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The Least of These--Foreword and Part One

Started by Evie, March 28, 2011, 09:55:35 AM

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Author's Foreword: 

This story began with a Transfer Portal.  More specifically, it began with my need for a Transfer Portal in Stavenham.

In my story
Possessed, I needed a Transfer Portal somewhere in the Kheldish Riding, conveniently enough located to my villain's barony of Caerdraig that it could be used for the occasional journey to or from that area, yet not so conveniently located that my villain would be likely to discover it.  Stavenham seemed the most logical place for such a Portal to exist, and in the beginning I simply placed this Portal in Stavenham Cathedral and called it a day.

But, as it turned out, Stavenham Cathedral wasn't on the
Deryni Magic list of cathedrals known or even suspected to have had a Transfer Portal back in Camber's day.  So, I wondered, should I assume they had one anyway, or just change the Portal to one on private property—perhaps someone's personal home Transfer Portal that had been built centuries ago, during the beginnings of the Deryni Persecutions?  But if I did that, how would my Kelson-era Arilans ever find out about its existence?

This story had another origin as well.  Back during my childhood, when I was around seven, I remember reading a short biography of Harriet Tubman and being inspired by her heroic actions as a conductor in the Underground Railroad, helping many runaway slaves across the northern US border to safety in Canada in the pre-Civil War days.  Not only was she courageous, she drove an underground train!!! (At seven, I was still a bit unclear on the concept.)  A few years later, I was introduced to the film and the book The Hiding Place, about the Ten Boom family who saved the lives of several Jewish refugees during the dark days of WW II in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.  What if there had been similar men and women of courage in the days of the Regents and the Custodes Fidei—people who risked their lives in order to save as many Deryni as they could?  What if these people were not even Deryni themselves, but were motivated by their love for all mankind, despite their differences?

So this is a story about how and why a private Transfer Portal just happened to be located in a garden shrine to Saint Catulina in Stavenham, and how this Portal could have gained enough significance for its location to be remembered and passed down through two centuries of Deryni persecution, so it could still be usable (despite the occasional hiccup) in 1133.  This story is dedicated to those men and women of courage and compassion who have dedicated their lives to serving others in need throughout the ages.


"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'"
Matthew 25: 37-40

The Least of These

   Part One

   May 23, 918
   Ivygreen House, Stavenham

   We sat, my sisters and I, listening attentively as Papa read to us a passage from our family's Book of Hours.  It was the passage from the Gospel of the Lord that had been read at Stavenham Cathedral earlier that morning. "Tunc respondebunt ei iusti dicentes, 'Domine, quando te vidimus esurientem et pavimus sitientem et dedimus tibi potum?  Quando autem te vidimus hospitem et colleximus te aut nudum et cooperuimus?  Aut quando te vidimus infirmum aut in carcere et venimus ad te?' Et respondens rex dicet illis, 'Amen dico vobis quamdiu fecistis uni de his fratribus meis minimis mihi fecistis.'" Papa closed the book containing the Holy Writ, kissing the cover reverently.  "The Word of the Lord," he added.

   "Thanks be to God," we chimed in, as was our habit during our daily devotional and study time.

   Papa's keen blue eyes turned to Rose then, the eldest of us sisters.  "Well, Rose, what lesson does today's passage hold for us?"  Rose was my elder by almost two years, due to turn eighteen on Midsummer Day, and of all of us she was the most apt pupil, her Latin scholarship miles above the rest of ours save Papa's.  My own understanding of that ancient language was adequate, though I still struggled with the grammar of it.  I was eager to hear Rose's explication, knowing I would be called upon to double-translate the text on my own later.  Translating the Latin text into Gwyneddan and then the Gwyneddan back into Latin was Papa's preferred way of teaching us Latin studies, and I hated it.  Thankfully I hadn't shown enough progress in the language yet for Papa to try introducing me to Greek, as he'd done with Rose earlier in the year. 

   As for Pippa, well, at just-turned-eleven she was young yet, and barely able to struggle through the Latin primers we older sisters had passed down to her.  But she would learn—we all had—for Papa held that educated daughters would make good marriages, and that if we but had a good education and chose our husbands with care, and raised our children to love God and serve mankind according to their talents, our sons could well aspire to rise in their fortunes one day, for scholars were much sought after in the courts of noblemen.  Perhaps, someday, a man of the McTavish blood, though bearing his father's name, might even rise far enough above his humble merchant-class origins to serve in the Court of the Haldane Kings.

   "Do you want me to translate it verbatim, Papa, or shall I just sum up?" Rose asked.  I suppressed a wince.  I had hoped she'd simply translate it; that would have made my afternoon lessons much easier.  But Papa, after glancing at me with a twinkle in his eye, shook his head.  "A summation would do nicely, sweeting.  You wouldn't want to do Elena's work for her."

