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Offline Alkari

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Forgiveness - Chapter 2
« on: April 08, 2011, 04:25:08 PM »

"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil."  Jeremiah 13:23  

Previous chapter:

Chapter 2.

Rhemuth Castle private gardens, 22 July 1128

“Mummy, Aunt Meraude – there’s Eirian!  Can I go and play now?”  We all look up at the eager childish voice.  

“The Duchess of Corwyn,” I murmur to Sivorn, who glances at me as she sets aside her sewing ready to meet the new arrivals.  She is well aware of my long-standing animosity towards Corwyn’s Duke.  

Richenda is carrying a little boy while Meraude holds the hand of a fair-haired girl, who is skipping along merrily between the two women.  “After you’ve said hello properly to Queen Jehana and the others,” I hear Richenda reply.

“Here we are,” announces Meraude cheerfully as they halt before us and Richenda sets the boy down.  “Jehana, Richenda – you know each other of course.   Sivorn, Richelle, Araxie – may I introduce Her Grace Richenda de Morgan, Duchess of Corwyn.   And her younger children, Briony – who’s a very grown up five and a half now - and Kelric.  They only arrived late yesterday from Coroth.  I’m glad to say they are all much better sailors than I am!”  

Dearest Meraude!  Ever courtly and diplomatic, she simply breezes past any possible awkwardness and includes us all in her warm smile as she introduces Sivorn and her daughters in turn.  Her manner makes it easier for me to smile and acknowledge Richenda more politely than I ever have before.   If she’s surprised at my sudden courtesy she doesn’t show it: she returns the smile, and with a respectful nod and a soft “Good morning, Your Majesty” she moves on smoothly to exchange greetings with the others.

Kelric is regarding us calmly from the safety of his mother’s side.  Richenda gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze and turns to her daughter.   “Briony, this is Queen Jehana, Uncle Kelson’s mother.  And Her Highness Sivorn, and her daughters Richelle and Araxie.  Please say good morning to them and make a proper curtsy.”  The little girl makes a surprisingly graceful curtsy as she says hello.   I find myself saying good morning in turn, and receive a wide smile.  

“And this is Kelric.  He’s just turned three.”   She murmurs something to the boy, who beams happily, makes a little bow and says “Good morning, my ladies”.  Dear Lord, with that pale hair and grey eyes, he is the very image of his father.  

Richenda nods approvingly and excuses herself while she takes the children over to meet Eiran, Amelia and Siany.    Araxie joins her, and we watch as they organise a welcome for the newcomers.  A sensible-looking nursemaid who has accompanied Richenda hands Kelric a leather ball and settles herself to keep an eye on proceedings.

“I hope Kelric doesn’t mind playing with all the little girls today,” laughs Araxie as they rejoin us.  “Sorley and Sivney are doing lessons this morning.”  She wrinkles her nose in mock disgust at this imposition.

“No, he’ll be glad to run around after several days at sea,” Richenda assures her, as a servant rearranges the seats to accommodate her and Meraude in our group.  “We had to watch him all the time, because he kept wanting to climb things like the sailors.”  She takes a seat between Araxie and Richelle.

“I met you briefly many years ago, Lady Richenda,” remarks Sivorn pleasantly.  “I was visiting my brother Letald in Horthanthy, and you and you mother were on your way to court in Andelon.”

Richenda looks surprised.  “Why yes, Your Highness – my brothers and I visited Andelon regularly as children, and when I was eleven I spent several years there in further studies.   I am amazed you remember me though, and please forgive me for not recalling you.”

“A pretty grand-daughter of Prince Mikhail Vastouni was certainly worth noticing!” chuckles Sivorn.  “And of course I have met your aunt Princess Sofiana and her family quite frequently over the years.  I’m sorry I haven’t been in Horthanthy when you and Duke Alaric have visited.   Indeed, I hadn’t seen him for many years until recently. My first husband Richard always spoke very highly of him as a young man and King Brion’s squire, and your aunt seemed very pleased to hear of your marriage.”  She smiles.   “Oh, and do please call me by my first name.”

