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A Leap of Faith - Chapter 2

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June 1116 to September 1116

I had been away from home before, to my aunt’s court in Andelon, but then I had had family and friends around me.  But when I left Rheljan I exchanged one world for another, for all I wasn’t going far away.  My preparation for this new role had been as thorough as possible, but I was still close to tears as I embraced my parents and my brothers and left my childhood home.
The servants gave us a good send off.  They all came out to see me leave, some of them in tears themselves, as I had known many of them from babyhood.  As we rode through the town many of the townsfolk came out to wave, some holding their children up high to see the soldiers, and the farm hands waved their hats as we rode past the fields.  

The Marley bodyguard in formation accompanying us showed my new rank, and the blue and gold pennant flew proudly in the breeze.

I rode beside Bran on my beloved palfrey Willow, which had been a birthday present some years before and had already accompanied me to Andelon.  Bran talked animatedly as we rode, telling me of Marley and its history, and his plans for the future.  He assured me that his household, the ladies in particular, eagerly awaited their new mistress.  

As we left the Rheljan Mountains behind us, the ride to Marley took us across rich farmland.  The field hands at their haymaking nodded respectfully then leaned on their scythes for a time to watch us pass.  Young children left their mothers to run the length of the fields, trying to match the pace of the horses and excited to see a company of soldiers pass by.  

 On either side of the road as we approached Marbury, Bran pointed out the hop fields and the oats growing and a mile or two out of town he showed me the drying houses and then the brewery.  His pride at his land’s industry was plain to see - “the Fianna of beers” he called it.  “The smell of hops drying is quite agreeable, once you get used to it, but the smell from the malting can be strong at times.  We situated the brewery to take account of the prevailing wind, so that the town itself doesn’t get the smell too often.”  Indeed, just from the brief ride past I could tell that the odour would be quite unpleasant, if forced to endure it for too long.

The manor at Marbury proved to be a simple stone-built house, spacious enough for the family and retainers and with room to spare for the children that both we hoped for in due course.  Bran introduced me to its workings straight away, so that I might take charge of the estates in his absence.  I spent much time with Bran’s seneschal, meeting all the staff and learning how the estate worked.  I proved an apt pupil, picking up the details of the records and accounts quickly –at last I could see the point of those tedious hours with my father looking over the Rheljan accounts.

Bran and I rode out around the town often.  The townsfolk always showed their pleasure at seeing us, and had an especial interest in me.  They were obviously glad that their young lord had brought a wife home with him and I enjoyed the attention as they doffed their caps and bowed and curtseyed and called “God bless you My Lord.  God bless My Lady”.  We often delighted the local innkeeper by stopping to sample the hospitality in his tavern.  We occupied his most honoured place by the fire and he plied us with Coris light ale.  

Bran would talk to the townsfolk when we visited the inn, and often word would get out that the lord was visiting and people would bring grievances to him.  Many a lord would have turned them away, referring them to the correct way to bring their troubles to his attention, but he heard them out and did what he could there and then.  I could see why Bran had made himself popular locally – he knew most of the people by name and they were devoted to their young earl.

Messengers went frequently between Rheljan and Marbury. I always had someone available to carry letters home – Bran made sure of that - and I managed to keep homesickness at bay.  Not that I didn’t miss my parents, of course – at first I missed them desperately – but I was so busy creating a household of my own, making sure that all ran smoothly and that Bran would be pleased with me, that I struggled to find time to stop and reflect on how I felt.  And I was happy, in the main, only slightly concerned by Bran’s impatience for an heir.  When I told him we were not to be blessed with a honeymoon baby he showed his anger, if only for a moment.

August saw Bran occupied in Rhemuth, so my parents visited briefly, to give me some support when left in Marley by myself for the first time, although all the staff knew their roles and needed little interference from me.  The haymaking and silaging had finished, but it was harvest time, and I had to learn how to record the harvests so that taxes and tithes could be tallied at the end of the season.  Bran might be away on campaigns for months at a time, and I had to prove myself capable to run the estates in his absence.  So my mother was there when my courses arrived again and I knew that we were still not to be blessed with the longed-for heir to Marley.

“Richenda, darling, give yourself a chance.  You are only married two months, child, and the more you worry the less likely it is to happen.  You and Bran both just need to relax – it will happen when it will.  You are so young yet, don’t rush yourself.  Not that I wouldn’t love a grandchild to play with, mind.”

“I know, but Bran so wants a son.  Father said that was why he wanted the wedding arranged so quickly – to secure the succession for Marley.  I think he will not be happy until he can announce an heir to his friends at Rhemuth.”
“He’ll just have to wait, then, won’t he?  It doesn’t make him less of a man, or you less of a woman, if you don’t catch right away.  These things take time.”

I loved having my mother with me and I was distraught when my parents left - Marbury became a lonely place with them gone.  I had ladies in my household, of course, but none of them had become close to me so far, and I suspected from things that were whispered when they thought I didn’t hear them that at least one of them had hoped to become the Lady of Marley herself.

Bran returned from Rhemuth in a thoroughly foul mood that the several days in the saddle had done nothing to dispel.  The cause was “that bloody Deryni”, the Duke of Corwyn, Alaric Morgan.  

Morgan and King Brion were close friends, and Morgan sat with Bran on the king’s council.  Morgan was no friend of Bran’s though - Bran disliked him and made no secret of it.  He was little older than Bran, and Bran envied the high esteem in which Brion held him, and coveted his position at the king’s side and at the head of his armies.  Bran was proud of his military acumen and he and Morgan often locked horns over some detail of strategy.  This time there had been some disagreement over some point or other in the council, as he told me over dinner that evening.

“And then - then, mark you, that damn man congratulates me on our wedding on the way out, and says that he is surprised to see me in Rhemuth so soon, as he would have expected me to want to stay longer with ‘my lady wife’.”

I held my tongue.  Indeed it would have been nice for Bran to stay with me longer, to help me accustom myself to running the household with him present, and for us just to get used to being man and wife for a time.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the Duke had meant his comments kindly, rather than in the barbed way that Bran had interpreted them.  But Bran hadn’t finished yet.

“...all smiles and familiarity, as if I didn’t know that he would rather I kept out of his way!  He sticks to the king like fleas to a dog and he’s as good as telling me to stay in Marley to keep me away from him.”  Bran poured himself another cup of ale and took a long draught from it, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.  He had already had several, and I could tell that the drink was going to his head, as it was unlike him to use profanity in front of me.

“So anyway, the meeting resumes the next day, and we look at plans for the levies and where we need adjustments because of titles being awarded and so on, Brion then says he has an announcement to make and that his pet Deryni is being made Lord General of the King’s Armies.  Like he needs another damn title to go with the string of them he already has!  Let’s make him Lord High Everything and be done with it!  It’s just as well he’s unmarried yet – he’d only breed more Deryni brats.”  

The bread turned to sawdust in my mouth and I lost all appetite.  I had kept our family’s secret from Bran to protect my father and brothers, rather than from any specific worry about Bran and his attitude to Deryni.  But now I knew I had to be doubly careful never to reveal myself - I dreaded to think what Bran’s reaction would be if he found he had a Deryni wife.

From that moment, I vowed, I would be more careful still never to arouse Bran’s suspicions.  He must never know.  Chapter 3

Ouch.... Poor Richenda!  :(

"Some things are definitely best left unsaid"--as in this case.  If Bran had such a poor view of Deryni, it makes you wonder why he would join Wencit.  Maybe Wencit subtly used magic on Bran to make him more agreeable to such an alliance.  It would seem that Bran had never made his dislike for Deryni public.  If Bran's views about Deryni had been public knowledge, I doubt Richenda's marriage to Bran would have happened.

Maybe Bran's jealous

When I re-read HD recently, I got the impression that Bran was quite distrustful of Wencit & the other Torenthi Deryni...until Wencit offered Bran powers of his own.  Amazing how a lust for power (in this case, both magical and politically speaking) could make Bran do an about-face so quickly.  Ambitious, greedy git!  :D


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