   "I'd like that," I muttered.  Pippa giggled.  I stuck my tongue out at her.

   "Darling, don't do that," Mama said, looking up from her needlework to arch her brows reprovingly at me.  "You're a woman grown now, and it hardly sets a good example for Philippa."  A dimple twitched in one soft cheek.  "Besides, dear, if you keep making faces so, you might well wake up one morning and find your features stuck in that position."  She nodded her head towards Rose.  "Attend to your sister now."

   I subsided, turning towards my elder sister, who gave my father a long-suffering glance and continued.  "The Gospel says we should tend to those who are less fortunate than ourselves," Rose answered him, "for when we do so, it is as if we are rendering good service to the King.  Or to be more accurate, since this is a parable, towards God."

   "Well, it's the same thing, isn't it?" asked Pippa.  "The King is God's anointed ruler, so if we serve the King, we serve God, I should think.  Or, since the King's just a boy yet, if we obey the Regents."

   Papa caught Mama's eye over the table.  "Nicely reasoned, Philippa, and would that it held true in every case.  Fortunately much of the time it does—or at least, men are only rarely in a position where, in order to obey the King's Laws, they'd have to disobey God's commandments.  It can happen, though, for Kings and Regents are men, and men are subject to human nature and are therefore fallible. In which case, I suppose one who were to find himself in such a difficult position would serve both best by serving God first and foremost, then submitting himself before the King and pleading his case in hopes that the King and his Lords Regent will see their error and show leniency."

   "Not that it always works out that way, not that I suppose that's his fault, God save the poor lad," muttered Mama, her needle working furiously. 

   "Adela...."  Papa gave Mama a warning look, and she subsided.  I wondered what it was that they weren't saying, but Mama, seeing the question in my eyes, gave me a slight shake of the head and tilted her head towards Pippa.  Clearly, whatever her concern was, it wasn't a subject she wished me to pursue while younger ears were around.


   The afternoon slipped past without giving me any opportunity to ask Mama what she had meant by her statement. I soon forgot to pursue the question, caught up as I was in my lessons, but eventually I finished the task.  I slipped the book of waxed tablets into my pouch and went to look for Papa.  He was nowhere to be found, though Eglantine, one of our new kitchen maids, pointed to the back garden.  "E's off tae supervise th' buildin'," she told me.

   I slipped around to the back of the house, wandering down the garden path to the rear of our courtyard garden.  Our gardeners, under Mama's supervision, had planted such a glorious profusion of flowering plants and herbs, both ornamental and medicinal, that our courtyard had become the pride of Stavenham over the years, or at least of our small portion of the town.  The central fountain provided a peaceful counterpoint to the bustle of noise coming from the nearby port.  I followed one of the pebble-paved walkways bordering the plant beds until I came to the northeastern corner of the courtyard, where Papa was supervising the building of our latest addition to the garden.  At the moment, it resembled a hollow pile of mortared rocks more than anything else.

   "What's it meant to be?" I asked him.

   Papa smiled.  "That's a good question.  What do you think it looks like?"

   I stared at the new feature in bafflement.  "Some sort of a cave?"

   "Very good, Elena.  You're quite close, actually.  Now, what if I were to tell you there will be a small shrine inside once we're done?"

   I studied the structure again with a more critical eye.  "Oh, is it to be a garden grotto, then?  One of the sort you and Mama saw on your travels before Rose was born?"  I'd never actually seen one, though Papa had once brought Mama on some of his business ventures to far-off places when they were newly wed, and she had told me of some of the sights she had seen in various ports in Torenth and the Norselands.  There had been a grotto in some garden in Torenth that she had admired greatly and had hoped to have something similar built in our courtyard someday.  "Whose shrine shall it be, Papa?"

   He gave me a fond smile, a twinkle in his bright eyes.  "Well, since I have three beautiful daughters, two of whom are of marriageable age and one who is swiftly approaching womanhood, I was thinking perhaps a shrine to Saint Catulina would be appropriate.  Though of course your mother shall have her say in the final decision."

   I laughed.  "Isn't Catulina the patron saint of virtuous maidens?"

   Papa grinned.  "Indeed!  I see you've been studying your saints, if not your Latin grammar."  He held out his hand for my tablets, which I handed over to him, and untied the leather lacing binding the tablets together, opening the pages to study the translations I had inscribed on the wax inside.  After a quick perusal of my lesson, he nodded approvingly, and I released the breath I hadn't realized I was holding.  "Not bad work, Elena.  I'll make a scholar of you yet."  He turned as a laborer emerged from the grotto-in-progress and, to my surprise, handed him my tablets.  "Elena, I should like for you to meet Master Rylan, the architect for this fine edifice.  Rylan, my middle daughter Elena.  What think you of her progress?"

