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Generosity: Chapter Two

Started by revanne, June 01, 2017, 04:06:10 PM

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Link to previous Chapter http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,2051.0.html

Early next morning, Kilshane Manor

He had slept well enough, Dhugal had made certain of that,  but by the time Andrew woke, again in response to another compulsion set by Dhugal, he was stiff with cold, and bewildered for a moment as to why he was not on his pallet. Moving to flex his muscles, he turned to sit, and winced as his sore and bruised flesh made contact with the prickles of the hay. Memory of yesterday's events overwhelmed his thoughts as the pain struck home, and sick dread filled his belly. He was quicker in mind and body than either of his brothers, and as he had grown into adolescence, he had begun to think it folly that the power that lay in his family was neither to be spoken of nor used. The same ready wit and physical agility had given him the confidence to use those powers once he had the chance, never thinking of the trouble that would bring upon him. So who was the fool now?  He cringed as he thought of the coming encounter there would surely be with His Grace. He shifted uncomfortably, but for all the soreness that remained from the blows, it was the remembered fury in those eyes that turned his insides to water. He was no coward, but he longed to curl back up in the hay and be forgotten. And be missed from his duties and be punished again, this time publicly? No, there was no help for it, he must face the day. Trying to keep in his mind the undeserved kindness that had followed the Duke's anger, Andrew forced himself to his feet and made his way gingerly down the ladder from the hay loft and splashed his face quickly from water in the trough in the stableyard. The cold water helped to take some of the puffiness from around his eyes, but the icy sting did nothing to improve the start of his day. Neither did the taunts of his fellow squires when --again prompted by that inner bidding-- he told of the fall he had taken while taking a message for His Grace the Duke. Most of the teasing was good-natured, but there was an edge to it born of envy at his self-vaunted prowess on horseback.

"Lad, you, here!"

"Your Grace!" As he came to stand before Dhugal in response to the brusque command, Andrew was glad of the protocol which kept his eyes respectfully lowered in the presence of a superior. The voice that spoke above his head was clipped and cold.

I understand that you failed to deliver my message yestere'en. You have a good explanation, I trust?"

Too confused to reply, and sure he could hear stifled sniggers from the others present in the stable courtyard enjoying the scene of his humiliation, he stood mute, awkwardly scuffing his feet. Dhugal found himself suddenly embarrassed for the lad and wished he had chosen a less public place for the dressing down which must follow if the story of the unfulfilled errand was to be believed. There was no help for it, he would have to put words in the lad's mouth, though he could feel the irony of using the same powers that had earned Andrew a thrashing. Another penance to add to the ones I've earned already, thanks in advance, Da! Reaching down he took a hold of the squirming shoulder as though to prevent the culprit from bolting.

Make no sign that you've heard me, but I  believe that "No, Your Grace" would be the right response. Followed by a humble request for my pardon, perhaps? The voice in Andrew's head was almost kindly, but it was all that he could do not to stare as he realised who it was speaking to him.

"No, Your Grace. I-I, fell off my horse, m-my lord,  I b-beg your pardon." As he spoke Andrew dropped to his knees, wincing as the shock jarred his bruises.

The public reprimand was shorter and less severe than might have been expected, although Andrew received it appropriately shame-faced, the more because he knew that his true offence was far more serious. Dhugal's wrath had had a night to cool and, in the light of the  new  day, the woebegone figure before him was even more reminiscent of the young border lad he himself had been, out of his depth at court, before he had had the good fortune to become blood brothers with the young Prince Kelson. Aware as he was that a conversation with his father about Andrew would involve confession of his own loss of temper,  he was honest enough to acknowledge that although there was a place for just retribution, it had been less justice he had meted out than sheer visceral anger.

So it was with relief to both when Andrew was dismissed with a more kindly, "Well, see you learn by it, you're not the first to make a mistake and you'll not be the last. Off with you now, and you others, here's a end to it, understood?"

The erstwhile spectators murmured their compliance and made haste to be about their neglected duties while Andrew rose, bowed with as much grace as he could muster, and turned away towards the armoury to begin the cleaning and repair of his gear. He was grateful for the prohibition of further teasing, although it was likely that once the spectacle was over, he would in any case have been let alone, for all of them knew that they might be the next to fall foul of authority and subject to public disciplining.

