The Worlds of Katherine Kurtz

FanFiction => Alkari's FanFic => Topic started by: Alkari on November 30, 2010, 03:18:33 AM

Title: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: Alkari on November 30, 2010, 03:18:33 AM
The second last chapter!    
Previous chapter here:

Chapter 28

“Yes, Bishop Ifor wants to return to Marbury as soon as possible.  So we’re leaving on Wednesday.  Only two more days,” Richenda said ruefully to Meraude, as the royal duchess surveyed the array of travel chests in the day room.

“That soon?  Oh dear, I’m going to miss you.   Now – do you need any help with things?  I’ll get Lord Rhodri to organise anything you need.”

Richenda laughed.  “Oh, Alaric spoke to him early this morning, and he’s already been up here to see what we need.   Alaric also spoke to the smithy and my man Giles, so all the horses will be checked and shod, and any repairs to the carriage done quickly.  There’s an extra packhorse if we require one.   And according to Alaric, your dear husband is arranging extra provisions for us, just in case we get snowed in somewhere on the road.  I gather the two of them are now busy organising letters of authority for any replacement horses we need on the way, and introductions to various abbeys and such, so we can stay in comfort.”   She rolled her eyes.  “It seems Alaric the Terrifying Deryni sorcerer can quickly turn into Alaric the Terrifyingly Efficient Military Organiser!”

Meraude chuckled. “Oh yes, just like Nigel.  Quite impossible at times, but at least things get done very quickly.  Though Nigel soon learnt that I had to supervise our family packing – I’m afraid men tend to pack for going on campaign, not travelling with a family.  It only took one good tantrum from Conall when he was about a year old to convince Nigel that packing a child’s favourite stuffed toy at the very bottom of the largest trunk was not a good idea!”

“No danger of that with Brendan.  He’s already told me that his favourites must go in the carriage with him.  Sir Knight will not be relegated to a trunk!”

“You’re going via Valoret, are you?”

“Yes.  The roads should be reasonable as far as there, and we’ll be able to stay in the bishop’s palace.  Uncle Thomas says Archbishop Bradene is arranging that,” she smiled.  “And if the weather turns bad, we’ll remain there until we can go on again.  With luck, we should be in Marley by Monday.”

“Just make sure you leave some room for your gifts.   We’ve all been sewing furiously,” said Meraude.  “I thought a few of us would have a little gathering tomorrow morning to say farewell.  You know about the small dinner His Majesty’s arranged for tonight?”

“Yes.  That’s very kind of him.  We’ll be leaving first thing on Wednesday, so tomorrow I’ll try to have an early night, though Alaric wants a quiet supper with me.”  

“Of course he does.  He probably wishes you could have eloped,” Meraude smiled.  “He’s very much in love with you.”

“I think the next few months will pass slowly for both of us,” admitted Richenda, picking up two books from the table. “Brendan will probably miss him too.  Now – I’d better return these to the library or Master Donagal will be after me.”  

Leaving Rhemuth.  Leaving Alaric.  Three long months until they’d be together.  Richenda tried not to think about it, but the day raced by, as time always seemed to do when something sad or unpleasant approached.  That evening William came to play with Brendan after his supper and tell him a bedtime story, and soon afterwards she found herself accompanying Alaric to Kelson’s apartments for dinner.  She was surprised to find her Uncle Thomas there as well as Duncan, Nigel and Meraude.

“His Majesty thought I would probably relish a quiet evening away from bishops and other clerics,” Cardiel said as he greeted her affectionately. “He’s quite right.  Present company a most welcome exception of course,” he laughed, nodding at Duncan.

“Then apart from asking you to bless our meal, Excellency, we promise to avoid all clerical topics this evening,” Kelson assured him.

And they did.  Nigel asked after Brendan, and Richenda’s reply about how he’d enjoyed feeding the ducks the previous afternoon prompted Duncan to relate one of Alaric’s more outrageous childhood escapades.  Alaric responded with a story about Duncan, and the evening quickly became one of uproarious laughter and much teasing as they all recounted youthful adventures and misadventures.  It was surprisingly late when everyone departed, mellowed by food, wine and good company.