   The laborer swept me a surprisingly polished bow before glancing down at my script.  I fought back a blush, wondering what Papa was about, and also wondering whether a common laborer would even know the ancient language I had translated, much less be able to comment knowledgeably about my efforts.  To my surprise, his warm brown eyes scanned the text swiftly, his brows arching slightly as he read.  He handed the tablets back to me with a respectful inclination of his head once he was done.  "Nicely done, Mistress Elena.  I think you may be further along in your Latin than I was at your age."  He grinned.  "My tutors despaired of me at times, I'm afraid."

   I curtseyed, averting my eyes to conceal my surprise.  Obviously he must be more than he seemed, this grotto-designer Papa had hired, if he had been educated in more than the basics of reading and writing in Gwyneddan and totting up simple sums.  I glanced up at my father uncertainly, and he smiled back, doubtless aware of my confusion.  "Master Rylan is a physician by trade, sweeting.  Or, more precisely, a Healer."

   "A...Oh!"  I smiled nervously at the Healer in sudden understanding. He was Deryni, then.  And doubtless fairly high-born—of wealthy merchant stock at the very least, if not of noble blood—since his family had been able to hire tutors for him.  If he'd been fully trained in his craft, then doubtless he'd also been educated at some university, or more likely at Saint Neot's Abbey, that Gabrilite monastery and schola for Healers that had been sacked and burned just a year before at the Regents' command.  I felt ill at ease—not because he was Deryni, for I had known several of their race and did not believe them to be the evil sort of folk that certain churchmen claimed them to be—but because I hardly knew what to say to a man who must have lost much in the reversals of fortune that had swept through the Kingdom of Gwynedd in recent years, especially among his race.  How much this man must have lost, to be stacking stones and mortar in a merchant's garden—even one so well off as my dear Papa—if he'd been trained in a far higher profession!

   I tried to think of something safe to say.  "You don't sound like you were raised in this area, Master Rylan.  From where did your family come?" I asked him.

   The Healer gave me a wry smile.  "Nyford, I'm afraid."

   A chill swept over me.  Even this far north and east, we had heard news of the burning of that distant town nearly two years previously.  Hundreds had perished in the flames that had been set specifically to destroy Deryni homes and properties, foremost among which had been Saint-Camber's-at-Nyford, the abbey dedicated to that Deryni saint.  "Jesú!" I glanced at Papa, then met the Healer's eyes again with an effort, feeling no little shame that such as he had suffered so for something they could hardly help.  After all, no man asked to be born Deryni any more than one asked to be born human.  "I am right glad you got out, then, and hope you prosper well enough here.  Under the circumstances, I mean."  I fought a blush, resolving to keep my mouth shut before I could say anything more to embarrass myself. 


   Evening shadows fell.  We readied ourselves for bed, Papa leading us all in the nightly devotions before we went our separate ways, Papa and Mama up to their bedchamber and my sisters and I to our own.

   Rose peered out the window as she combed the tangles out of Pippa's long hair and prepared to braid it for the night, a wistful smile crossing her features as she studied the house across the street from our own.  The comb got caught in a snarl, tugging at Pippa's ginger hair until she yelped.  "Stop gawking at Jamie's house and mind what you're doing!" Pippa protested, yanking the comb out of Rose's hand, annoyed.

   Rose glanced down apologetically, and closed the shutters with a sigh.  "I'm sorry, pet," she said, blushing fiercely and attending to Pippa's locks more carefully, not allowing herself to be distracted again until the fine strands of flyaway hair were tamed into a smoothly braided queue, a ribbon tied neatly at the end to secure it.  "There you go, then.  Off to bed!"  Pippa complied, giving her face and hands a brief rinse in the basin and stripping down to her chemise, folding her outer garments neatly and leaving them by the door for our maidservant to  bring to the laundress in the morning before hopping under the blanket on her small pallet. 

   Rose turned her attention to me then, tending to my hair then handing me the comb so I could tend to hers.  I carefully ran the ivory teeth through her mass of chestnut curls, wishing I'd been graced with my eldest sister's beautiful tresses instead of my own straight brown locks.  Rose had been acclaimed as one of Stavenham's beauties since she first entered womanhood, and had no lack of admirers, though her own eyes were fixed on only one.

   "You know Papa will never permit Jamie to court you," I whispered, pitching my voice too low for Pippa to hear from her pallet.

   Rose turned troubled brown eyes up at me.  "I know, but there's none other I want.  And there's naught wrong with Jamie; Papa's said so himself.  He thinks Jamie's a good man."

