed another quick mental exchange took place then, the two obviously as used to working together as I was with my family.  

"And Bishop Cardiel?  Bishop Arilan?"

"They do not, sire, and since the secret was not mine to divulge, but concerns my whole family, I would ask that they not be told yet."

"Of course.   Morgan will arrange for you to speak with Joseph.  And now, Morgan, I need you to establish which detachment of Torenthis is most ready to be sent home – I want the first lot to disperse through Cardosa tomorrow.  If you will excuse us, my lady, we still have much to do before we can all get back to our own beds."
The funeral for Bran and Rhydon was low-key.  Their bodies were placed in a grave on a knoll near where they had fallen.  Bran's sword was beside him – Alaric had fulfilled that task, I noted.  Uncle Thomas said the words necessary to commit them to their maker to face His judgement and no more.  No orations and no tears shed, just a couple of men ready to fill the grave when the rituals were complete, and then to mark the spot so that a slab might be laid there later.  It was a wildly beautiful spot, with the mountains rearing up behind it and the plain before it, but I couldn't imagine that anyone would come to this place to remember the two who laid here.  

No-one came for me that afternoon, and dusk was falling as the outer flap of the tent was drawn back.  Casting out, I could sense Alaric's now familiar presence, but he felt troubled to me – even more than he had been the night before – and so desperately tired I wondered how he was still upright.

"I've escaped for a few minutes," he said with a groan, sinking into the camp chair and ruefully regarding his dusty boots and clothes.  "Kelson has had me run ragged all day.  We are letting the first lot of Torenthis leave tomorrow.  We want to stagger their departure, rather than have hundreds of men all on the road at once."  He drew his fingers through his hair, leaving him even more unkempt.  The day's events had taken their toll on him, it appeared.

I pressed a goblet of wine into his hand.  "Have you eaten?  Can I send for anything for you?"

"Mouthfuls here and there.  I'll eat properly with Kelson and Duncan later.  This will keep me going for now."  He raised his goblet, and drank deeply.   Then he looked up sadly, cool grey eyes meeting mine.  "Bran and I had our differences, but I never thought it would come to this.  I'm sorry."

Sorry for Bran's death?  Or for his part in it?   I rested my hand on his arm.  "Don't be."  I gently touched his mind, sending reassurance through the link.  He had to believe whatever had happened didn't change anything, at least for me.  "Bran chose his path and it led to his death as surely as if he had met the executioner's blade or the hangman's noose.  I don't need to know who struck the killing blow.  Maybe someday, but not now."

He drew his fingers across his eyes, using a gesture I recognised as a fatigue-banishing spell and sighed deeply.  "I can't stay long, there is still a lot to do, and I want to keep an eye on Duncan."

"How is he?"

"Coping... just."  He shook his head sorrowfully.  "He is busy, as we all are, and as long as he keeps going he will be fine, I think.  But when he stops... I don't know.  He is a fraying a little around the edges and when he has time to dwell on what has happened, I think I should be there, just in case.  I'm planning on pouring some wine down his throat, letting him talk if he wants to and then knocking him out for the night – I can't see him sleeping much otherwise.  I suspect I may do similar for Kelson too."

"So who will help you sleep?  I would, but I think being seen coming out of the Duke of Corwyn's tent late at night might cause tongues to wag."  I needed to see him smile and my mischievous quip served its purpose as a flicker of a smile crossed his face.

"Better that way than being seen going in but not coming out."  Alaric chuckled and refilled his goblet.  "I'm planning a quiet evening with a couple of jugs of wine.  That should see me right.  Nigel might even join me so I don't have to drink alone.  I'm sorry, I'd love to come back later, but I think I would be poor company tonight."

"Don't worry."  I knew that Duncan was second only to the king in Alaric's loyalties, and that the Deryni priest would be facing his own demons at the moment.  And whatever had happened in the warded circle had left its mark on Alaric – he needed to spend time with Kelson and Duncan, talking it through if they needed to, or just being with the other people who had experienced it too.