*     *     *

“Oh Ismay, they’re so beautiful!” exclaimed Richenda delightedly, as she examined the delicately stitched belt pouch and matching veil made from pale blue silk.  

They’d gathered in Meraude’s apartments next morning, sipping glasses of wine as they presented Richenda with their wedding “fripperies” as Meraude referred to them.   Just a small gathering – Meraude, Maire, Ismay, Kathryn, Brielle and Meaghan, the two girls delighted to be included again in this adult company.

A soft silk shawl from Maire; some pretty pillowcases from Kathryn, embroidered in cream and blue with the initials R and A neatly joined.  Two lovely linen chemises, one smocked around the neck by Brielle, the other plainer but with a cream ribbon trim stitched by Meaghan at neck and wrists.   A pale blue linen night rail and matching night robe, with a scattering of tiny blue daisies embroidered over the bodice of each garment.

Richenda felt overwhelmed with their kindness: they must have worked until all hours to complete these in the relatively short time since her betrothal.  They laughed and nibbled at little pastries, sipping wine and toasting her future happiness, and wishing her ‘all the children you and Alaric want’.  

“How many would you like?” asked Brielle shyly.  

“As many as come along.  I asked him about it, and he suggested a dozen or so!” Meaghan gasped and Richenda chuckled.  “Don’t worry, I’ve already got one son, so I told him we could stop after half that number!”  Behind Meaghan, Meraude hastily turned away to hide her grin.

Shortly after that, Meraude reminded the girls that they were due for their dancing and music lessons with Master Lebelle, and after kissing Richenda and saying good-byes, they departed reluctantly.   Meraude shut the door firmly and turned to smile at the others.

“I think they’re still just a little young to fully appreciate this,” she said, dark eyes twinkling as she presented Richenda with a soft parcel wrapped in fine cream silk.  “Something for your wedding night, my dear.”

“My wedding night?”  Richenda raised an eyebrow as she carefully unwrapped the gift.   Slowly she shook out the filmy garment, the linen almost as fine as cobwebs, holding it up for all to see.  

There were gasps of delight.   The night-rail had long gathered sleeves and was slit down the front from neck to waist, with the opening and neckline edged in cream ribbon.  Softly Richenda ran her finger down the line of closely-spaced little bows which fastened the front, keeping her face carefully composed as she looked at Meraude.  “There really are a lot of bows, aren’t there,” she said solemnly.    

“Oh, I always think it’s so nice for men to get presents that are properly wrapped,” replied Meraude airily.  “They can have such fun undoing them.”

Undoing them?” Ismay inquired archly, joining in the laughter as Richenda held the garment against her.  “On his wedding night, that should be quite a, er – challenge – I’d say!”

“He’s the King’s Champion,” chuckled Maire.  ”Taking up challenges - isn’t that part of his sworn duty?”  

Richenda nodded.  ”Yes, definitely!”  

”I’m sure it comes under ‘protecting damsels in distress’.   Will you be very distressed, Richenda?” Meraude teased.

“Only if he doesn’t succeed!” she quipped.  It was increasingly difficult to suppress the thoughts and images triggered by this conversation.  

Maire fingered the garment in amusement.  “Well, the parcel might be nicely wrapped but its contents won’t be much of a secret.  Even the priest will have trouble blessing the bridal bed if he glimpses you in this!”

“You’ll have to pull the sheet right up to your neck,” agreed Kathryn, smiling at her friend.

Ismay shook her head.  “Oh no, you can’t hide.  You have such beautiful hair – I think you could just “arrange” a few strands, couldn’t you?”

They were all giggling now.   “Better make sure the Duke leaves his sword and dagger outside, or he won’t worry about undoing bows and laces,” chortled Kathryn.

“Oh, I think he should still keep his sword,” murmured Maire suggestively.  “We surely wouldn’t want Alaric Morgan completely ‘disarmed’ and helpless on his wedding night!”

*     *     *

The last afternoon passed in a blur of activity.   Saying farewells to Ewan, Burchard and several others at the midday meal.  Finishing the packing.  Checking with Giles to ensure all was ready for a very early departure.  Making sure Brendan said good-bye to Payne, Robert and the other children, then sending him down to the stables with William so he could give Joker a last pat.   But the activity and their imminent departure started to tell, and he was cranky and unco-operative by the time he and William returned.