I sit back thoughtfully, listening as the conversation moves easily onto the families and alliances of the various southern states.  Of course I know Richenda is related to Rothana and the Emir of Nur Hallaj, though I can’t remember the details.  But I have forgotten her even closer relationship to the ruling house of Andelon.  A further thought occurs: didn’t Meraude once mention that Archbishop Cardiel is Richenda’s uncle by marriage or something?  Somehow I’ve always thought of her in relation to her husbands Bran Coris and now Alaric Morgan, not as a powerful and well-connected woman in her own right.   But if she is Deryni …    

I find myself looking down at my hands, twisting my wedding ring.   Certainly a Deryni ruler of Nur Hallaj.   But what about the Vastouni family in Andelon?   Is Princess Sofiana herself Deryni?  Naturally they would keep it a secret except in Deryni circles, but unlike my family, it seems they have fully accepted their identity, whatever the Church may have said.  And nobody seems to give much mind to the talk of Deryni blood in the Orsal’s family.  I think of the jovial Letald with his noisy, laughing court full of children, cousins and other relations, and cast a brief glance at Sivorn.  No, she couldn’t possibly be ... or could she?  And what about her children?  I close my mind to that possibility.  Of course, the Church in most of the Forcinn states is of more eastern persuasion that in Gwynedd, and they have always been far more tolerant of the Deryni evils than we have here.

Deryni evils. Dear Lord, am I still thinking in such ways?  I swallow and clench my fingers, knowing how my prejudice led me to condemn even my dear husband Brion, both for his own magic and for his staunch friendship with Alaric Morgan.  The man who saved Brion’s life, and his throne, by use of his magical powers.   Since Kelson’s return I have prayed much and lain awake at night, thinking about how my views of the Deryni have changed.  About understanding and accepting myself, about how my life could have been so different had I not been so adamant, so righteous and blind to the truth.   I was so in love with Brion at first, but my hatreds soon blighted my marriage and the love of a good man.  And I have condemned another man simply because the Church preached that his kind and their powers were evil: I never stopped to consider the man himself or how he used those powers.  It is difficult to face these truths, but then I remember where I am and set them aside for later reflection.   Now is not the time for that, when I should be concentrating on our guests, so I take a deep breath and look up once more.  I hope they have not thought me rude for ignoring their conversation ...

Meraude is regarding me with quiet concern and seems relieved when I smile reassuringly at her.  I’m not sure that I can manage any degree of conversation with Richenda yet, and am grateful to find that she has discreetly drawn aside and is now talking and laughing with Araxie and Richelle.  The rest of the morning passes pleasantly until it is time to collect the children and adjourn for the midday meal.

*     *     *

Rhemuth Castle, Royal solar, 25 July 1128

The sounds of children at play waft into the solar as we sit in its cool comfort, happily stitching and talking.   Although I should be concentrating on my embroidery, I find my attention wandering occasionally and keep looking out the window to watch their games.   I wish I had been blessed with more children, especially a daughter after little Rosanne ....   There’s a flash of bright blue as Briony races past, shrieking with glee as she leads the others a merry dance in a game of tag.  Her hair-ribbon has come loose and flutters to the ground.  It’s retrieved by a watchful nursemaid who stares after the racing children, then with a resigned shrug coils the ribbon and puts it in her belt pouch.  I look up, realising Richenda has entered the solar and is quietly watching from another window.  It’s getting easier to smile at her and she laughs, rolling her eyes at her boisterous daughter.  

“Poor Nurse Evie seems to have given up the ribbon for today, though Briony will complain loudly when we have to comb out all the knots in her hair.”    Meraude chuckles and says that at least Briony’s hair isn’t as curly as Amelia’s chestnut mane.  

I wonder how much Meraude has confided in Richenda about Amelia’s true identity and our plotting to have Nigel accept her.  Knowing my feelings about Richenda, Meraude is careful about mentioning her when speaking to me, but she does not hide their friendship.  Certainly Richenda has long been in Kelson’s confidence for things relating to Rothana and little Albin, so maybe she will be a useful ally.