Seating himself gingerly on a wall in the sun, he busied himself stretching and testing the straps on his leather practice harness, all the while berating himself in far stronger language than the Duke had used. The old story that his father told endlessly of how he had won his knighthood, fighting hand-to-hand in a desperate bid to reach his Duke whose tortured body chained to a stake was already beginning to burn, had at last become real for him. As the so-long-dismissed tale sprang to life in his imagination, he fancied he could hear the screams and yells of his father's description, and he shook his head to clear the stench of burning flesh from his nostrils. It was Deryni powers that had brought his father's Duke to the stake and he, Andrew McGregor, had been stupid enough to play around with his own ill-understood powers in the presence of the old Duke's son, his own overlord. What would become of him now?

Lost in his own misery, he could summon up no interest in the sounds around him, so he remained unaware that Dhugal was using the pretext of checking his riding horse for a fancied strain to remain in the stableyard in Andrew's vicinity, confident enough that the contact already established would allow him to be heard. Experienced as a battle surgeon, with skills of mending both men and beasts long before either his Deryni heritage or gifts of healing were suspected, he was enjoying the feel of the horse's fetlock under his hand and the uncomplicated touch of the equine mind. He knew he must deal, though, with the far from uncomplicated young Deryni mind before him. Intelligence and lack of proper direction were a dangerous combination and, as Jatham had made clear, the latest incident  was just the most worrying in a string of incidents which could, God forfend, lead to disaster.

Dinna be snatching at the leather like that, or it will tear when you least need it to, and you really will take a fall.

It took all Andrew's precarious self-control not to react outwardly to the voice speaking into his mind, but he managed to acknowledge, Your Grace?

Aye, carry on with what you are doing - with care, mind! - and give no sign that I am speaking with you, but be sure that you take heed to what I am saying.

The edge of humour went from Dhugal's voice, and Andrew realised that he was about to hear his fate.

Baron Jatham is a good lord to you, better than you deserve, and you'll hear nothing more about your foolishness after today nor receive any further punishment. Just so long as nothing further of the kind occurs, or believe me, lad, you'll suffer more than the flat of my hand.

The icy tone with which this was uttered made Andrew flinch, and he hurriedly made a show of catching his finger on a buckle to cover his slip.

Baron Jatham's no Deryni, but he's no fool neither, and I'll not have him treated with anything but the respect he is owed. You will beg his pardon, on your knees, before today is out -- he will be in his office waiting for you just before Vespers. And I will know of it, you can be very sure, if you try to shirk your penance. It's your good fortune that your foolishness must be kept hidden, or you would be making amends before your lord in the great Hall at dinner.

Stern though Dhugal's voice was, Andrew felt some of the fear lift from his stomach. He had expected far worse, and such was the relief he felt, that after gasping out his acquiescence, he found the courage from somewhere to ask, My father, Your Grace,  will he be told?

I said you had a better lord than you deserve. Baron Jatham is prepared for your apology to him to be an end of it, and I am willing to accept his judgement.  Your father will not be told of any of this.

Realising that Andrew had about had as much as he could bear, Dhugal summoned a groom to take his horse from him. "There was a wee bit of swelling there but it's going down fine. Rest him today, if you would, and he'll be ready for me to leave the morn's morn. The Baron and I will be riding out round the policies tomorrow; I'll leave it to your sound sense to match me with a mount while His Nibs here takes his ease."

The groom bowed with a muttered "Aye, m'lord", took a hold of the gelding's halter, and after a long measuring look at the Duke, clicked encouragement  to his charge, and man and horse walked off together. Dhugal knew that the measure of both his body and temperament had been registered, and the man was already mentally running through Jatham's stock for a good match. His ride tomorrow would be as near a perfect fit as the stable afforded; some magic owed nothing to the Deryni.

But magic that was frustrated, aye, that could turn to poison. Well, hopefully before too long something could be done for the dejected heap huddled submissively on the wall, and others like him, and Andrew would find that, after all, his hopes had not come crashing down. Without a backward glance, Dhugal turned to walk across the yard towards the door which led into the great hall of the manor house, but could not forbear from one last word, softening his mental tone as he spoke. Head up now, lad, and leave that harness be for a while. I've heard tell that the manor cook has a soft spot for young lads in trouble, and I dare say he could find you a bite to eat.

The kitchen, tucked away in a corner of the stone undercroft was blessedly dark as Andrew slipped in, glad of the warmth from the hearth, though not really sure if he could stomach the thought of food. But it was good to be away from staring eyes, and, though not entirely sure whether or not the Duke's last remark had been an order, he was not about to risk defiance.

