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November 24, 2023, 08:47:23 AM
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Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Two

Started by Evie, May 02, 2011, 09:44:04 AM

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   Chapter Two

   April 2, 1134

   The child looked a bit prettier, if rather tough and stringy, once Sophie and Annie had tackled the daunting task of bathing her and combing the snarls out of her hair.  She sat glaring at me from the window seat, knees tucked under her chin, wearing one of my old tunics that swallowed her whole like Jonah's giant fish.  Annie had taken the two I'd purchased the evening before away to launder and alter, for even in their brief wearing they had acquired the odor of gamy, unwashed urchin.

   "So, how's everything going?" I asked Sophie, summoning up a smile for her as she turned to greet me with a look of forced patience. 

   "Well enough, all things considered," she told me.  "We've had a bath—three, to be more exact—and I had to take shears to her hair to get the worst of the tangles out, so it's only half the length it used to be, but it will grow out."  My sister-in-law shrugged philosophically.  "I suppose it could have been worse.  She could have brought home lice.  Fortunately her hair was too dirty for the nits to stick."

   Yes, that was certainly a blessing in disguise. I forced myself not to visibly recoil from the child.  It was hardly her fault if her mother's only concept of nurturing had been to toss scraps from the stew pot at the chit between volleys of expletives and the occasional iron pan.

   Sophie pulled a ribbon from her basket and strode determinedly towards my daughter, who shrank into a corner of the window embrasure.  "What's your name, love?" she crooned.  Turning to look over her shoulder at me, Sophie added, "I couldn't get her to tell me earlier."

   Brat sat mutely resigned as her aunt cornered her.  Sophie pulled a comb from her belt and began to part the girl's hair, plaiting one side of it into a neat braid, then winding a length of ribbon around the end.

   "I don't think she has one," I grudgingly admitted.  "I asked her yesterday, but all she said was that her mother called her 'Brat.'"

   Sophie tied off the end of the ribbon with a frown.  "Well, that's hardly suitable!"  She tilted Brat's chin up to smile down at her.  "She's far too pretty for such a name.  What would you like to rename her, Sextus?"

   I stared at them both in dismay, for truly, I had no idea.  My mother had been named Alix, but as I considered the idea of naming my daughter for her, I imagined her returning from her grave to haunt me for bringing home a bastard granddaughter, ululating at high pitch.  No, perhaps not Alix then...but what?  Javana?  Jashana?  Sophie?

   "I...really have no idea, Sophie."

   Seisyll's wife took another glance back at me.  Whatever she saw in my face set her off into giggles.  "You've never imagined this happening, have you, Sextus?  Truly, have you never even considered the possibility that you might have a child out there?"

   "Well, no, not any more than Sei—" Oh, sweet Jesú, let's not say that to my brother's wife!  "No more than any other man, I suppose.  Maybe a vague notion now and again that it could happen, but I never really thought...."  My voice trailed off as she raised an eyebrow at me.

   "That's the problem right there, Sextus dear," she told me, her voice soft and sweet.  "You never really thought.  But now you're a father, so you need to acquire that skill."  She turned to my daughter, her eyes going softer as she regarded the upturned face framed by half braided hair.  "What about Amanda?  It means 'beloved.'"  Sophie smiled as she began to comb and plait the other side of the girl's hair.

   "I...think that's an excellent name," I said, slightly dazed, for as Sophie had defined it, I'd seen the look of yearning cross the child's face.  It had lasted only an instant, so brief that I might have imagined it, for immediately afterward the wary street urchin had returned.

   The girl.  The urchin.  The waif.

   My child.

   "Amanda," I repeated, testing out the sound of it.  "I rather like it.  Unless...Is there some other name that you'd prefer, child?  Maybe...um...a name on your mother's side of the family?" I asked my daughter, realizing belatedly that a child who had reached the age of seven years without a proper name might have a few ideas on the matter.

   She wrinkled her nose at me.  "No.  Ye think I want t' be called after me mam?"  The choice expletive that followed the question left me in no doubt about her preference.