Araxie seems to be a-buzz with ideas and enthusiasm, and I am growing more confident that she will indeed be the right woman for my son.  She’s also joined our scheming about Albin, though the boy poses us with a harder task than Conalline/ Amelia, for it means managing not only Nigel, who can be extremely stubborn like all Haldane men, but also Kelson and Rothana.  Nigel may have agreed about the Carthmoor succession, but that doesn’t mean he will ever truly accept Albin, and of course Rothana has yet to agree.  Still, Araxie seems cheerfully confident that we can manage it, and has “a few ideas”.  

Oksana is blissfully unaware of these added complications, thank goodness.  It is enough that Kelson has offered a Dukedom to her husband Jolyon, and she is basking in the new privilege of being invited to join us in the royal solar.  As the younger daughter of a Fallonese baron, I have no idea why she should have always thought herself entitled to much greater status, even if I’ve long known from palace gossip that she had once set her cap at both Brion and then Nigel.   But at least I can be thankful that the Mearan situation seems to have been resolved.   Now all we need is the formal announcement of Rory’s betrothal tomorrow.  

I notice that Richenda has once again quietly retreated to the background, talking to Richelle and Araxie.   I hear her soft laughter as she helps Richelle untangle a skein of thread.  Although we have spoken but little since her arrival the other day, I am doing my best to be friendly and she is reciprocating.  She seems so assured and confident in her Deryniness and I would like to get to know her better, though I feel awkward and scarcely know how to begin a conversation.  After the way I have previously treated her I can understand her wariness: I hope I am showing that I’d like to mend things between us.  I do not know whether I can ever bridge the vast chasm I have created with Alaric Morgan, but perhaps I can at least improve things with his wife.  

The scent of roses drifts through the windows, taking my thoughts to a garden far from Rhemuth.   My needle moves through the fabric almost of its own volition as I recall my visit to Barrett’s home yesterday, of how I let him take me through the Portal and share the joys of his gardens.   And of our discussion of blindness - his a physical affliction, mine that of a wilfully closed mind.   Dear Barrett: he says it is never too late to change, that I have come a long way in the acceptance of my powers.   What were his words?   That the worst blindness did not come from a lack of physical sight, and that I was finally making peace with my darkness.  There is so much he could teach me, so much we could share together.  My feelings towards him are changing by the day, touching on areas which I have long thought to be dead or at least locked away.   Dare I begin to even hope?  Perhaps with him I can find something of what I have missed for so long ...

With the bustle of wedding guests arriving, it’s no surprise that we are occasionally interrupted by messengers, especially for Meraude.   In the years since Brion’s death she has shouldered the burden of being chatelaine here in Rhemuth.  That should have been my role until Kelson married, but alas, I have been absent too much and have withdrawn from palace life, leaving Meraude to manage in my place.  This last month or so I have been helping when I can, but people are more used to dealing with her now on most day to day matters.  

“Your Highness.”  A page clad in Corwyn livery arrives.  He looks vaguely familiar and I’m startled to realise it’s Brendan Coris, whom I know to be a close friend of Payne’s.  Meraude replies in a low voice, and the boy moves across to bow once more and speak to his mother.  “Of course, Your Grace,” he replies with appropriate formality as he takes his leave.

I suddenly remember what happened in Horthanthy.  Kelson mentioned it almost in passing, shrugging off the details, but Sivorn has told me more of what she learnt from Letald.  I feel guilty that I’ve not at least said something to Richenda about her son, but it’s even better that I speak to the boy himself.

“Brendan.  Brendan Coris,” I call and he turns back to me in surprise.  He’s quite tall for his age, and with his red-gold hair, blue eyes and fine features, he resembles his mother rather than Bran, though there is something of Bran about his jawline and the set of his head.

“Your Majesty?” He approaches and bows politely.  I’m aware that the other women are listening.

“I wanted to thank you.  For helping to save my son Kelson when he was attacked in Horthanthy.  I heard of your bravery and how you risked your own life.”