"Ach, here's another yin bin gi'en down the banks. An' nae doot ye couldna break yer fast and y're nigh clemmed. Come away in an fetch yersen some broth." The remains of last night's roasted meats, together with root vegetables and dried barley grains, were simmering in a cauldron over the fire for the servants' dinner and the speaker swung round as he spoke, picked up a wooden bowl, filled it with some of the hot broth, and pushed it and a horn spoon toward Andrew. Too cowed still to do anything other than blindly obey, he found a stool out of the way and began to eat. He soon found that he was indeed hungry and the warmth in his belly comforted him a little. His backside was still tender, but the pain was only sharp if he moved too suddenly or sat down too heavily, and a bruised bum was hardly a new sensation to one with his gift of annoying authority. The sense of being an utter fool was new though, and that hurt worse than any blow. No, His Grace was right, he had been let off more lightly than he deserved, though he still couldn't work out what was the use of powers you couldn't use. But his Grace had used his power to speak into his mind. Maybe it was different for Dukes? No, that couldn't be right, since the old Duke had nearly been burnt for being Deryni, but then he was a Bishop, too, so maybe that had been the difference, and weren't things changing anyhow? And he still had to go on his knees and make his apologies to the laird. Oh God, what if the Duke had read his thoughts and knew that he had thought of the laird as easily fooled, and what if he had told him that? And how had he been supposed to know that when his father had gone on and on about the laird of Kilshane being close to the Duke himself-- "A guid chance for ye to get yersen on there, lad!" -- that had meant close enough friends that he could call on the Duke to help him deal with a squire got out of hand? And what the hell was he supposed to say?

As his thoughts went round and round, he slumped lower on the stool. A hand reached out and took the bowl, and Andrew was surprised to find that somehow it was empty. "Greetin'  ne'er helped no-one. Away with ye and see Father Malcolm, he'll set ye straight, tho' I dout you'll be needin' any penance, ye've had tha' awready, I'm thinkin'."

Not daring to confess all the truth of it, Andrew still had enough to repent of arrogance towards others and a cocksure trust in his own human abilities to make an honest enough confession as far as it went.  Father Malcolm had heard of his public reprimand by the Duke -- for God's sake,  why didn't  they just cry it from the steps of the hall and be done?-- but he was kind enough and suggested a form of words for his formal apology to Jatham, the need for which Andrew explained away as an act of reparation for having shamed his Lord's household before the Duke.

The regular hours of training in the afternoon were not quite the nightmare Andrew feared, since in place of being mounted they were instead required to show their skill with the longbow and target. But they were bad enough. Normally dextrous and with a good eye, he would hit the bull in the eye often enough to have felt no temptation to 'assist' the flight of the arrow. Today he could barely hit the target, let alone the bull, and his discomfiture was hardly helped by unkindly meant enquiries as to whether he had not fallen on his head and addled his wits. The looks that Ethan cast in his direction suggested that had their practice not been watched by both Laird and Duke, he would have earned himself another thrashing. It is doubtful that he would have felt better had he known that he had been spared the penance of riding by the Duke's own express wish to make sure that the manor's archery skills measured up to the standard required.

At last the sun dragged its way over the sky and they were released for a brief period of respite before the evening's duties began. Andrew took himself off alone, the black cloud that had surrounded him all day being excuse enough for the solitary direction in which he headed. Once he was sure of being unobserved, save by a few servants  who were too busy readying the great hall for the evening meal to concern themselves with his movements,  he dragged himself to Jatham's office and stood outside the firmly closed door, repeating the words he had been taught, over and over in his head. His could barely hear his first tentative knock, but his hands grown suddenly thick and clumsy, the second was far too loud.

"Come!" The abrupt monosyllable had nothing of Jatham's usual courtesy and warmth. His limbs still behaving strangely, Andrew pushed open the door and moved jerkily into the room. Jatham looked him up and down and he was glad that, prompted by Father Malcolm, he had made an effort to tidy himself up.

It did not need the memory of the Duke's icy voice to bring him to his knees. His legs collapsed under him and he fell rather than knelt at Jatham's feet. The red of shame flooded his face and it was with an effort that he forced out, "My lord, I beg that you will accept my most humble apology for having offended against you, and I entreat your pardon."  Head bowed, he could not see Jatham's smile at the words all too obviously learned by rote, although he was sure that the feeling behind them was no less real for that.

Reaching out his hand to cup Andrew's chin, Jatham, gently but firmly, raised his head so that he was forced to look his lord in the eye. Yes, he was no Truth-Reader, but there was genuine apology in the lad's eyes. Deryni though Andrew was, he was in no fit state to hide his thoughts even from a human reading.

"And I accept your repentance." Jatham was careful to match Andrew's formality, but then added with a return of warmth to his speech, "I do appreciate the effort you've gone to, but I'd really prefer to hear your own words."

