Author Topic: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 23  (Read 4706 times)

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Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 23
« on: October 19, 2010, 09:16:44 PM »
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Chapter 23.

“I don’t want to go to school, Mama,” objected Brendan next morning after finishing breakfast.  “I don’t like Master.  He said I was bad, and I’m not.”

Richenda had anticipated this and reassured her son that she and Joan would both come down to the schoolroom, and she would speak to Master Tremayne.  Brendan was still reluctant, but Richenda was encouraging and took his hand as they made their way downstairs.   He hung back as they reached the door, but Joan held it open and they marched inside.

Nigel’s conversation with the man had clearly been effective.  Master Tremayne hastened to meet them, bowing deeply.  He welcomed Brendan warmly and took him to his place next to Robert Sinclair, although Richenda knew that it would take more than this to mollify her son, who already seemed well able to sense a person’s sincerity and judge their character.   Master Tremayne then came back and, swallowing nervously, apologised humbly to both Richenda and Joan.  

“Thank you, Master Tremayne,” she said, smiling with cool politeness.  “I trust that in future you will be a little more careful before accusing my son or my servants of lying.  Joan will remain here for a little while, in case Brendan is apprehensive.”  She was about to leave, when something jogged her memory.   “Oh, do the children have a riding lesson this afternoon?”  

He nodded eagerly.  “Yes, my lady.  Provided the weather holds.”

“Excellent.  Brendan loves riding. But I should tell you that Duke Alaric has also been kind enough to give my son a riding lesson.  Just in case Brendan mentions it. Good day to you.”    

Brendan had turned around to watch them talk: she smiled reassuringly and gave a little wave, nodded at Joan, and left the room.  

She found herself almost skipping back to her apartments, carefully storing the memory of the look on Master Tremayne’s face at her parting shot.  Oh, how William was going to appreciate that!

A smiling Meraude was waiting for her, eager to know whether Richenda would come shopping as planned.  “It looks as though it will snow by evening, so we should go this morning if possible,” the Duchess advised.  Richenda happily agreed, knowing there would be no more trouble from Master Tremayne, and soon the two women made their way out of the castle, escorted by four men in Carthmoor livery, with two servants to carry any purchases.

“Nigel is obviously very persuasive,” Richenda remarked cheerfully as they walked, and briefly recounted the morning’s experience.   Meraude chuckled.

“Yes, he had a quiet word to Master Tremayne last night, and hoped to speak to Master Chabain this morning before he was required for Court.”    

“Alaric didn’t say anything to me last night.  He was rather tired - he and Father McLain found yesterday’s funeral difficult.  I imagine you and Nigel did too, after King Brion and others.”

“Yes.”  Meraude sighed.  “Nigel misses Brion a great deal. As does Alaric – in some ways, even more so.”  The duchess stepped lightly around a small puddle.  “Anyway, we thought it best to let him kiss you good night in peace.  Nigel will probably mention it today.  You didn’t think to tell Master Tremayne this morning?”

“I was very tempted.  But I’d prefer to tell Kathryn and Lady Maire before we make any announcement or allow my ring to be ‘seen’, as I know Lord Burchard hasn’t told his wife.”

“Good idea.  Why don’t you speak to them this afternoon.  Now, here we are at Master Gerland’s Shop.   He always has lovely damasks, and some beautiful ribbons.”

Richenda acknowledged that she had spent almost nothing on herself during the last year or more and decided to be a little extravagant in her shopping, an attitude which Meraude gleefully encouraged as they proceeded.  The Duchess herself made several purchases, quickly shepherding Richenda away from one particular bolt of material before she could examine it.   “Go away and look at something else,” she laughed, “as this one’s going to be a present.”  

They spent some time in one shop where the tubby little owner – who’d made many a gown for Meraude over the years – measured Richenda carefully and assured her that he and his team of seamstresses could have one ready for her in three days.  Yes, she would have it in time for the State banquet that would be attended by all the bishops, and which would mark the end of the synod: the gown would be delivered that morning, with a seamstress to assist with any last minute adjustments.   They returned to the Palace only slightly late for dinner, the servants and one of their escorts laden with purchases and with other packages to be delivered that afternoon.  

The men teased them cheerfully as they ate, Alaric wanting to know how many wagonloads of shopping could be expected to arrive at the palace that afternoon, Nigel feigning horror at the likely effect on the Carthmoor and Marley budgets, and Duncan solemnly suggesting to Kelson that taxes in Corwyn would have to be increased in future.  Equally cheerfully, Meraude assured them that any ducal wedding, no matter how quiet, required a certain amount of feminine preparation, and that Alaric could hardly expect his new bride to return to Corwyn without an appropriate wardrobe.  

“And I think you’d better not jest too much, dear nephew,” she said to Kelson.  “Just wait until it’s your turn to get married!”

I’ll need to get another trunk for the journey back to Marley, thought Richenda in amusement, as she and her maids surveyed the fabrics, ribbons, shoes and other items that were now spread out over her bed and one of the chests. She’d acquired two lengths of material to make tunics for Brendan, who seemed to be growing by the day, and some blue linen which should make him a good shirt.  But apart from those, everything else was hers.

Oh well, it’s not every day I get betrothed to a Duke, she thought happily.  And even if he wants to spend the rest of his life wearing black, I am certainly going to be a little more colourful!

Joan reported that Brendan had worked happily that morning and all seemed peaceful now.  He was having a short nap before his afternoon riding lesson, which she intended to watch “just in case he falls off into all that mud, my lady.”   Richenda thanked her, and surprised Joan and Lily with some presents – lengths of pretty ribbon, and little packages of sweetmeats, with marchpane, honeyed nuts and dates.  

“You’d better hide those away or eat them before Brendan sees them,” she warned.  “He loves sweet things, but I’ve got him a few for later.”

Richenda left the two delighted maids packing away her purchases, and armed with another small box of sweetmeats, she made her way to the apartments occupied by the Earl and Countess of Eastmarch.   She’d not had much to do with Lady Maire, who wasn’t the talkative type, but she’d been pleasant enough to Richenda and with her husband on the Council, it would certainly be courteous to tell her as soon as possible.   Lady Maire was surprised but received her graciously and called for Kathryn when Richenda said she’d like to speak to both of them.  

“We haven’t seen you for several days, Lady Richenda,” Maire said pleasantly as they took seats near the windows. “Duchess Meraude assured us that nothing was wrong, just that you had been rather busy with a few things.”

“Yes.  His Majesty asked the Council members to keep this news in confidence for a few days, so I am sorry you have been a little in the dark.  He wished to advise my father and brothers of my betrothal before it was made known at court.”

“Betrothal?”  Kathryn whispered.  “Richenda, you can’t mean …”

“His Majesty and his Council have approved my betrothal to the Duke of Corwyn,” said Richenda quietly.   She held out her left hand, the ring glowing in the afternoon light.  Kathryn gasped.

“You’re – you’re marrying Alaric Morgan?”

“Yes.  I am.”

Kathryn sank back in her chair, while Lady Maire regarded her thoughtfully.   “My congratulations, Richenda – this is something of a surprise.  And my best wishes to you both.   My husband did mention that ‘arrangements’ were being made for Marley, so this must be what he meant.  Though I had thought he was referring more to a regency council,” she smiled.

“Well, originally it was.  It was one of the reasons for me attending Court here at Twelfth Night, as you know.  But it seems that things have – developed – somewhat from there.”

“Indeed they have.”   Maire nodded, and cocked her head at Richenda.  “And how do you feel about this?  It is all rather sudden, but from what I have seen and heard, you do not find Duke Alaric – unattractive.”  

Richenda smiled.  “No, he is anything but that.  I’ve come to like him very much, and I enjoy his company, which is a great blessing.  Such a marriage is more than I dared to hope, in all the circumstances, and I am confident that my son will have a fine stepfather.”

“Yes, your little boy.  How old is he – four or five?”  

“Five next June.  He had only just turned four when his father died.”

A shadow seemed to cross Maire’s face. “At least my brother Ian Howell was not married, and left no wife or children to suffer when he turned traitor,” she said quietly.  “I was thankful for that small mercy.  I feel very sorry for you, and sorry that your son will have to cope with that legacy from your first husband.”  

Of course, Ian Howell – the man who’d allied himself with Charissa of Tolan, and whom Alaric had fought and mortally wounded at Kelson’s coronation.  How strange – that Alaric should have played such a similar role in both our lives!

“Yes, unfortunately there will be those who will hold it against Brendan.  We had an incident yesterday.   As if a little boy could be responsible for his father’s actions.”

“Or a wife responsible for her husband, or a sister for her brother.”   Maire regarded her thoughtfully. “It appears that at least His Majesty is prepared to recognise that, and doesn’t hold the sins of husbands, fathers and brothers against the rest of the family.”  

“I am grateful for his kindness.  Though in approving my marriage to Duke Alaric, he has certainly taken care with my next husband.”    She wondered whether Maire would pick up the difference between “approve” and “arrange”.  
Maire laughed.  “My dear Richenda, you are surely marrying the one man in all of Gwynedd – apart from Prince Nigel of course – whose loyalty to the Crown can never be doubted.”   Again, that slight tilt of the head as she regarded Richenda.  “I do not hold my brother’s death against Duke Alaric of course.  Ian was always ambitious, even as a little boy, and I think I always feared it would lead him down dangerous paths.  If Charissa seduced him, I’m sure he went willingly.  He always had a taste for beautiful women, and a beautiful woman who promised him power and the Duchy of Corwyn – well, he wouldn’t resist that.   Knowing Ian, he'd probably have thought to outsmart her in the end.

"So if you are happy to marry Duke Alaric, it seems you don't hold your husband’s death against him either?”

Ambition.  Ambition and jealousy.  And temptation. She didn’t recall Bran being a close friend of Ian Howell’s, but clearly they’d had much in common.  Including a desire for the Duchy of Corwyn.

“No, I don’t.  Like you, I knew of Bran’s ambition, but I always hoped he’d be rewarded through loyal service to the Crown.  I truly believe that he too was seduced, again by power and the promise of lands, and who knows what enchantments Wencit placed upon him as well.  I will never know.   But Duke Alaric acted honourably, and I cannot fault him for his loyalty and devotion to the King.  If he is willing to marry me, then I am honoured and happy to marry him.”

“I’ve heard rumours that Bran Coris was also offered Corwyn.”

“I heard those too.”  

Maire leaned back in her seat with an amused sigh.   “I wonder whether this is the hand of Fate?   Or whether the Almighty somehow has a strange sense of humour.  It’s rather amusing to think that two traitor earls have had their eyes on Corwyn – and now look at the two of us.  Me – now a Countess thanks to my brother’s treachery and my husband’s loyalty.  You – an innocent widow about to acquire both the Duke and his duchy.”   She chuckled.   “At least Duke Alaric’s ambitions appear to be directed to things other than lands or power. Unless of course you believe that he was after the throne of Gwynedd?  Preposterous of course, but some people are silly enough to believe anything.”    

Richenda smiled.  “Judging by some of the things I heard, you’d think Alaric Morgan was the Devil incarnate.”

“If the Devil incarnate looked like Alaric Morgan and had his undoubted charm, perhaps Church attendance would drop considerably.  Or else there would be longer queues of women for daily confession.   Our good Bishops would then have a great deal more to worry about,” replied Maire dryly, and Richenda spluttered with laughter.  

“I’m told that our betrothal will be a source of great disappointment for many eligible young women,” she said, surprised to find that the previously quiet Maire was now ready to talk, and had a sense of humour.

“Indeed.”  Maire turned to where Kathyrn had been sitting silently, listening to the conversation.  “Kathryn, you’ve been sitting there without saying a word.  Do let’s have some refreshments please – can you go and find Ellen, and have her bring some.  Wine or a tissane, my dear?” she said, looking at Richenda, who murmured that she would enjoy a tissane.  “Very well, please have Ellen bring some, and we will enjoy these delicious sweetmeats while we gossip about all the eligible young ladies whose hopes of becoming Duchess of Corwyn have now been dashed.”

Kathryn rose and left the room, and Maire smiled at Richenda.  “Forgive me if I don’t say very much in the solar.  I’m married to a down to earth soldier and usually feel more comfortable discussing the breeding of warhorses or the best way to repair a local bridge than the latest clothing fashions or court romances.   But I keep my eyes and ears open, and your news will certainly upset several women there.   Now let’s see – there’s Lady Lyndall Paige of course – she will be most upset.  And then …”


Next chapter:

« Last Edit: February 19, 2011, 06:24:27 PM by Alkari »

Offline Evie

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 23
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2010, 12:03:08 PM »
Heh.  Yes, I'm quite looking forward to Lady Lyndall's reaction....   ;D

I'm glad Richenda was able to find a friend who can understand what she's going through on multiple levels.  Meraude has been wonderfully sympathetic and understanding, but sometimes it helps to have the comfort and support of someone who has actually traveled down the same road, or at least a very similar one.
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Offline Alkari

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 23
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2010, 02:57:40 PM »
Yes - Maire was a little reserved at first with Richenda while she sussed her out too, because she and her husband lost a number of good friends through Bran's treachery, and of course, she was very mindful of Burchard's own feelings.  But in terms of empathy and personal experiences, Maire's family has quite a history of mixed loyalty and treachery, and Maire of all people is able to understand exactly what Richenda is going through.  (Maire is Meraude's age, and has several children).

According to the Codex, Arban, the father of Ian and Maire, became Baron of Iomaire in 1084 when he succeeded his father.  In 1005 he supported King Brion when his (Arban's) second cousin Rorik, the then Earl of Eastmarch rebelled against the King.   Arban's own forces captured and killed Rorik and Rorik's heir Kennet, and as a reward, Arban was subsequently made Earl instead.  Alaric was Brion's squire on that campaign, and the battle with the Marluk was shortly afterwards, when he triggered Brion's Haldane potentials.   (Richenda is aware of the 1105 stuff, but she was only aged 6 at the time, so it is Ian's later treachery that is uppermost in both their minds).  Arban himself died ten years later, in Dec. 1115, which is when Ian Howell inherited - and we know what happend with him from DR.

Maire's understanding and support was quite unexpected though, and Richenda is now extremely glad that she took the trouble to go and speak to her personally.  And of course, Kathryn is one of her ladies (there will probably be a few interesting discussions between Maire and Kathryn!), and young William FitzEwan is currently working for the Earl of Eastmarch  :)

« Last Edit: October 20, 2010, 03:06:10 PM by Alkari »

Offline Elkhound

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail Chapter 23
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2010, 10:40:26 AM »
When the announcement is made there will be weeping and wailing throughout the land from all the young--and some not-so-young--ladies who have been throwing themselves (or were being thrown by their mothers) at Alaric.


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