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Yuletide Story. Chapter 3, Deck the Halls

Started by DerynifanK, January 12, 2021, 08:06:04 PM

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Yuletide Story, Chapter 3 : Deck the Halls

The three young men set about unloading the greenery they had gathered and stacking it in the entrance hall. Iain and Father Columcil also came out to lend assistance with the unloading. Aliset quickly gathered the servants and directed them to distribute the boughs and branches among several trestle tables where they would weave garlands and construct wreaths of holly, ivy, bay and pine.

Each of the ladies took a table, creating their decorations with help from one of the maids assigned to them.  Aliset separated holly, pine and ivy, then began to weave a lengthy garland for the long mantle over the big fireplace in the great hall. She began with the longer pine boughs, weaving them together  and tying them with red cord. Pine cones still clung to many of the boughs adding to their decorative value. She used a small knife to cut pieces of the holly. She then inserted pieces of the holly heavy with bright red berries into the garland. Fiona joined her to work the holly into the garland from the other end. Fiona took a long piece of rope to measure the width of the mantlepiece to determine how long the garland should be.

Others were making holly wreaths and tying small bunches of mistletoe to be hung in the great hall and the solar to brighten them for the Christmas feast. Pages brought cups of mulled wine and ale as well as trays of pastries for the workers' refreshment. There was much happy chatter and laughter among those fashioning the various adornments. There was also a lively competition to see who could devise the best decoration. "Look at my wreath, my Lady,  Isn't it bright and beautiful?" One of the maids at Lady Stuart's table held up a charming wreath for all to see. The others applauded her effort.
Aliset and Fiiona held up their garland of pine boughs and holly adorned with pine cones and many bunches of bright red berries. There were many oohs and ahs from their competitors. They summoned Washburn to help them drape it along the mantelpiece with extra lengths hanging from either end. All agreed that it looked truly beautiful. Tall, silver candlesticks with fragrant beeswax candles were placed at intervals across the mantle.

More garlands and wreaths were made for both the Hall and the solar. Garlands decorated each of the fireplaces interspersed with fat candles to brighten the space. The men brought ladders to enable them to drape garlands on the chandeliers, and wreaths adorned the sconces that held the torches. Bunches of holly and ivy and bay were tied together with red ribbons to be placed on the tables for the feast. Sprigs of mistletoe were tied with red ribbons and hung on pegs in the middle of the doorways and at the tops of the windows.
Darcy came in from outside stomping his feet and shaking his cloak with Robert behind him. He and Robert along with two of the grooms had gone out to bring the yule log in and to be sure of plenty of logs for the fires. The yule log would burn on the biggest fireplace in the great hall for the twelve days of Christmas. "It has started to snow and it's coming down fast."

Several of the women rushed to the windows to look out at the snow which was swirling down and covering the ground and shrubs. One young lady began to sing, "Music to drive the cold winter away" and several others joined in. It was followed by "I Saw Three Ships" in which all those in the Hall joined in. The decorating party got even merrier, and louder until Darcy blew his sailor's whistle to command the attention of all those in the Hall. "Tis good that all are enjoying the decorating but we also have a task to complete, and I am afraid we are losing sight of it. Let us refocus on the beautiful decorations we are making. Our manor will be most beautifully decorated if we can but finish, and that will add to the enjoyment of all who join us for our Christmas celebration."

Everyone was now engaged in decorating the Hall and the solar and it soon looked truly lovely with all the greenery, bright berries, dried flowers and ribbons that trimmed nearly every available surface. There was finally only one major task left, one that Aliset had reserved to herself. She made two entwined circles of mistletoe to hang over the main door to the Great Hall. Darcy, who did not at all mind heights, took it from her to hang over the doorway. But before he climbed the ladder he held it over their heads with a mischievous grin, "A kiss for my help my Lady?"  With a smile, she paid her dues with a kiss.  With a giddy smile Darcy climbed to the top of the tall ladder to place the mistletoe rings on two pegs he found there.

"Everyone form a circle so we can admire our work!" Darcy called. "Follow me!"  They marched around the Hall to a merry tune Darcy played on his whistle as he led them around. Then the three ladies led them in a rousting version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". They all cheered and agreed that the hall and solar looked truly beautiful.

Then they dispersed, maids to their work, ladies to retire to their rooms to rest before dinner,  and the men to relax in the solar with a glass of wine. Aliset and Darcy paused to observe the beautifully decorated rooms. Aliset leaned her head on Darcy's shoulder as they gazed. She smiled softly and a bit wistfully.  "I have not seen it like this since my parents and my brothers and I prepared for the Christmas holiday.  I miss them so much. I know they would love it." Darcy held her close as they  stood together.

"Music to Drive the Cold Winter Away" Medieval folk tune

All hail to the days that merit more praise
       Than all the rest of the year,
 And welcome the nights that double delights,
       As well for the poor as the peer!

 Good fortune attend each merry man's friend,
       That doth but the best that he may;
 Forgetting old wrongs, with carols and songs,
       To drive the cold winter away.

This time of the year is spent in good cheer,
       And neighbors together do meet,
 To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
       Each other in love do greet;

 Old grudges forgot, are put in the pot,
       All sorrows aside they lay,
 The old and the young doth carol his song,
       To drive the cold winter away.

To mask and to mum kind neighbors will come
       With wassails of nut-brown ale,
 To drink and carouse to all in the house,
       As merry as bucks in the dale;

 Where cake, bread and cheese is brought for your fees,
       To make you the longer stay;
 At the fire to warm will do you no harm,
       To drive the cold winter away.

When Christmas's tide comes in like a bride,
       With holly and ivy clad,
 Twelve days in the year, much mirth and good cheer,
       In every household is had;

 The country guise is then to devise
        Some gambols of Christmas play,
 Whereat the young men do best that they can,
       To drive the cold winter away.

When white-bearded frost hath threatened his worst,
       And fallen from branch and brier,
 Then time away calls, from husbandry halls
       And from the good countryman's fire,

 Together to go to plough and to sow,
       To get us both food and array;
 And thus with content the time we have spent
       To drive the cold winter away.
"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


If anyone is interested, here is a link to the music sung at Caer Mariot for the yuletide festivities.
"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


I LOVE the Decking of the Halls of Cear Mariot. What a festive scene. I can see it in my minds eye and I would love to take part in it. And the song is wonderful. I have never heard it before, I love it.
Great job Derynifank.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Very well done, DFK!  I fear my hands would have been in shreds after weaving all of that greenery.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Yes, the holly and pine cones would be hard on hands and they would have to take a lot of care to protect them  Many ladies used the long sleeves of their gowns when handling something sharp or hot. I looked up the use of gloves but many styles were fingerless which wouln't have been much help so I am thinking they would use their sleeves.
"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


The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.


The gathering of the afternoon decorating was a delight. It had been years since Wash had participated in this much merriment. Attentive to the requests of the ladies, he climbed ladders and draped garlands and wreaths over hearths, beams, curtains rods, and wall sconces.  He especially did his best to assist Lady Stuart in hopes of winning her good opinion of him. He had not exactly been at his best during his stay at Baron Stuart's manor last summer, and he wanted to clear away any tarnishment of his character which Fiona's aunt may have gotten from their first meeting. He suspected that she knew something of his affliction back then, and he hoped to show that he had recovered. She was kind to him, perhaps a bit reserved, like someone welcoming a stray cat. Could he find a way to earn her trust?

Anticipation of the Christmas invitation at Caer Mariot had bolstered the young Morgan's optimism for renewal of friendships. When he learned Fiona and Iain were coming, his hopes of kindling his affection for this young lady had heightened. Iain's declaration by no means extinguished his hope. Iain at least had learned his true nature; at least it was not his temperament which compelled Iain to say no. Therefore, Wash banked his hopes for the future, and was determined to enjoy the holiday gifts of friendship. Of course there were wistful glances across the room shared with the pretty lass, and there was one moment when all the ladies had rushed to the windows to see the falling snow. Wash came down from his ladder near where the ladies looked out. He did not know how Fiona had managed it, but it was she who stood just so with her back to him looking at the snow flurries when he stepped off the ladder. He became aware that it was her under the soft veil before him and he gently touched her hand, the one that she had placed in the small of her back beckoning to him. They stood that way quietly for several minutes until the ladies dispersed singing:

" Good fortune attend each merry man's friend,
       That doth but the best that he may;
Forgetting old wrongs, with carols and songs,
       To drive the cold winter away..."

Those words young Morgan clung to.

As the song came to an end, Lady Stuart appeared from who knew where and whisked Fiona away. Wash bit his lip savoring the stolen hand-holding. He smiled happily and sang with the others about the three ships: hope filled his heart. And so his heart was light through the afternoon. With the last wreath hung on the window, Wash stepped off the ladder and watched the snow gathering over the garden. Darcy was making a show doing something near the main door archway, and everyone cheered. When Darcy's whistle came out, Washburn laughed, he moved to the side with a cup of ale intending to watch the merriment of the others, but then the lady of the manor took the cup from his hand and pulled him into the circle. He found himself between Aliset and Lady Stuart, he did his best to hold the small hand of Fiona's aunt with care as he led her in the circle. He just wished he knew if her smile was acceptance, or was that of mere forbearance.

At the end of the festive afternoon, Wash retreated to his and Father Columcil's guest chamber. Wash settled at the edge of his bed with a buoyant smile. Fiona did care of him! More than ever he was convinced that somehow he must gain Iain's permission to court the radiant lady. Waiting another year without being able to talk to her would be a torment. His hand reached into his bag and brought out a swath of green velvet wrapped around a box. He removed the fabric revealing a wooden jewelry box the length of his open hand and about the height of a finger length.  The wooden box was not perfectly rectangular, it was a little off angle on one side. Wash had done his best to cut it from one piece of a pretty Lendour Ash wood, but the piece he had chosen had been flawed and he had tried to sand out that flaw which had slightly distorted the shape. At the time he had thought it was good enough, now, however, he was afraid it would receive censure.  The lid of the box was roughly carved and not by a wood carver, Wash had spent many hours through many nights with delicate carving tools and big fumbly fingers to bring his dream image to life. On the left stood a stag with a full rack of antlers with his head down looking at a single flower that was between himself and a feline with tufts of fur on her ears. The cat which should represent a lynx, if one used one's imagination, was looking up at the stag and not at the flower between them. Washburn had carved this box with aspirations of winning the heart of his lady. But now that it was time to give it to her, he was upset that his poor quality carving skills would not be good enough, not for an heiress and not for the lady's aunt, the baroness, from whom he needed approval. Iain certainly would not approve, especially if he learned what was inside the box.

Wash lifted the small bronze latch which held the jewelry box closed. Inside a shimmer of gold and gems gleamed in the candle light. Wash lifted the shawl clasp, a large circle of gold with inset rubies and sapphires. A jeweled dagger-pin crossed the center of the clasp to pierce the fabric of a shawl. The clasp had been his mother's and she had given it to him to give to the woman of his heart. He started to turn it over to again read the inscription his father had placed there when he heard the door to his chamber open. Quickly, before Columcil could see what he held, he pushed the clasp back into the box and closed the lid.

"Haur is whaur ye ran off tae!" The good father did not notice what his roommate held, he was more interested in washing his hands and face in the water bowl and brushing back his hair with the damp towel.  "Supper will be called soon. Th' laird o' th' manor says tis to be a quiet evening as we will be up most ay th' night Christmas Eve. Midnight mass will be in the village chapel. Ah hae been invited tae take a service. It will do mah heart guid tae give mass to a wee carin' village. There's guid enow folk amongst the wealthy bodies in Rhemuth, but ma heart is wi' the country folk especially at Christmastide. Twas a stable and no a palace that oor Lord was born in after all."

"I am glad that they asked you," Washburn said. He reached over to the green velvet fabric and wrapped it around the box, hoping to hide it before Columcil noticed.

"That is whit ye hae been workin oan aw these nights, is it nae?" Columcil asked. Wash wrapped it faster and put it in his bag. "A gift fur Fiona, Ah presume ah'm thinkin'?"

Wash closed his bag and dropped it on the foot of his bed, then his shoulders sank and his head fell. "It is, but I fear it is not good enough...  and.... Oh, what will it matter! I will not be able to give it to her. We're being watched harder than a lion stalking its prey."

"Dinna think, Ah didn't notice." Columcil sat down opposite. "Hold oan tae yer faith and yer honour, young man. Th' yule season has only jist begun. Troost 'at ye will be rewarded fur yer patience."

"I am more concerned about a determined young woman's patience than my own. This behest of Lord Iain's will be very difficult to endure. Do you suppose they could, at the very least, sit us together at dinner?"
May your horses have wings and fly!


Pity Darcy was not available to help Washburn construct the box, but I think Fiona will cherish the gift all the more with the imperfections.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


I think she will be thrilled and will love it because Wash made the box and gave her the gift. If she is like most young laides in love, she won't even see the imperfections.
"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


LOL  She may not, but her aunt will.  That is, of course, if Wash ever gets permission and the courage to give it to her.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Darcy Cameron poured two tankards of ale and carried them to the two chairs arranged in front of the hearth in the solar.  Father Columcil had asked Washburn to assist him with the mass, and the two men had departed for the church to prepare.  The ladies had retired to their rooms to rest.  This would be Darcy's only opportunity to speak to his brother alone. 

"No port?" Iain asked.  Seated in one of the chairs, he reached out to take a tankard.

"I think Aliset would be most annoyed if I dozed off during the mass," Darcy replied. He turned toward his chair, tankard in hand, gathering his thoughts as he gazed at the embroidered seat.  Aliset had finished it the day before their guests arrived.  The background was Isles' blue, and Aliset had stitched a large compass rose in the centre.  On the upper left corner, she had added a sea eagle, wings spread and talons extended as if it was about to snatch its prey from the water.  On the lower right corner, she had stitched Mariot's eagle, standing with a fish gripped in one claw, wings spread as if daring the sea eagle to come and take it.  His wife had an interesting sense of humour.

"You want to talk about Fiona," Iain said as Darcy sat and took a sip of his ale.

"And Washburn," Darcy replied.

"I thought I had already made my position clear." 

"You did, but I think there are two points you should consider." Darcy looked directly at his brother, who returned his gaze and then nodded.

"You are concerned because Washburn is the only Healer we know of with the talent to block Deryni powers," Darcy began.  "This is a temporary situation; more Healers with this talent will be found, otherwise why would someone have recorded it to be read by others?  Deryni thought Healing was a lost talent until Duke Alaric discovered he could Heal, and now we have many more Healers.  It's just a matter of time."

"I see you have done your homework, little brother.  However, you are overlooking  the danger Washburn may place Fiona in," Iain countered.

Darcy ignored  "little brother" and kept his voice even.  "I don't overlook it at all, because it's not just Fiiona who could be endangered — it could be any one of us."

"Go on," Iain said and took a drink of his ale.

"Anyone who Washburn considers a friend could be used against him.  Master Feyd certainly knows how dear Washburn holds Aliset, since Wash asked Feyd to have Oswald killed to remove the bastard as a threat to her.  What do you think Washburn would do if someone got to her, or heaven forbid the lassies, and made demands on him?  I will always do everything I can to keep them safe, but I can't be with them every moment.  There are Mariot's manors to be seen to, and I will owe service to  Duke Rory.  What about Washburn's family?  No one in their right mind would take on Duchess Richenda, but think about all his nieces and nephews.  Any one of them could be a target.  Of all of us, Fiona is probably in the safest place at the Schola."

Iain's face gave nothing away as to what he thought of Darcy's words.  "You said you had a second point."

"I do, and that's Fiona herself."  Darcy leaned a bit forward in his chair and pushed a stray strand of pale hair back from his forehead..  "You may not realise how headstrong she is, but she is as independent as any Cameron woman.  She may continue to pursue Washburn just because you have forbidden it.  I do remember that the best way for Mor to get me to do something was to tell me not to!"

"It took you a long time to figure that out," Iain said mildly.

"I was only four, Iain!"  Darcy pursed his lips and then took a swig of his ale. He took a deep breath before continuing.  "What if they aren't right for each other?  If they never have a chance to get to know each other better, they won't know if they will be a good match or not.  You, of all people, should not want Fiona to end up in an unhappy marriage."

Iain gave Darcy a sharp look, and Darcy decided it was best to let that argument lie.

"Iain," Darcy said.  "What would it hurt to let Fiona and Washburn sit together for the Christmas feast? She's in no danger here, and  Washburn is not likely to throw her over his shoulder and escape with her to his room in front of all of us!"

"Especially since Father Columci is sharing the room with him," Iain agreed dryly.

"Exactly!  Remember that Columcil is also at the Schola.  Fiona and Washburn could be allowed to see each other in his presence.  Or in the presence of Washburn's family, if Columcil is not available.  Since they are all busy with their duties and studies, it probably won't happen that often.  And trust me, Father Columcil is a very good chaperone, and the ladies of Queen Araxie's court are as fierce as dragons!"  Darcy drained his ale and stood.

"Think about it, Iain."   Darcy had pushed his arguments as far as he thought he should go.  "I should check on Aliset.  It will be time to leave soon."

Iain raised his tankard in salute as his brother left.  Darcy had made his points too well, and Iain would have to give due consideration to what he had said.  He smiled as a thought struck him.  If his brother wasn't careful, his negotiating skills would become known to the king, and the king might make use of him.  Iain's smile changed to a smirk.  He just might have to mention it, when he saw the king in Rhemuth.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


I love this Jerusha. Darcy appears to have very good negotiating skills, including the all important one of knowing how far to push and when to stop. I can just hear Iain. "Your Majesty, if you should find yourself in need of a skilled negotiator, you might consider my brother. I have learned lately that he is quite good at it."
"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


I love Darcy's cool-headed arguments. He has definitely thought this through. His captain must have used him on  occasion to negotiate occupational differences. I think Iain will be looking around at the well-working manor, which was just months ago in the midst of tragedy, and realize just how skilled his "little brother" had grown up to be. Washburn thanks you for the supportive post, Jerusha.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Washburn is very welcome. 

And Darcy may have also used his negotiating skills to talk his men (or himself) out of trouble in port, from time to time.   ;D
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Love this.  I just hope that Iain doesn't know/remember that Columcil married Darcy and Aliset😉
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.