   I set the comb down upon the table, squeezing my sister's hand.  "I know.  Jamie's a right sort, conscientious and hard working, and if there were any fairness in the world, he'd rise far.  But he's Deryni.  It's far too dangerous, wedding one of their sort in these times!  Papa just wants to see you happy and secure, not in constant worry for your future."

   Rose's eyes filled with tears.  "Oh, I know all of Papa's reasons, but I can't help it, Elena, I love Jamie!  And it won't be like this forever—it can't be!  I'm sure the King will put a stop to the burnings and the persecutions once he's of age."

   I released her hand, moving to add my outer garments to the pile Pippa had left near the door.  "I do hope so, Rosie.  I quite like Jamie, and I believe Papa does as well, for all he's forbidden the match.  He doesn't believe the Deryni are all evil any more than all humans are, or he'd not have hired so many.  But even that's taking a bit of a risk, you know, and if you were to wed into a Deryni family...well, is it any wonder Papa fears for your safety, with what's been happening around the Kingdom in places like Nyford and Dolban?

   "Oh, Elena, you don't understand!"  Rose shot me an exasperated look as she crossed our small chamber, tossing her clothing onto the pile before coming to sit on our shared bed.  "I would gladly die for Jamie!  And he's being cautious; do you think he wants to draw undue attention to himself and his family?"

   I snorted.  "A romantic enough sentiment, being willing to die for him, but if Jamie has any love for you and a smattering of common sense in his head, he'd much rather you live in safety instead, and he'll stop making eyes at you!  At least until things settle down a bit more...if they do."  I had a less optimistic view than Rose regarding how long the anti-Deryni hostilities would last.  My older sister far outshone me in her linguistic studies, but she had little interest in history, nor much interest in the tidbits of news that reached our corner of the world from faraway cities like Rhemuth.  But I had listened to Papa's stories of the injustices visited upon humans by the Deryni lords during the reigns of the Festillic Kings, and now that the House of Festil had been deposed and the Haldane Kings restored to the throne, the pendulum had begun to swing in the opposite direction, with the once feared Deryni nobility—the guilty and the innocent alike—now stripped of their titles and lands, and becoming the hunted and oppressed.  I feared the popular sentiment among the human majority would swing even further in that direction as the anger once directed towards those capricious lords continued to spill over onto their common-born kindred, until even the most innocent and rustic-born of Deryni would feel their wrath before it would ever return to a more even balance.

Part Two:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=692.0
"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!


No wonder you write so many fics if they are splitting off from each other like amoeba! 

Nice start.  Have a feeling the cosy family is about to be disrupted, though.


Quote from: AnnieUK on March 28, 2011, 11:53:41 AM
No wonder you write so many fics if they are splitting off from each other like amoeba! 

Well, I did just finish a nineteen chapter story that was spawned by a few passing references in stories here and there about an Arilan sister with some sort of star-crossed romance in her past and an unhappy marriage in her present.  So yeah.  They divide and conquer like some parasitic amoeba-borne disease....   ;)

Nice start.  Have a feeling the cosy family is about to be disrupted, though.

Well, you know, it is the year 918 in Stavenham, aka the all-too-recent bishopric of Paulin of Ramos, muahahahaha....    :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!


An interesting beginning.  Papa forbids the marriage of one daughter to a Deryni, then specifically introduces his other daughter to Master Rylan the Healer.  Curious, and intriging..........
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Quote from: Jerusha on March 28, 2011, 12:10:00 PM
An interesting beginning.  Papa forbids the marriage of one daughter to a Deryni, then specifically introduces his other daughter to Master Rylan the Healer.  Curious, and intriging..........

Papa has absolutely nothing against Deryni as a race.  He's just leery of one of his daughters marrying any man, Deryni or not, who has such a high risk of ending up imprisoned, enslaved (as a "Deryni sniffer"), or burning on a stake in those perilous times, especially given the growing likelihood that the wife and children of such a man might end up as hostages or burning with him as well.  Either that, or being forced into exile so that he'd never see his daughter or any future grandchildren again.  He's a man torn between wanting to do the right thing towards a wronged people, and yet also wanting his daughters to have happy futures without having to suffer the consequences they might have to endure if they become too closely associated with Deryni (or anyone else out of favor with the current regime).
"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!


Very good start to a new story.  At this time in Gwynedd, being cautious is a good thing that can save a person's life.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


A very interesting start in a fascinating period of Gwynedd history.  I look forward to reading about a Deryni Healer now working as a gardener, and his relationship with this human family.

And yes, there must surely have been many parallels between the 'underground railroad' from South to North in the USA, as well as the many people who helped protect and save Jewish and other minorities during the Nazi regime.  


This an interesting start; I am looking forward to seeing how this develops.