Author Topic: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24  (Read 7016 times)

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Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« on: October 22, 2010, 07:10:40 PM »
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Chapter 24.

Brendan hadn’t fallen off Joker, but had managed to slip over when helping a groom lead the pony back to the stables.   Mud, manure, straw and other substances made a revoltingly sticky mixture when applied to a small boy’s hair and clothing: luckily, Joan had managed to scrape off the worst of it using handfuls of straw before marching Brendan back to the apartments.  Richenda hurriedly dispatched Lily to find chambermaids and get some water for a bath.

“Honestly, why can’t he fall on the cobbles instead of in all that muck?”  Joan sighed, tugging at clothing while Richenda held her son still.  

“’S not muck, it’s mud,” protested Brendan indignantly as Joan hauled the tunic over his ears and dropped it into a wicker laundry basket on top of his shoes.

“It’s muck, young man, that’s what it is.”  Joan tackled the shirt and leggings.  “And a right time we’ll have getting those clothes clean.”

“I fell over!”

“Well, next time, fall into a puddle.  Or the fishpond.   Wet clothing’s a bit easier than mucky stuff.”

“The fishpond’s in the gardens.  ‘S not near the stables,” argued Brendan, with unassailable logic.  

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to fall over anywhere,” advised Richenda, smiling at Joan over her naked son’s head.  “Now, just sit there in front of the fire until your bath’s ready.  No, Brendan – I said stay there!  I’ll get Sir Knight.”    

When the bathwater arrived, she laughed and rolled up her sleeves. “I’ll scrub him, Joan.  Would you please go and arrange some supper - I’ll eat with him up here tonight.   Lily, please find his nightshirt, and then ask them to bring some more hot water up for me to have a wash.”

Brendan suffered the scrubbing without too many protests; the chambermaids removed the bathwater; Joan and Lily were sent off to eat in the hall or the kitchens with the other servants.  “Take your time – I’m not going anywhere tonight,” Richenda told them.  

Clean and almost angelic looking in his nightshirt, Brendan chattered happily about the day’s activities as they ate, and Richenda was relieved that there was no mention of any more insults.  At last she wiped his face and hands, and produced the sweetmeats she’d bought as a special treat.  “Come and we’ll eat them near the fire – I want to talk to you.”

“I haven’t been naughty, Mama” he said, looking worried.  “I didn’t mean to fall over.”

“Of course you haven’t been naughty.  I want to talk about something very nice,” she assured him, sitting down and hugging him. “Just one for now!” she added firmly, as Brendan eagerly examined the selection of treats and finally selected a stuffed date.  He settled at her feet.

“You remember we talked about how you wanted a new Papa?”  

“Yes.”  Brendan nodded, licking his fingers and looking up hopefully.

“Brendan, Duke Alaric’s asked me to marry him.  He loves me, and I’m very happy, because I love him too.  And you know he likes you very much.  He wants to be your new Papa – your stepfather - and look after you while you grow up.   I thought you’d like that.”  

She smiled, watching his face as he took in her words.   “Can I have another one, Mama?  Please?”  He pointed to the sweetmeats.   She held out the box and he carefully selected another date.  He sat there munching it, regarding her in that thoughtful way he had, when he needed to think over something important.  Even though he’d suggested she marry Alaric, she knew he’d take his time replying.  

“Are you going to marry him?   Will he really be my new Papa?”  He licked his fingers again, before scooting across the rug to retrieve Sir Knight.

“Yes.  I’ve said I’m going to marry him.”

“When?”   He frowned.  Like most young children his concept of time was still rather hazy – even the day after tomorrow was a long time away.  

“At the start of summer, after Easter.  Not for several months yet.  When the flowers are out in the garden at home.”    Oh, we’d marry tomorrow if we had our way, but the niceties must be observed.   Even our betrothal may be a little too soon for some.

“Will I be there?”

“Of course you will!   If he’s going to be your stepfather, we wouldn’t get married without you being there.   You might have to help at the ceremony.”    

“Where would we live?”

“We’ll go and live with him in his castle.   Although I’m sure we’ll spend some time here too, in Rhemuth, because he’s a duke and he sits on the King’s Council.”    

Brendan looked suitably impressed at the idea of a castle.   “Is it a big castle?  Where is it?  Is he going to teach me to ride properly?”

“Yes, it’s a big castle, and it’s in a city called Coroth, in a duchy called Corwyn.  It’s right down in the south of Gwynedd.   We can find them on a map tomorrow.  Duke Alaric is a very good rider himself so he'll want you to be good too.”