Someone coughed outside the tent and Alaric cocked his head to one side, sending a mental probe beyond the walls.  "It's Duncan," he murmured, "I've been tracked down."

Duncan too wore an air of tired resignation but managed a smile when he saw Alaric.  "Kelson's been asking for you and when his squire didn't find you in any of the expected places, I volunteered to look.  One advantage of being in on your secret is that I could make a better guess at where you might be hiding than the squire could."  He bowed to me.  "Excuse me, my lady, I have to drag my wayward cousin back to his duties."

Alaric drained the rest of his wine and dragged himself to his feet.  He gave a last regretful glance at the chair and the jug of wine, and squared his shoulders.  "Can I see you tomorrow?"

"Of course."  Look after Kelson and Duncan tonight, but try to remember to look after yourself too.

I will.

Father Duncan watched us with a smile playing about his lips – could he tell that mindspeech was passing between us?   "I should have known after ten years or more of waiting for Alaric to fall for someone, that when he did it would be fast and in unusual circumstances."  His eyes twinkled with mirth, then he turned to Alaric.  "I'll be off back to the King's tent, then.  Don't take too long about following me."  It seemed we could count on him to be discreet.

After he had left, Alaric took my hand and asked, "Did the King tell you of his plans for the regency council?"

"He did and he is being most generous, but I still can't help worrying that he may change his mind – decide I would be safer to him in a convent and Brendan fostered to some loyal house."  I gripped Alaric's hand with an anxiety born of fear for my son and his future.  "If that should happen, swear to me that you will take Brendan, teach him what you know of Deryni ways and raise him faithful to the king – help him restore some honour to the name of Coris."  

"I swear it.  Brendan will come to Coroth if needs be.  But I also swear to you that the King will keep his word and that you are worrying yourself unnecessarily."  He raised my hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly, a glint of amusement in his grey eyes.  "And now I must go, or that selfsame King will be sending Duncan out with an armed guard to bring me back."  A brush of his lips to my forehead, and he pushed through the tent flap to follow his cousin.

http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=638.0  Chapter 22


Yes, the aftermath of a battle.  Just as stressful as the waiting, and often a lot more painful, physically and emotionally.   

QuoteI still can't help worrying that he may change his mind – decide I would be safer to him in a convent and Brendan fostered to some loyal house.
No my dear, believe me that you are most definitely NOT headed for any convent!  ;)


Poor hurting Richenda!

And poor hurting Duncan too!  I always feel for him so much in this chapter.   :(
"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, it's hard to imagine what it must have been like for Duncan that day, and in the weeks following.  Seeing his father killed like that, and then having to deal with everything, including the remaining Cassan/Kierney forces. 


QuoteNo my dear, believe me that you are most definitely NOT headed for any convent!  ;)

I don't remember the show, but on some TV series the family had an inorrigible daughter, and the parents were considering sending her to a convent school.  One of the neighbors, when he heard the plan, said, "What did those nuns ever do to you?"


Quote from: Alkari on January 09, 2011, 04:34:42 PM
Yes, the aftermath of a battle.  Just as stressful as the waiting, and often a lot more painful, physically and emotionally.   

QuoteI still can't help worrying that he may change his mind – decide I would be safer to him in a convent and Brendan fostered to some loyal house.
No my dear, believe me that you are most definitely NOT headed for any convent!  ;)

Tee hee! Nope! No convent can keep Morgan from his chosen wife.  =o) I doubt Kelson would dare

Poor Duncan. =o(  Amazing that he's even functional to the degree that  he is, right now.  But as Alaric observed, keeping busy must be all that's keeping him going.

You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


Well I figured Duncan wouldn't be allowed the luxury of flaking just yet.  We've seen Duncan able to hold things together pretty well, as he did the Mass for Kevin and Bronwyn (and I wonder how he gets through it every time I read that part :( ).  And Kelson will demand it of him as long as there is stuff needing doing - after all Kelson called Morgan on it pretty fast when Morgan had his self-pitying moment at the end of DC.

Three more chapters to go and then I can go gibber in a corner somewhere! ;)