Brendan looks completely startled: whatever he might have been expecting from me, it certainly wasn’t this.  A slight blush colours his cheeks, and for a moment he seems lost for words.   But he collects himself quickly.

“I was glad I could help His Majesty,” he replies quietly.  “I’m not sure I did very much – I just did what I could.”

“From what I heard, I think you are being much too modest,” I say, smiling.  “Thank you again.”

I see his pride and pleasure at the public compliment: he bows again and departs, a spring in his step as he hurries to the door.  I feel both relieved and elated at my action: perhaps saying ‘thank you’ in front of his mother is also a way to say I am sorry.

*     *     *

Rhemuth Castle private gardens, 26 July 1128

“So it’s all arranged.”  Araxie gives a wickedly conspiratorial smile as she finishes outlining the scheme she and Kelson have concocted to introduce Nigel to his grand-daughter.  “All you have to do is go along with it and pretend to know nothing.”   Meraude and I exchange amused glances as the three of us join the other ladies already sitting under the trees on this lovely afternoon.  Araxie swirls away to take a seat near her mother.  

There is so much to finish for the two weddings, though it’s a little difficult to concentrate on our sewing at times, with a noisy group of children running round and often interrupting.   Richenda finally sorts matters out and the girls gleefully choose Araxie to be “their” adult for the games.   Lord Derry, who has been playing with Kelric and some of the younger boys, is also persuaded to join in and the gardens soon echo to joyful shrieks and the roars of ‘ferocious beasts’.  

Kelson’s arrival with Nigel, Morgan and young McArdry produces a boisterous welcome.  Araxie’s suggestion of a visit to the St Camber chapel is greeted with delight and four little girls solemnly assure the adults that they will behave properly.  With Eirian pleading in his arms, Nigel finds it impossible to object for too long; Richenda and Lord Derry offer to assist with the children and the visiting party is quickly organised.   The noise diminishes as they make their way towards St Hilary’s, Siany in the lead as the girls raid nearby flowerbeds to gather presents for St Camber.  I hope the flowers survive the journey.

“I see two of our Dukes are rather besotted with their daughters,” laughs Sivorn as peace descends.  “Does Nigel ever manage to say ‘no’ to Eirian, Meraude?”

“He does his best to be stern with her when required, but after the boys, he finds it much harder with a daughter.  He hates to see her cry!”  

“I don’t think he stood much chance against four little girls today!”

There are appreciative laughs from several ladies, including Oksana, and I smile to myself as I bend over the chemise I am embroidering.  I’m leaving spaces in the design for me to work Araxie’s initials once her betrothal is announced, for the women have keen eyes here at court and the garment is supposedly destined for Richelle.   I can only hope that we have judged Nigel correctly and that Araxie’s plan to introduce Conalline will work.  Nigel adores Eirian, and Conalline is such a sweet little girl.   Surely even Nigel cannot keep his heart so hardened against Conall that he will reject his grand-daughter?   I would have liked to accompany them and view the St Camber Chapel before its consecration, but Nigel would have been instantly suspicious had I suggested it, especially with Morgan and Dhugal McArdry in the party.  

Alaric Morgan.   Two Dukes besotted with their daughters, Sivorn had said.  I recall how both Eirian and Briony had flung themselves joyfully at their fathers when Kelson and his companions had arrived.  Of course I’d been watching Nigel and Kelson, but out of the corner of my eye I’d also noticed Morgan.  He’d said nothing – I wonder how much he knows about our plotting - just stood with his daughter in his arms, relaxed and smiling as Araxie and Kelson put the start of their plan into practice.   There was obvious affection – no, it’s much more than that - between him and Richenda as she took charge of Briony.  Alaric Morgan, husband and father.   Somehow, though he has been married for - what must it be now? six years? - I have never thought of him in that way.  Indeed, I have never thought of him as anything other than that Morgan, a cursed Deryni influence on my husband and son.  

Briony.   Her name says so much.  Morgan has been at Court for more than twenty years as page, squire and then Duke and Council member, he was Brion’s dearest friend and loyal advisor, he has stood by my son to protect and advise, and yet I do not know him at all.  I have spent those years insulting him publicly and often, I have shunned him and done everything in my power to bring him down, I have accused him of treason, would even have seen him burnt at the stake for merely being Deryni.

I know Nigel’s interests and Saer’s; I can converse easily with dear old Ewan about hunting and his beloved hounds; I even know that Roger, Earl of Jenas, writes poetry occasionally.   But I am ashamed to realise that I know nothing about the man who is Alaric Morgan.   Though there is something different about him these days, something I should have noticed ...  it eludes me for the moment, so I return to my sewing and the cheerful conversation around me.  It’s only much later, when Oksana holds up a finished garment against Noelie and we all admire how it suits her, that I realise what it is.

Colour!   Of course: Morgan no longer wears black all the time.  Indeed, I can’t recall seeing him wear black at court in recent years, except for his cloak the night he and Kelson returned from Beldour.   I ponder this change as I return to working a small flower made of bullion knots.   When did it happen?  Is it Richenda’s influence?  Or has Morgan just finally decided that his position is secure and that a Duke at court requires more appropriate garb these days?   Whatever the reason, the air of veiled bravado and subtle Deryni menace which he affected for so long seems to have gone.  Outwardly at least, there is nothing about him other than the air of quiet authority and power he carries as Duke, Council member and King's Champion.  

The sound of girlish voices interrupts these thoughts and my heart does a wild lurch as I see the small party returning from the basilica.  Richenda and Lord Derry as expected, but it is Nigel leading them, holding hands with Eirian and Conalline.  He looks as though he’s in a wondrous dream as they chatter away happily to him; he bends to say something when they reach us, receiving loving hugs and kisses in return before one of the nursemaids comes to take charge of them.  Dear Meraude seems about to cry as she draws Nigel aside to speak to him quietly.  As we start to pack up our sewing and organise the younger children, she flings her arms around him and soon they disappear towards their apartments without a backwards glance.  

There are a few laughing comments about the couple as we gather our belongings, for the afternoon is very warm now and it will be cooler inside.  Servants take our chairs and sewing baskets, while several maidservants gather toys and shepherd the rest of the children back to the castle for afternoon naps.  My quiet elation must have showed on my face, for Richenda lingers slightly before following Lord Derry and her children.  
“Mission accomplished, I think,” she murmurs and we exchange knowing, happy smiles.  

Next chapter:
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 09:49:45 AM by Alkari »

Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Forgiveness - Chapter 2
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2011, 06:05:03 PM »
Excellent chapter.  I assume that naming one of the nurses "Evie" was just pure coincidence?
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Forgiveness - Chapter 2
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2011, 08:02:43 PM »
I am enjoying this different point of view.  And hope that Jehana can begin to know Morgan better in a positive light.
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Offline kirienne

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Re: Forgiveness - Chapter 2
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2011, 10:07:37 PM »
I am really enjoying reading this. I love seeing the change in Jehanna, and your words have painted the picture of it beautifully. Of course it's hard for her, after so many years of hating the Deryni, and especially Alaric, but the compliment to young Brendan was a marvelous start.
More soon please LOL :-D

Offline Alkari

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Re: Forgiveness - Chapter 2
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2011, 03:32:28 AM »
Excellent chapter.  I assume that naming one of the nurses "Evie" was just pure coincidence?
Thank you, DF.  Nurse Evie appeared back in June last year when I posted St Camber's Tiger - and yes, at that stage it was indeed a coincidence!  "Our" Evie said she had no objections to this - see

Offline Evie

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Re: Forgiveness - Chapter 2
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2011, 01:33:22 PM »
Another great chapter!  Yes, I'm sure Nigel is putty in his daughter's hands, after three rambunctious boys.   :D

And nice running into my coincidental namesake again, though if Nurse Evie is a sensible sort, she's definitely not too closely based on me....   ;D
« Last Edit: April 10, 2011, 02:07:52 PM by Evie »
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Forgiveness - Chapter 2
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2011, 12:46:41 PM »
Playing catch up on all these fics, and this is a fine chapter to get me going. :)


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