   "What is your mother's name, Amanda?"  Sophie asked as she bound the second braid with the remaining ribbon.

   "Huldah," she told us.

   I grimaced.  "Huldah?!  Amanda keeps sounding better and better."

   Sophie slanted a look at me.  "Tell me you at least knew her name."

   I felt my cheeks warm.  I hadn't.  Or if I ever had, I'd long since forgotten.


   I was called into Seisyll's study later that afternoon.   His boots were only slightly the worse for wear after their deadly assault by Amanda's second-hand wine and stew.  His squire must have managed to clean the leather quickly enough to spare it becoming too badly stained or damaged.  There's a lad who would be giving me dark looks over the night's supper, I imagined.

   Seisyll looked at me through narrowed eyes.  "So.  You've got a by-blow.  Why am I not surprised?  Any others out there I should know about?"

   "Not that I know of, no." I watched him warily.  "I do know something about how to prevent that from happening."  That had been one lecture I'd actually listened to, for once.  It had helped that it had come from Seisyll and not from Denis.  Seisyll presumably would know a lot more about the matter than our bishop uncle.  He might have grown quite settled and boring since his marriage, but he, too, had once had a need to know such information.

   "Yes.  I see how well that has worked out for you, too."  The sarcasm was served up desert dry.  "Do we need a refresher course?"

   "Give me a break, Seis!  I was only nineteen at the time.   I...ah...probably forgot."

   "You forgot."  His voice was deadly quiet, a danger sign.  "And now you see the consequences of forgetting."  He propped his elbows on his desk, steepling his fingers.  "What am I to do with you, Sextus?  What can I possibly do to help you become more responsible?  I don't suppose I can very well dock your quarterly allowance; your child's a scrawny little thing, so God knows you'll need your coin to fatten the chit up and put some more suitable clothes on her back...."  He trailed off, studying my face, then barked a short laugh.  "Let me guess, you were hoping Sophie would take care of all that?  That's not happening, boyo; so sorry to disappoint.  No, she's your child, and you'll be responsible for her."

   "I will be!" I affirmed, affronted that he'd think otherwise.

   "Damn straight."

   "I can do this," I informed him, forcing down a few qualms.  How hard could it be, after all, this whole fatherhood thing?  Seisyll seemed to manage just fine, even when they were still in that half-unformed, piss-cloths and spit-up stage that gave me the shudders.  Mine was much further along than that, so the hard work was done, right?  I just had to figure out how to make the girl presentable.  But she was an Arilan; she'd do fine.  Eventually.

   I forced down another qualm, looking my brother straight in the eye.  "Amanda's my responsibility.  But she's an Arilan; I'll not have her shunted away like she's...like she's something shameful."  Even though, by most of society's standards at least, she was.  Denis would doubtless be apoplectic to learn about her.  Hopefully he wouldn't decide to up my penance, or my scrawny little chit would have to remain scrawny a bit longer.  "I expect her to be given the same treatment by our family that Jashana's son would have had, if she hadn't miscarried him."

   Seisyll uttered a blistering string of curses.  I might have been more impressed by its creativity, had I not recently been subjected to far worse by a seven-year-old.

   I stood my ground.  "She'll need tutoring, and since you've already engaged a tutor for Stefania and Jamyl, I don't see any reason why she can't take her lessons with them.  I'll pay my portion of the costs, of course."  I could feel my coin pouch shrinking already.  Maybe Kelson would have some extra work for me soon.   I hoped so.  He was a more generous patron than my brother.

   Seisyll gave me a curt nod.  "You absolutely will."  He pulled a sheaf of correspondence towards himself—a sign that the lecture was now over—but paused and looked back up at me as a sudden thought occurred to him.  "Oh, and show the girl where the garderobes are.  All of them, Sextus.  I've already had a report come back to me of her relieving herself on the floor rushes this morning in a corner of our Great Hall.  I don't expect that she'll be fully domesticated by the end of the day, but I do expect the chit to be housebroken at the very least." 