“Why isn’t Duke Alaric coming with us, Mama?” Brendan asked crossly, as she undressed him ready for his bath.

“Because he has to go back to Corwyn,” she explained.  “He’s a Duke, and he has important work to do with the King.  He’ll be coming back after Easter, when I marry him.   Come on, into the bath.”

“When’s Easter?”

“Not for a few months yet.  We’ll count the days when we get home to Marley.”

“I want him to come with us now.”  Brendan looked mutinous.  

“I know you do.   And so do I.  But I told you why he can’t.”   Oh darling – please don’t make this harder for both of us.  

He grumbled and wriggled as Joan started to wash him; when she went to wash his hair he yelled at her, snatched the soap and hurled it angrily across the room.   Richenda gave him a sharp smack for that, and he burst into tears, sobbing angrily and wailing that he didn’t want to go away tomorrow.   He finally subsided into a sniffling silence, mulishly doing everything very slowly and almost daring them to get cross with him again.   Richenda and Joan exchanged knowing, resigned shrugs: Brendan had had more than his share of upheavals this last year, and he’d been remarkably well-behaved during his stay in Rhemuth.  Saying his good-byes today had been hard.   I’ll give him a Deryni nudge tonight so he sleeps properly, Richenda resolved.  The last thing they all needed to start their journey was a grumpy and over-tired little boy.

Brendan puddled and played with his supper, Sir Knight standing forlornly on the table next to him.  He ate some bread and picked the meat out of the thick pottage, but refused the vegetables, stubbornly mashing them all together and pushing the mess around his plate before carefully patting it into a large flat circle with his spoon.  Richenda wiped his face and hands and was about to clear everything away when there was a knock at the door.  Joan curtseyed deeply as she admitted Alaric.

He greeted Richenda affectionately, then looked across at the gloomy figure sitting at the table.  “Anything wrong?”  he murmured, obviously surprised that Brendan hadn’t come to say hello.

“He’s tired, and all the excitement and good-byes have been hard,” Richenda replied softly.  “And he’s disappointed you won’t be coming with us.”   "As I am too!" she sent, letting him see Brendan’s earlier protests.

“Ah.”  Alaric paused, and she was aware that he was carrying something.  “I have a present for him – I thought it might be better to give it to him tonight rather than in the carriage tomorrow.”

“Well, little boys usually love presents,” she said, smiling as she remembered the women’s jests earlier in the day.  

"So do big boys!"  Alaric sent her a thought that was disturbingly reminiscent of those jests, and she blushed.  He smiled and crossed to the table.   “Hello, Brendan.”

“Hello, Duke Alaric.”  The greeting was mumbled, the little face still miserable.

“It’s hard to say good bye sometimes, isn’t it.”  Alaric paused.  “Did you say good bye to your friends?”   Brendan nodded.  “And did you go and pat Joker?”

“Yes.”  Another nod.  “Why can’t you come with us?”

“I wish I could.”  Brendan looked up hopefully at that.  “But I can’t – I have work to do here with the King, and then I have to go back to Corwyn.   I’ll be coming to Marley when your Mama and I get married.   And then you’ll both come back to Corwyn with me to live.”

“Why can’t we come with you now?”

“Because your mother and I aren’t married yet,” Alaric said gently.  “And it would be wrong for her to come with me if we’re not married.   The priests and the bishops would be very angry with both of us if we did that.”

”Why can’t you get married now?”  

“I told you he was being difficult!” Richenda sent ruefully.  

“Because the King has said we are going to get married in May.  So I’m doing what the King says, and that’s when I’ll be coming back to Marley.   And the King will be coming too.”    A sensible explanation for a little boy, she thought approvingly, as Brendan would certainly not understand the social issues surrounding their betrothal and wedding.

“You have to do what the King says.  Because you’re a Duke.”  Brendan at last seemed resigned to the inevitable.

“Yes.”  Alaric waited, letting Brendan think it over.  “But I came here to bring you a present.”

“A present?  For me?”   Brendan looked startled.  

“Yes.  Two presents actually.  I’ve got one for your mother too, but she’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning.”  He winked at Brendan and handed over a small blue velvet drawstring pouch.  “There you are, that’s the first one.”  

Brendan opened it eagerly, and drew out a small metal item attached to a long thin leather cord.  He turned it over, examining it carefully.

“What is it?” he asked, puzzled, fingering the smooth oval underside and tracing the letter inscribed there.  “It’s like a B – but it’s not right.”

“It’s a seal,” explained Alaric.  “And yes, it’s the letter B – so you can seal your own letters properly.  It’s reversed when you look at it like this, but when you press it into the wax, it comes out the right way.”

“Can I see?  What can I stamp it on?  I need to see it.”

“I’ll get your wax tablets and ….  Oh Brendan!” exclaimed Richenda in exasperation, as her son grabbed his supper plate and enthusiastically stamped the seal into the mashed vegetables.   A startled Alaric leapt back to avoid the splashes and burst out laughing.

“It doesn’t work well in food,” he advised.  “We’d better get some wax.”  While Joan tut-tutted at Brendan and hastily produced a wet cloth to clean the seal and wipe up the mess, Richenda went to get the small book of wax writing tablets which she’d put aside to take in the carriage for him tomorrow.   Brendan joyfully stamped rows of seals across one sheet.  

“Look!  My very own seal!” he crowed, holding up his handiwork.  Richenda saw that the simply-styled “B” was surrounded by a plain oval border of two lines.   “I can write proper letters now.  I can write to Grandfather.  He’ll know it’s from me.”   He paused to look up at Alaric.  “Can I write to you too?”

“Yes, I’d like that. You can send a letter when your mother writes to me.”  

“When will she write?”

“When you get home to Marley.  I’ll need a letter to say you’re safe, won’t I.   You can tell me about the journey.”  He smiled at Richenda.  At least we can write openly now.  

Brendan nodded, looping the leather string over his head and checking the seal as it hung down over his nightshirt.  “I can use proper wax.  Like Mama.”  

“Yes. Carrots don’t seal letters properly, do they,” said Alaric dryly, and Brendan grinned in perfect understanding.  “Now, here’s your other present.”  He handed over a much larger object wrapped loosely in a piece of cloth, watching as the boy eagerly unwrapped it.

“It’s another knight.  A red knight!”  

“Not just a knight – look at his helmet.”

“He’s got a crown.  He’s a king!  A proper red king!   Thank you, Duke Alaric!”   Brendan’s face was alight with joy as he turned the figure over, studying every little detail.  

Alaric smiled.  “Yes, he’s like King Kelson.  See – he’s got a red tunic, and a red shield with a cross on it, and he has a black horse.  King Kelson rides a big black horse.   All proper knights serve a king, so I thought Sir Knight needed one. ”

Brendan galloped the king across the table to meet Sir Knight, comparing the two figures, then trotting them back together around a goblet.   “I think the king likes Sir Knight,” he said happily.  “They can fight battles together.”  

“Oh Alaric!  Thank you.  His own seal, and a ‘proper’ king.  You couldn’t have got him anything nicer!”   Tears misted Richenda’s eyes briefly as she watched her son, and Alaric came to stand bedside her.

“It’s only a simple seal,” he said quietly.  “But I thought it was more convenient than a sword pommel.”

 “It’s wonderful.  He’ll feel very grown up.  I’ll put it away with mine for the moment,” she said softly.  “The king will go in the carriage with Sir Knight.  He’ll have fun playing with them on the trip – they can watch everything that’s going on. It’s a long way.”   “And I’ll miss you every step - each mile takes us further apart.  Even if it’s only for a few months this time.”

“You’ll be well protected – Sir Knight and his king, and Brendan with his sword.”   He squeezed her hand briefly.  “I’ll leave you to put him to bed, then we can have our own supper.”  She nodded, and Alaric went to say good night to Brendan.  