“Would I learn to be a knight?  A real knight?”

“Of course.  Duke Alaric is one of the finest and bravest knights in the kingdom, and he’ll want you to grow up to be one too.  There’s a lot to learn, because you’ll be an Earl one day, with your own proper Marley banner and your crest.  Like we’ve been reading about.  So as you grow up, you’ll be Duke Alaric’s page first, and then his squire, and you’ll learn from him and from other knights and teachers.  And you’ll serve at court like Payne does.  Then when you’re old enough, you’ll be knighted.”  

Brendan reached for the box of treats again, but she shook her head.  “No, two’s enough for now.  You can have some tomorrow.”   He went back to playing quietly, making a castle out of his blocks, and then changing to form them into rows of knights and foot soldiers.  She tidied up the remains of their supper, listening to Brendan’s chatter as Sir Knight galloped in and out, issuing orders and leading a charge.  


“Yes, dear?”

“I like Duke Alaric.  I think I’ll tell him I’m glad he’ll be my papa.”   Sir Knight jumped several blocks, knocking one over.  Brendan moved the casualty to one side.  

“I think he’d like that very much.  You can tell him that when you next see him.”  Now that she’d told Brendan, there would be nothing to stop the news getting out around the castle.   At least the courier should have well and truly reached Rheljan, so the swift wings of any gossip would not surprise her father. Not for the first time, she wished her mother were still alive so she could share this time with her.

There was a brisk knock at the door.  A quick probe confirmed her visitor’s identity as she hurried to open it.

“Alaric!”   She welcomed him inside, but mindful of Brendan watching from across the room, kept their physical greeting appropriately restrained.   “I’ve just told Brendan about us.”

“You weren’t at supper.”   He was still holding her hands.  “Nigel spoke to me this afternoon.  I wondered whether there’d been any other – trouble.”

“No, Nigel’s words were very effective.   Do come and sit down - let me get some wine.   Brendan, come and say hello to Duke Alaric.”

“Hello, Duke Alaric.  Do you really live in a big castle?  Does it have lots of towers and a moat?  Are we going to live there too?   I’m glad you’ll be my new Papa.  I’m building a castle for Sir Knight and his army.”

Alaric laughed at the spate of questions and order of priorities.  He followed Brendan over to the fire to meet Sir Knight and his army: when she returned with the wine, he’d removed his sword and was sitting on the floor studying an arrangement of blocks, in deep discussion about castles and military tactics.  

This is what Brendan needs, she thought, sipping her wine and watching contentedly as Alaric, goblet in one hand, made helpful suggestions while Brendan rearranged formations.   He seemed totally absorbed in her son’s activities, but a sudden swift grin and raised eyebrow showed that he was well aware of her.

“We’ll need some more blocks for soldiers,” he sent, as Brendan studied his latest array.  A few moments later he rose and pulled up a chair next to hers, settling in companionable silence.

“Duke Alaric?”  Brendan paused, Sir Knight in hand.  “What’s a traitor’s son?  Why did Master Chaiban call me that?”

Dear God, why does he save these questions for Alaric? I didn’t think he’d taken in that remark. Alaric must have felt her shock and dismay: sending a brief surge of reassurance, he leant forward and held out a hand to Brendan.  Grey eyes met earnest blue ones.

“Brendan, come here.”  Clutching Sir Knight, Brendan took a few steps towards Alaric, who gently reached out, lifted the boy onto his knee and put his arms around him.   “Now, suppose you tell me what happened.”

She could hardly hear Brendan’s words as he explained; he lapsed into silence while Alaric gently stroked his hair, looking thoughtful.   He seemed to be mostly worried about being called a liar, she sent, showing Alaric what Joan had reported.

“You know what a promise is, don’t you, Brendan?”


“Well, when you become a knight, you swear a very special promise – an oath – that you will be loyal and faithful and will serve your overlord.   You remember watching your Uncle William when he was made a knight, don’t you?”

“Yes.  He wore a red cape.  And they gave him a white belt and a sword, and some spurs.  And he had to say special words, and then the king tapped his sword on him.”

“Very good.”  Alaric smiled at the earnest face looking up at him. “Those words your Uncle William said – they were an oath.  And your Uncle William swore to be a loyal knight.

“But you also have to swear an oath at other times.  When you are old enough to become Earl of Marley all by yourself, you will have to swear an oath of loyalty to the King.   And you’ll do that even before you become a knight, because you’ll be an earl when you turn fourteen, but most people don’t get made knights until they are at least eighteen.

“You mustn’t ever, ever break that oath of loyalty to the king.  If you do, and turn against your king, then that is called treachery.  And a person who does that is called a traitor.”

‘Is that what my Papa did?”    

“Yes. When he became a knight, he swore his oath of loyalty to King Brion – King Kelson’s father.  When he became the Earl of Marley after his father died, he also swore another oath to King Brion, this time as an earl.  That oath meant that he and all his men would serve the king.   Then when Kelson became King, your Papa swore an oath of loyalty to him too.  We all did - all the dukes and earls and others who came to the coronation swore to be loyal to King Kelson.”

“Did you swear an oath too?”

“Yes, I did.”   You wouldn’t need any oath, would you, Richenda thought, watching Alaric’s face as he explained to her son. You love Kelson too much to ever need formal words.

“And then a man called Wencit of Torenth came to invade Gwynedd, and your Papa was asked to take his men and help hold a mountain pass against Wencit, and stop him coming through. The king knew your father was a good soldier, and so he trusted him to do this.”

“But he didn’t fight Wencit, did he?”  Brendan was frowning, trying to remember what he’d been told before.  

“No, he didn’t.  We don’t know why he did it, but he broke his oath and became a traitor.  He joined up with some more of the king’s forces led by the Duke of Cassan, but instead of fighting Wencit, he fought the good men from Cassan who should have been his friends.”

Brendan was silent.  “Papa shouldn’t have done that,” he whispered sadly, staring at the floor.

“No, turning traitor is a terrible thing to do.”  Alaric paused, then drew Brendan closer against him.  “But even though your father was a traitor, that doesn’t mean you are bad or are going to do what he did. “

“Then why did Master Chaiban say that to me?”

“Because sometimes people say nasty things.  And sometimes they want to blame you for something that isn’t your fault, and that you couldn’t do anything about.  You didn’t know what your Papa was doing, did you?”

“No.  I wouldn’t want him to be a traitor.”

“Of course not.”  Alaric paused. “Brendan, as you grow up, you must always remember that the most important thing is what you do, not what your Papa did.  Just because your father was a traitor doesn’t mean you’re going to be one.  You are going to grow up to be a fine, brave knight, you’re going to be an earl and serve your king.  And you’re going to be loyal and keep your oath.   And then people will say, well Brendan’s father might have been a traitor once upon a time, but his son Brendan isn’t.  Brendan Coris is now the Earl of Marley, and he is good and brave and honourable.   Do you understand?”

”Yes.  But won’t they still say those things before I become an earl?”

“Some people might, but you have to learn not to pay them any attention.  That’s very hard sometimes, because I know how nasty words can hurt you.   People said all sorts of horrid things about me when I was growing up, you know.”

“But you’re not bad!”  Brendan sat up, looking horrified.  Alaric chuckled, ruffled his hair and drew him back against him.

“No.  But they called me names because of my family.   We’ll talk about that when you’re older.  You just have to remember that it’s what you do that matters, and if you’re good and try to do the right thing, it doesn’t matter what other boys or people like Master Chaiban say about you.  But you’ll have good friends to help you too, and friends are very important. ”

There was silence after that.  Richenda watched them, Brendan now snuggled against Alaric, still clutching Sir Knight; Alaric with his cheek resting against the boy’s hair.   “Thank you,” she sent at last.  “I wish he didn’t save up all these difficult questions about Bran for you to answer though.”

“It’s all right.  He needs to ask them.”  He turned his head slightly and smiled at her.  “At least this time I only have to talk about loyalty and doing the right thing, and not about going to heaven!  Unfortunately he’s going to get this as he grows up.  We just have to help him cope with it as best we can.   Nigel and I can deal with some of the adult bullying, but I’m sure there’ll be a few pages and squires who’ll take it out on him at times, and other adults who’ll make remarks.  I don’t imagine the name ‘Coris’ will be too popular with people from Cassan or Kierney.  Hopefully the Deryni aspect won’t come into it too, though there’s no reason for most people to know about that for a long time.”  

She nodded, thinking of some of the battles her son would face in future.  At least he'd have Alaric to help him.  She watched the firelight play on the two heads, gold and red, close together beside her.  Sir Knight started to slip out of Brendan’s fingers; she leant over and rescued the toy before it hit the floor.  “He’s very tired, Alaric.”

“I think he’s asleep.  Will we put him to bed?”

“Yes please.”  Alaric rose carefully, carrying Brendan.  He’d only taken a couple of steps when there was a knock at the door.

“My lady?”    Joan and Lily – Richenda hastily let them in, hushing them with fingers to her lips.   Joan’s eyes widened as she took in the scene; Brendan stirred but didn’t wake, and Richenda beckoned Alaric to follow her.   They returned hand in hand, and Alaric nodded politely to the two women, still standing in the day room.

“Mistress Joan?”  Joan gave a little gasp at being addressed directly by the duke.  “I hope the masters yesterday have learned their lesson.  But please - if anything like that happens again, I want to hear about it.  I will not have Brendan bullied by people who should know better.”  He smiled; hurriedly they both bobbed curtsies and disappeared into the inner chambers.  

“I must go, dearest.  Duncan will be wondering where I am.  Well, no – he’ll probably work it out,” he grinned, “but I said I’d come and talk over a few things with him and Kelson, so I’d better leave before they start sending messages.”   Alaric crossed to collect his sword.

“Thank you.  For everything.”   Richenda kissed him, wishing he could stay longer, knowing that he wished it too.  

“Now that Brendan knows, the news can slip out to the rest of the castle.” He shook his head, amused.  “Meraude seems to be looking forward to that!”


Next chapter:
« Last Edit: February 19, 2011, 06:26:13 PM by Alkari »

Offline Elkhound

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2010, 09:21:14 PM »
I think that Brenden asked Alaric about his father because he sensed that asking his mother about it would upset her, but that Alaric could be more objective.  (Not that a boy his age would be able to articulate what 'objective' meant, of course, but I think he would have an idea of the concept.)

Offline Alkari

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2010, 12:12:52 AM »
Absolutely, Elkhound.  But it's also because he knows that he can ask Alaric this sort of question.   He'd previously asked about Bran and going to heaven, and got sensible/sensitive answers, in terms that he could cope with. Now he's got another question associated with his father that's been worrying him, so of course he asks Alaric again.

The other thing of course is that there really is no other adult man in his life just now whom he trusts, poor kid.  He doesn't know his grandfather and uncles that well, and anyway, they aren't around.  Even back in Marley, who could he ask? 

Offline AnnieUK

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2010, 03:49:12 AM »
Liking Brendan falling asleep in Alaric's arms - he obviously feels very comfortable with his stepfather-to-be.

Offline Evie

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2010, 02:38:39 PM »
I'm glad Brendan is comfortable enough with Alaric to go to him with the "hard stuff."  He needs a good, trustworthy male role model in his life.

And yes, Duncan would certainly have worked out where Alaric's disappeared to.   :D
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2010, 02:47:06 PM »
And has the stole ready, just in case... :D

Offline Alkari

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2010, 03:02:29 PM »
Stole not needed.  :D   On this occasion, Alaric has behaved perfectly properly - after all, a 4 y.o. is a very effective chaperone when awake! 

Offline Shiral

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2010, 05:47:15 PM »
Stole not needed.  :D   On this occasion, Alaric has behaved perfectly properly - after all, a 4 y.o. is a very effective chaperone when awake! 
Especially since Brendan seems to always store up the extra-tough questions for Alaric.  :) But it's a definite indication that he likes and trusts his future step-father!
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Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2010, 06:33:37 PM »
And it's an indication of his love for his future siblings Briony and Kelric that we witnessed in one of the books (which one I can't remember).
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2010, 10:09:56 PM »
The other thing of course is that there really is no other adult man in his life just now whom he trusts, poor kid.  He doesn't know his grandfather and uncles that well, and anyway, they aren't around.  Even back in Marley, who could he ask? 

I volunteer with a youth organization, and even though the boys I work with are a bit older than him, I see this a great deal.  Boys being raised by single mothers, no uncles or grandfathers in the picture.  And all their teachers are women.  And, given that most mainline denominations ordain women now, often their pastors/youth ministers are women.  And there are some things that a guy needs to discuss with another guy.

Offline Alkari

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 24
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2010, 03:35:29 AM »
And there are some things that a guy needs to discuss with another guy.

Oh yes.  Brendan desperately wants to grow up to be a brave knight and a soldier.  His mother can answer a lot of his questions, but even without Bran's treachery, how would she know anything about becoming a knight, or fighting battles, riding warhorses, etc?!   Women don't know about those things.  A duke is 'bigger than an earl', so who better to ask than Duke Alaric?  :)


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