   Denis managed to extricate himself from his busy schedule long enough to answer Seisyll's summons.  Apparently, despite being far too overwhelmed with work to make it to Tre-Arilan more often than the occasional family celebration or side trip from his visits to Rhemuth might allow, the Bishop of Dhassa could somehow manage to drop everything if a reprobate nephew and his baseborn issue were involved.  Lucky me.  Not for the first time, I wished Jashana were still here, but no, she'd married and moved off to Llyr, where she was doubtless too busy counting how many times a bride could be moved to psychically enhanced coital ecstasies per evening to spare a thought for her poor younger brother.  Jashana merely had to smile, and the gruff Bishop Arilan would soften and grow lenient.  I smile, and our stern uncle asks me what I'm up to and how many mortal sins it involves.

   He arrived just in time for supper.  In celebration of the occasion—or perhaps simply to hide the family shame from our manorial folk a little longer—Seisyll arranged for us to have a private meal in the solar rather than dining in the Great Hall with our full household as was the regular custom.

   Denis sat in his usual position at Seisyll's right hand, looking at me with pursed lips.  At least the children's presence at the table prevented him from asking me outright what doxy's spawn I'd managed to drag home.  With my luck, Amanda would not have hesitated to inform her cousin Stefania exactly what a doxy was.  Steffie was still pressuring her papa to buy her a pretty little Bird of Paradise ever since Denis's last attack of foot-in-mouth at the family table the previous winter.

   He turned his attention to the children, the sour look on his face miraculously transforming to a genial smile.  "So, how are your lessons progressing, Stefania?"

   "Quite well, Uncle Denis," Seisyll's seven year old princess answered promptly.  "Today I read another story from the primer and I practiced writing the alphabet and doing simple sums."

   "Very good!  And what of you, Jamyl?"

   "I can write my name!"  The four year old Arilan heir beamed proudly at his great-uncle.  "Wanna see?"

   Denis chuckled.  "Perhaps later."  He turned his gaze towards Amanda, the smile turning a bit more strained.  "And you, dear...how was your first day of lessons?"

   My daughter shrugged.  "I learned t' ask t' be excused t' find a garderobe if I have t' fart at table."

   Denis struggled for something kind to say.  "Well...I suppose it's a start," he finally managed. 

   It was a moment to make a father proud.

Chapter Three: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=714.0
"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!


QuoteJashana merely had to smile, and the gruff Bishop Arilan would soften and grow lenient.  I smile, and our stern uncle asks me what I'm up to and how many mortal sins it involves.

ROFL.   Just when is Amanda going to spill the beans about Birds of Paradise?  ;)

Ah yes.  Dear Sextus and the joys of unexpected fatherhood!!


Could be a long uphill struggle before Amanda is civilised.  Looking forward to more foot-in-mouth moments!



"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!


We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


Still delightful.  And I'm so glad Amanda/Brat is making her father proud - and Uncle Denis at a loss for words!
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


I'm enjoying this :-). poor Sextus, he sure has his hands full with Amanda/Brat. She'll give them all grey hair before their time, I'm sure, but there's something about the child I like.


Yes, I'm sure she'll get that crop of gray hair on Sextus's poor noggin off to a fine start.  By the time this story is over, he should have quite the collection.   :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!


I'm sure he'll look very distinguished.  He can compare notes with Uncle Denis, who'll undoubtedly be totally grey by then  ;)



If Sextus was ever considered to be on the marriage market, he's off now.  Not many young ladies would want Amanda as a step-daughter!


Free to good home:  one man, moderately used.  Comes with one girl child who is a bit of a fixer-upper.  Inquiries from caring, compassionate woman preferred.  Sense of humor required.

"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!


Moderately used?   :D

Try 'ridden hard and put up wet'?


* Evie nearly spews mint iced tea all over her keyboard and monitor

Sextus has no comment to add, being nearly incontinent with laughter.   :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!