She watched the two of them talking earnestly, suddenly wondering if Brendan would dare to ask for a story as well.  But whatever Alaric said seemed to work: the earlier tears forgotten, Brendan gave him a hug and then pattered off happily towards the bedchamber, Sir Knight and the red king clutched in either hand.  
*     *     *

The night was clear and cold: fingers of icy draughts touched Richenda’s face as Rogan escorted her briskly through the shadowed corridors, but Alaric’s apartments were an oasis of light and warmth.  His other squire William poured goblets of golden wine for them both, and she stood near the fire with Alaric as Rogan finished setting out the first supper dishes.  Alaric sent the squires on their way, and when the door had closed behind them, he took her into his arms.

Their reunion after Twelfth Night court had been a whirling, confused and desperate kiss, emotions almost too powerful to bear.  This was a different kind of passion, their minds now linked in a joyous certainty of promises made, of things to come, of a future together.  Time didn’t matter: there was no time, no place, no anything other than simply being in Alaric’s arms, with his lips on hers and their bodies pressed together, breathing the now-familiar scent of him – hints of leather and wool, sandalwood and rosemary, a touch of smoke from palace fires.  

They drew apart briefly, and she studied his face, the laughter lines crinkling at the corners of his eyes, lips parted slightly and quirked in the hint of a smile, the faint end-of-day stubble on cheeks and jawline.  She snuggled back against him and sighed contentedly: just as she had since their first kiss on that night before the battle, she felt safe in his arms.   A blissful, all-pervading sense of feeling loved and protected, as though nothing and no-one in the world could ever hurt her again when she was with him.

He’d been gently stroking her hair where it was coiled loosely at the nape of her neck.  Suddenly the pins came loose and it came tumbling down over her back and shoulders, little wisps escaping from under her veil.  She gasped and pulled back slightly.  He laughed.

“I love your hair – please leave it down,” he said softly, lifting one thick handful to his lips before letting it fall back softly, strand by strand.  

“And what will your squires think if they come back with supper and see me like this?”  She touched her fine linen veil, realising it was also dangerously loose.  

He grinned.  “My squires are well trained.  Whatever William thinks, he will say nothing to anyone.  Rogan will try not to look at you, and both young men will go to bed and have wickedly lustful dreams of the most beautiful lady in the world!”


He laughed.  ”As will I, of course.”   He tilted his head to regard her a little wistfully.  “If I were a besotted young knight asking my lady for a favour before a tournament, I would beg a lock of your hair, not a ribbon or glove or kerchief.”

“And what would he do with it?”  

He stroked her cheek.  “I can’t answer for the young knight, just a rather besotted duke.  Who would keep it and treasure it, and dream over it while waiting for that lady and their wedding day.”  He caressed her again, with eyes and mind.

The romantic Alaric she’d seen in his letters, carefully hidden from the world at large behind psychic armour as impenetrable as the mail shirt he always wore.  “And that lady would perhaps ask for a lock in return.  Except that the besotted duke’s hair is so short that cutting a piece might leave a bald spot!”   She reached up to run a hand though it affectionately.

“You’re not suggesting you’d leave me with a tonsure?” he grinned, catching her hand and kissing it in a way that set her insides quivering.

“I don’t think Alaric Morgan would be a very good priest,” she murmured, brushing his mind with a tendril of thought that brought a husky chuckle from him.

“No. I always have very un-priestly thoughts where you are concerned.”   He returned her mental caress, and she found herself kissing him again.

A loud knock at the door caused them to part.  Richenda hastily bent to pick up her hairpins, moving to a darker corner near the fireplace so she could discreetly adjust her veil.  Alaric admitted William and Rogan, each bearing a lidded dish which they carefully set on wooden boards on the table.  The aromas were tantalising and she was suddenly ravenous, though she waited until the squires departed before rejoining Alaric.  

“Veiled but with your hair down,” he approved as he held a chair for her.  

“I fear that with a certain duke, it wouldn’t be much use putting it up again,” she smiled, “and at least we are betrothed.”   He chuckled and started ladling out the food.

She’d had a momentary fear on her way to his apartments that they’d find themselves eating in awkward silence, on this their last evening together for several months.  But the opposite was the case: the meal passed in easy, often amusing, conversation, on matters ranging from her journey back to Marley to literature, from court gossip and politics in the Forcinn states to their respective childhoods and Deryni training.   Richenda was surprised to hear that Alaric had visited Master Thomson’s shop himself, placing his special order for the red king.

“He was horrified that Brendan even knew you when we bought Sir Knight,” she laughed, “so the poor man would have been completely terrified to meet you in person.”

Alaric smiled.  “He was a little overwhelmed at first.  I think he would have made me an entire army had I asked!   But he’s a very fine craftsman, and once I got him talking about his work, he seemed to relax.  I bought two other items from him as well, so I hope I’ve reassured him that perhaps I’m not quite the monster he imagined.”

Eventually they moved back to sit near the fire, sipping tiny glasses of rich sweet wine while the squires cleared the table, and letting themselves relax into easy psychic rapport.

The distant chiming of a church bell roused them at last.   “Midnight,” sighed Alaric ruefully.  “I’m very sorry, I hadn’t realised it was so late - you must get some sleep.  It’s a long day for you tomorrow.”

“I know.”  She rose reluctantly and he helped her into her cloak, smiling as she drew the hood carefully over her flowing hair.  

“I doubt there will be crowds of people abroad at this hour to be shocked at your unseemly boldness,” he chuckled, slinging his own cloak round his shoulders and ushering her to the door.  

Back at her apartments, she stayed Alaric’s hand as he went to open the door.  “Joan said she or Lily would wait up for me, whatever the hour,” she murmured.  “And I rather think we’d better not linger over any further good nights.”

“No.”  He paused, then bent to touch her lips once more in a gentle kiss.  “Good night, dearest.  Sleep well.  I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Good night, my love.”  She opened the door and quickly slipped inside.


Next chapter:
Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: Evie on November 30, 2010, 09:15:44 AM
Found in Kelson's correspondence the next morning:

"Dere yur Magisty, plees let mama marry dyuk Alarik sooner than eester so he can get on with the bizness of beeing my new papa k thanx bai."

Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: Elkhound on November 30, 2010, 02:46:37 PM
Found in Kelson's correspondence the next morning:

"Dere yur Magisty, plees let mama marry dyuk Alarik sooner than eester so he can get on with the bizness of beeing my new papa k thanx bai."


I can see him doing that.

Thanks for the penultimate chapter!
Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: Alkari on November 30, 2010, 06:11:30 PM
LOL @ Brendan letter.

It's probably lucky that he didn't suggest he could have the king sending orders using the "B" seal.   Alaric's managing OK so far with Brendan's questions about Bran, but I don't know how well he would have coped with a question about whether he knew of a king with a name starting with "B".  :(       If Brendan asks in future, hopefully his Mama will suggest a name other than 'Brion' ...
Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: kirienne on November 30, 2010, 10:37:06 PM
Oh I do LOVE this chapter, the gift giving to Richenda was fun, and the gift giving to Brendan by Alaric was so heart-warming.

I nearly fell from my chair while reading the post of Brendan's letter to Kelson...I too can see him doing that, or somehow managing an audience with Kelson to ask it in person, complete with a slight pout and the puppy-dog eyes that children instinctively know works to their advantage.
Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: AnnieUK on December 01, 2010, 11:55:31 AM
Won't be the same without my regular "Gryphon" fix, but looking forward to the fic we have been discussing in chat! ;)
Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: Evie on December 01, 2010, 12:59:04 PM
Alkari also needs to write the "Green Barrel" story so that Sextus's dissolute self can turn up there in another story sometime.   :D
Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: AnnieUK on December 01, 2010, 01:21:34 PM
Yup, I have a character waiting for the Green Barrel too.  Maybe if we reference it enough, she'll write it? ;)
Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 28
Post by: LeDuc on June 13, 2017, 09:59:32 AM
I have so enjoyed reading the 28 chapters, and will hope there will be more. You write excellently, including the wistfulness of Alaric and Richenda, and a little boy's every day and growing up things. Thank you.
Title: Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 29
Post by: LeDuc on June 13, 2017, 10:35:13 AM
I have so enjoyed reading the 29 chapters, and will hope there will be more. You write excellently, including the wistfulness of Alaric and Richenda, and a little boy's every day and growing up things. Thank you.
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