"Truly my lord, I am sorry for my disrespect. I didn't think..."  Andrew's voice tailed off, close to a sob, and his head went down again. Then, remembering how much worse his punishment could have been, he made himself look up, though the understanding  that he saw in his lord's face flooded him once again with shame. "I beg your pardon, my lord, I... I don't deserve your kindness."

Rising from his chair, Jatham reached down to pull Andrew to his feet and patted his shoulder. "Come now, enough! You've been punished, and now you've made your apology. What you did is forgiven and best forgotten, save for the lesson you've learned. God gave you your gifts for you to serve others, not to use them to win false honours. Next time I congratulate you on your prowess, I want it to be deserved. Now, go and thank Father Malcolm for his help by appearing, on time for once, at Vespers.

Andrew bowed, taking Jatham's right hand to his lips in a gesture that showed heartfelt gratitude as much as formal homage. Fearful of disgracing himself yet further, he then backed to the door and with a last bow was gone. Jatham crossed to shut the door behind him, then sat down again in his chair with a sigh of relief. He had no quarrel with Dhugal's insistence that such mischief-making could not be tolerated and that the perpetrator must be brought to book, but he had felt for Andrew whose pride had been so thoroughly humbled. Not that he had any quarrel either with Dhugal's unexpected method of dealing with the situation; it had clearly been effective and, although Andrew would not be thinking so, probably the most merciful. And hopefully, God and the King willing, the catalyst for a new beginning for more than just Andrew. The re-emerging of Deryni powers, with so much forgotten, surely meant that there would be plenty of scope for inappropriate experimentation as Deryni learnt to live openly alongside humans again.

The door opened and Dhugal came in carrying two goblets of wine. "I guessed you might need this, soft-hearted as you are. I waited for Andrew to be well clear, I'm one he doesn'a need to see close to for a wee while. I've managed to contact my father," Dhugal paused to take a gulp of the wine and smiled crookedly, "and got a lecture on learning to control my anger, which I doubt I've heard the last of. But he is very interested in your ideas and he and Rothana will speak to the King, with the likelihood that Kelson will want to speak to you himself on the matter when you are next in Rhemuth. In the meantime I'm strictly enjoined to pass on their thanks to you and Janniver." Dhugal paused before adding with a laugh, "And to tell you that my father is relieved that there is a clear head in one part of the Duchy at least, to keep me on the straight and narrow."

Jatham flushed and began to stammer a disclaimer but was interrupted as Dhugal rose to his feet and continued, "I'd have to say that I agree with him on that! Now, let's put all this out of our minds and go and find those bairns of yours. Aldus is already asking when he can come to me as a page."

Link to next Chapter

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Poor Andrew learned a hard lesson, one I doubt he will forget. I loved the lecture Dhugal himself got on controlling his temper. Loving this story and anxiously awaiting the next chapter. This is a major  concern for the king and the schola to consider; how will Deryni now learn to use their powers appropriately  and live comfortably  with humans?
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance


Excellent chapter. And an interesting parallel to have Dhugal chided by his own Da.   ;D

We all answer to authority.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Today was a good day to give the prologue and the first two chapters a second good reading. Revanne, I love how the story is coming together.
Then it dawned on me about my laps of giving a good comment earlier this week. 'I b-beg your pardon,' for as I first read this chapter it was between patients at work while suffering from a tooth abscess and a fear of taking pain medication that might disable me from doing my job. I fear I forgot to comment. I feel much better now, so I will say again how much I love seeing Dhugal and Jatham and even young Andrew.

I have to say its wonderful to get a good highland brogue. Hard to translate with my California ear, but I get the gist and love the sounds rolling around in my head. There is a talent there, to write such thickly spoken words without hesitation. I would happily read more, especially coming from his grace of Cassan.  ;D

I am looking forward to the next chapter.
May your horses have wings and fly!


No need to apologise, Laurna, I'm glad you are feeling better now.

We have a lady from Glasgow in our congregation - I just pretend that I am listening to her! That heavy brogue is more true of lowland Scotland than the Highlands, where the accent is much softer. I am now trying to imagine a Scots brogue filtered through a Californian ear.

I'm glad you like the story - actually it was only meant to be an introductory chapter in another story, half written as yet, which introduces another three schola students alongside Andrew. Jatham once introduced, however, rather took over! For all he is such a non- pushy character in the story, he proved very persistent.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Good for Jatham. Love hearing more about him and Janniver. And always happy to hear more about Dhugal.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance