Author Topic: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29  (Read 7733 times)

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Offline Alkari

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A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« on: December 06, 2010, 02:00:55 AM »
Yes folks, THE END.

Previous chapter here:

Chapter 29

“Go with Uncle William now, Brendan, and get into the carriage.  I’ll be with you soon.”   Richenda smiled as her brother shepherded Brendan out the door, clutching Sir Knight and the red king.  

“Richenda.”   Into his arms once more for a long, gentle kiss, sharing this one last precious moment of being alone together.  Alaric released her reluctantly, turning away abruptly to collect her cloak and gloves from the table.

He placed the cloak around her shoulders, adjusting the folds and gently fastening the ties and heavy clasp.  She smiled and handed him a small rectangular package in a quilted red velvet pouch.

“It belonged to my grandfather, Prince Mikhail Vastouni,” she said as Alaric opened it.  “I loved it as a child, and he left it to me in his will.”

The little picture seemed to glow, the rich enamel colours brilliant against the fine black wooden frame.  The fiery reds of the angel’s robes, his pale golden hair, the shimmering golden wings folded against him, and the blue-black sword rimmed in silver down the blade.  

“St Michael,” breathed Alaric in awe, tracing the delicate carving on the hinged frame and tilting the picture slightly so it caught the faint morning light from the windows.  “Richenda, it’s – its …” he shook his head, momentarily lost for words.

“For my own beloved warrior.  Who was born at Michaelmas.   May St Michael always look after him.”

Their eyes met.  “Thank you,” he whispered, his lips brushing hers in the softest of kisses.  Carefully he closed the picture, wrapping it once more in its protective velvet and placing it in his belt pouch.   “Come – we’d better go.”

She took Alaric’s arm; they walked briskly along the corridors, down the stairs and through the great hall, skirting along the sides to avoid the bustle of early morning activity.  Out into the pale sunlight, down the steps to where her party and a mounted escort was waiting.  She was startled at those waiting to say good-bye: Kelson and Nigel, bowing wishing her well; Meraude, hugging her and hoping it would not be too long before they met again; Father Duncan, smiling and kissing her hand before moving away to swing up onto a bay horse.  She was glad Alaric would have his company for the return.

Joan and Lily were safely in the carriage, with Brendan peering out eagerly at all the activity.  William swept her into a fierce brotherly embrace, murmuring that he’d ride only as far as the cathedral with them.

“Your horse, my lady.”  Alaric’s voice held a hint of laughter as she pulled on her gloves and turned back to the waiting riders.

It was her turn to gasp.  “Ruffian?” she exclaimed, as Rogan smiled shyly and led the grey forward, holding him while Alaric checked the saddle and girth once more.  

“He’s a lady’s horse,” grinned her future husband.  “And besides, Derry’s not likely to be convinced we’re betrothed just because I wrote and told him.  On the other hand, if he sees you arriving back on Ruffian ….!”

She was laughing as he helped her into the saddle and adjusted her cloak before swinging up onto his own bright chestnut.   Rogan bowed and she bent to thank him and say a swift good-bye, then Alaric was waving the cavalcade forward.  He and Duncan fell into place either side of her.

Out of the castle, down the slightly winding stretch of thoroughfare towards the Cathedral and the Archbishop’s palace, where monks and riders in Bishop Ifor’s livery were bustling and forming up around another carriage.  There was a flurry of activity as Ifor himself emerged, portly and almost bearlike in a fur-lined cloak and cap.  He greeted them briskly and heaved himself astride a stocky brown horse.  Following him came Uncle Thomas to say his own farewells; with all riders mounted, there was a brief moment of silence as Cardiel said a simple blessing and wished them a safe journey.  

Alaric rode ahead to speak to the bishop’s lead riders; there were shouted orders, and the cavalcade moved off, sorting itself out as it headed towards the city walls and Bishop’s Gate.  Half a dozen escorts with the bishop and two companions in the lead, then the two carriages, followed by the rest of the riders with the pack animals and a couple of spare horses.  

They picked up speed once out of the city; the road from Bishop’s Gate soon joined the main road north which was wide and well-maintained, even beyond Valoret.   Richenda rode between Duncan and Alaric ahead of her own carriage, their horses snorting and striding out eagerly in the crisp morning.   Some of the workers in the fields surrounding St Joseph’s abbey waved to them as they passed, and when she turned in the saddle, she could see Brendan waving back happily.

Alaric said little, but Richenda and Duncan chatted quietly about the journey, and about his return to Cassan and Kierney in a few days’ time.  “I’ve been in Rhemuth longer than I’d planned,” he said ruefully, “and there is still so much to do.  Of course,” he chuckled, “I’ve at least managed to see you two betrothed, which is one major task crossed off my list.”

“We were a task on your list?” she inquired in amusement.  

“Of course.  He’s been wanting to get me safely married off for years.”  Alaric proved he had been listening to their conversation.  “I think it’s been included at the top of his new year resolutions each year since we turned twenty.”

“Accompanied by increasingly desperate prayers because you were so stubborn and fussy about choosing the right woman!” retorted Duncan cheerfully.   “Seeing you couldn’t find anyone at court or in Coroth to marry, I thought I’d end up parading a string of bar wenches from The Green Barrel, in the hope that someone would take your fancy!”

“The Green Barrel?”  

“I am not quite sure how my priestly cousin knows about it,” said Alaric, winking at her.  “It’s a rather disreputable waterfront inn down in Desse – not the sort of place you’d expect to find a respectable priest.  Unless called in to give the last rites to someone who ate last week’s stew.”

“And how does a respectable duke know about such a place?” she laughed.  “Or shouldn’t I be asking?”

Alaric raised an eyebrow.  “Why, I happen to know the owner,” he said mildly.  “Met him quite a while ago now.  He’s always happy to let Derry or me have a room if we’re desperate.   Though I don’t you’ll ever be staying there, my love,” he added hastily.  “The ale is good and plentiful, and you hear a few good stories in the bar, but it’s not very clean or quiet.   Its clientele is – interesting – shall we say.”

Interesting is not quite the word I would use,” muttered Duncan.  

“I’m being polite,” grinned Alaric.  “As far as I know, no one’s been killed there yet.  The landlord’s a burly type – big former soldier – and he has quite a way with people who get too difficult.  He doesn’t mind them breaking their own heads, but objects to them breaking the furniture.”

Richenda shook her head, smiling.  “I don’t think our accommodation between here and Marley will be so exciting.  Monasteries, convents and abbeys, and the bishop’s palace in Valoret. “

“Just the sort of places you find drunken brawls,” agreed Duncan.  “Mind you, I’d watch Abbot O’Leary if you stay at St Swithun’s – the monks there are famous locally for their brew, and he’s known to be rather partial to a drop or two himself.”

“Then I shall retire discreetly and leave him to Bishop Ifor,” she said.  “Brendan gives me a very convenient excuse to avoid unwanted socialising.”

 “And he’s a convenient chaperone, I hear,” Duncan laughed, glancing meaningfully between her and Alaric.  “I think it’s time I left you two alone – I’ll go and annoy some of Bishop Ifor’s people.  His clerk, Father McIlraith, is from Cassan and was a year or so ahead of me at university.”  He touched his cap in brief salute, and cantered on ahead of them.

Alaric had turned to glance behind at the coach at mention of Brendan’s name, but her son was apparently happily occupied inside.  Richenda smiled.  “I think the red king and Sir Knight will be discussing the countryside and working out where they’ll move their armies.  I’m sure they’ll have many adventures before we reach Marley.”

“The king hasn’t got a name yet?”

“No.  I suggested King Kelson, but Brendan isn’t sure that the real King Kelson would want a toy named after him.”

“I think he’d be very flattered!” laughed Alaric.  “Especially as the king’s wearing Haldane colours.”

“I’ll tell him that.  Meanwhile, they are busy organising armies and dreaming up battles, though I’m not sure who the current enemy is.”

“Well, there’s been plenty of real battles on the way, though hopefully you won’t stop too long in Killingford, if Ifor decides to go that way,” he said.  She nodded, and he went on.  “It’s a pretty little village, and the ford’s good in all but the spring thaws, but I’m never really comfortable there.  I feel as though I’m riding over graves every stride.  I came through there one evening with Brion, and I swear we both felt ghosts.”   He shrugged and snorted ruefully.  “Cheerful conversation – I’m sorry.”

They were riding close together, and she reached out to touch his arm briefly, accompanying it with a sympathetic tendril of thought.  “Ghosts and death,” she murmured.  “Oh Alaric, please God that we are over all that for now.  We’ve both had our fill of death and funerals and mourning.  I want to start living again, and be happy.”

He glanced sideways at her and grinned.  “Well, I think a May Day wedding will be a good start.  We’ll leave any mourning to those few jealous ladies!”

“And those Lendour virgins?” she teased, and they were both laughing as the pace increased slightly on a long straight stretch of road before it climbed over a low rise.

The cavalcade halted on the other side, where a wooden sign proclaimed the spot to be Thompson’s Rest.   There were wide clearings between the scattered trees; there was a stone well and a trough for watering animals, while nearby a stone fireplace in a sheltered spot indicated that many travellers took advantage of the opportunity to refresh themselves before proceeding those last seven miles to Rhemuth, or heading on north.

Duncan came trotting back to them as other riders dismounted and the drivers scrambled down to stretch their legs.  “Ifor says we’ll have a short break – check gear and such.”  The two men dismounted and Duncan held the horses while Alaric helped Richenda down.

‘I’ll see how Brendan is,” she said, walking over to where Joan was already helping the boy down from the carriage for a brief toilet break.  Alaric nodded and busied himself with a final check of Ruffian’s gear, tugging at saddlebags and checking buckles, before bending to check legs and hooves.  

“Are you still going to ride with us, Duke Alaric?”  
Morgan turned, looking down at the hopeful little face.  “No Brendan,” he said gently, “This is where I have to say good bye.”

Good bye.  Richenda swallowed.  She had never been one for tearful farewells, and she was certainly not going to let any hint of them spoil this parting.  Time seemed to blur: as if in a dream, she watched Alaric put a hand on Brendan’s shoulder and bend down to talk to him, the words indistinguishable but her son’s face at first solemn and then starting to smile.

He hugged Alaric fiercely as Alaric picked him up and lifted him back into the coach with Joan.  The driver climbed back onto his seat, while around them was renewed bustle as orders were given and men mounted up again, horses stamping and snorting.  

Wordlessly Alaric returned to her, taking her hands and carrying them gently to his lips in a last tender gesture, before bringing Ruffian over and helping her into the saddle.  

“Good bye, Father Duncan,” she said, smiling gently as Alaric settled her cloak around her and checked the girth once more.  “May God take care of you.”

“And may He look after you, Richenda.”  

Alaric swung onto his own horse and kneed it close to her.  “Good bye, Richenda.  May God keep you both safe, my dearest.”

“And you my love.” She smiled and held out the little package she’d prepared so carefully early that morning, its soft contents wrapped in a fine linen handkerchief and tied with a blue ribbon.

“A special favour for a besotted duke.”

Their eyes met as he took it, their mutual mental caress bringing a sudden smile to his face.  That wonderful Alaric smile to carry with her, loving, tender, mischievous. Hers alone.  

Orders were shouted, the carriage started to move.  Resolutely she urged Ruffian forward, past Alaric and Duncan, breaking into a jog to keep up with the others.  Head held high, she kept her eyes fixed on the long road stretching ever north.

“I love you”.  The thought wrapped itself around her as she rode, but she did not look back.


« Last Edit: February 19, 2011, 06:34:19 PM by Alkari »

Offline Evie

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2010, 06:50:11 AM »
Awww! at A. and R.

And LOL at A.'s "proof" of betrothal to Derry!

So....Next story?  ;D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2010, 08:54:54 AM »
Seconding the "awww".  Lovely conclusion, Alkari.

And looking forward to whichever of your planned stories is forthcoming next. ;)

Offline kirienne

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2010, 06:51:25 PM »
What a lovely way to end this story. I loved Brendan hugging Alaric fiercely as the duke picked him up. I bet the poor child's heart was breaking at having to say good-bye to his future new papa. The temporary parting of Alaric and Richenda made me a bit teary-eyed too because you have captured so well their love for one another.
This was a wonderful story and I'm sad it's come to an end, but now those two can  get on with the business of getting married.

Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2010, 04:29:58 PM »
All great stories must eventually come to an end.  This story definitely qualifies as great.
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Offline Laurna

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2013, 03:47:44 AM »
  I just finished reading this.  I must say what a wonderful story to read about my two favorite people.  Richenda had the best month in Rhemuth that anyone could ever wish for. Alkari, I enjoyed your telling very much.

Offline Elkhound

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2013, 10:17:31 AM »
I want to quote "Oliver Twist" right now.

Online DerynifanK

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2016, 08:29:33 AM »
I loved this story of Alaric and Richenda's courtship. It was lovely, thank you
"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

Offline Laurna

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Re: A Gryphon by the Tail - Chapter 29
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2016, 03:40:09 PM »
This is one of my favorite stories among so many wonderful stories told here on the Forum. It is nice to hear people reading and enjoying them. I hope it will encourage the continued writing of new stories for the Deryni world.


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