MacAdry! You give me that ball back right now!" Nine-year-old Lady
Elinor McPharlane, black braids flying behind, chased an eight-year-old
red headed boy. "Kelson Haldane, you're as bad as he is!" she
said shaking her fist at a black haired boy dressed in royal scarlet.
Behind Elinor, another girl ran, blond hair escaping from her braids.
"Xie, come on, you need to help me!" With a great effort, the
black haired girl leapt on Dhugal MacArdry's back and knocked him to the
"Hey, you can't do that!" Kelson yelled as he jumped on top of the girl.
Araxie Haldane, Kelson's seven year old cousin, threw herself on the rolling pile of children. The ball was forgotten as the girls fought with the boys.
"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!" Strong hands reached into the fight and pulled out each child. "Kelson, you will explain this!"
Kelson blanched as he looked into the grey eyes of his uncle, Prince Nigel Haldane. "We were playing, sir. Um, Dhugal and I, um, were, um, and then Araxie and Elinor, well, they started it!" His face drained completely of color as he looked behind his uncle to see his father, King Brion approaching.
"Nigel, what is going on here?" Brion glared at his son, who was now looking at his feet, his ripped tunic, anywhere but at his father. Dhugal was trying to hide behind Kelson as Brion's glare swept over him.
"Lady Elinor, what happened to your eye?"
Elinor curtsied nervously and touched her blackened eye. She too couldn't look at the King. "Um, well, Sire, Kelson and Dhugal, that is, they, um. Then, we, that is Araxie and I, we..."
Nigel interrupted. "When I saw them, all four children were rolling on the ground, fighting, like common peasants. Kelson and Dhugal seem unable to explain their actions."
"Did Kelson hit you, child?" Brion looked even more sternly at his son. "Kelson, you hit Lady Elinor?" Kelson did not raise his eyes, but shrugged his shoulders miserably.
Elinor jumped to Kelson's defense. "Oh, no, Sire, it wasn't..."
"Do not presume to correct your King, Elinor." A quiet, stern voice spoke behind Elinor as a hand gripped her shoulder. "Yes, Papa." She whispered.
Brion grabbed Kelson's arm. "I cannot believe that you, a prince, would hit a lady. You shame me! Come along. Nigel, bring Dhugal." Brion dragged Kelson, Nigel and Dhugal following. "What your mother will say when she hears of this..." Brion's voice faded.
Elinor turned to face her father. Lord Cameron had obviously come from sword practice. His black hair was wet with sweat and his undertunic was plastered to his trim frame. He was clearly as furious as the king had been. "Elinor, Araxie, I think it's time you returned to your rooms. I shall speak to your mother about this, Araxie. As for you Elinor, you and I will discuss this incident. I don't think you were the innocent here!"
The next morning, Elinor sat with Araxie and her sister Richelle before Mass. "Was your mother very angry?" Elinor whispered. Araxie nodded. "She was really mad. She must have yelled for an hour!"
Elinor nodded. "My father, too. He was very angry, told me I disgraced him by behaving like a common kitchen wench. Look, there's Kelson and Dhugal." The two boys looked miserable as they trailed behind the King and Queen. Kelson glared over at Elinor and Araxie.
"Look at them" hissed Araxie. "As if it's our fault they got in trouble." Araxie's sister nudged her to be silent.
After Mass, Baroness Sivorn, Araxie's mother led Araxie off to the ladies' solar. "Elinor, I think you should come with us as well. I shall speak to the Queen and to your father about this. You girls are old enough that you should not be playing with boys."
"Yes, my Lady. But I have something to do first." Elinor chased after Dhugal and Kelson. "Kelson. Dhugal, wait up."
"What do you want?" Dhugal asked, scowling at her.
"Don't look at me as if it's my fault you got in trouble. You stole the ball."
"You didn't have to jump on top of me. I would have given it back. Now the King is mad at me and he's going to tell my father when he gets here next week, so I'll probably get in trouble all over again! And Conall's going around telling everyone that I beat up on girls because I'm afraid to fight a boy!"
Kelson chimed in. "You got us in enough trouble, Elinor. If my father or uncle catches us talking to you, we'll really get it. We have to muck out the stables for a week! And, I had to listen to my mother for hours yesterday going on about how I'm supposed to be setting an example to other boys my age and my behavior wasn't fitting for a street rat let alone a Haldane prince. Just leave us alone."
As the two boys walked away, Elinor saw her father hurrying toward her. "Elinor, come here, I must speak with you." He led her over to a bench in the garden. "Elinor, Queen Jehana has suggested to me that while you are here in Rhemuth you should be spending time with the ladies, not roughhousing with the boys."
Elinor groaned. "Papa, the ladies are so boring. All they do is embroider and play boring music and talk about their husbands or who their fathers will pick to be their husbands. Then there's the Queen who is wearing out her knees praying that the Duke of Corwyn and all Deryni will disappear."
Elinor's father hushed her urgently. "Elinor, no one must hear you talk of the Queen like that!"
*Papa, she frightens me.* Elinor thought to her father.
"Elinor, you musn't do that here. It's not safe. We aren't at home now."
"Well, I am proud to be Deryni, even if you are not."
Elinor's father shook her hard. "Foolish child, it's not a question of pride. I am proud to be Deryni, but I know it's better to be a proud hidden Deryni then a proud dead one."
"The Duke of Corwyn is openly Deryni." Elinor was defiant.
"That's because he has the protection of the king, and before that the king's father."
"You have the favor of the king. He would protect you."
"I am the second son of a minor earl, a Deryni whose earldom lies under the jurisdiction of the Bishop Loris. Would you have me expose your uncle, your grandparents, your cousins and you to Loris' persecutions? The Duke of Corwyn is a powerful man in his own right. I am not! Even at your age, you must understand the dangers of being known as Deryni!"
Elinor bowed her head, subdued by her father's arguments. "It's not fair."
"I know child, it's not easy. Please God it won't always be this way, but for now we must be careful. Her Majesty has generously offered you a chance to spend your time with her ladies. I have accepted her offer. With your mother gone, you need to be with women, to learn that a woman's place is not brawling with her future king. It's only for the summer, until we return home. Please, you must curb your tongue. For my sake, and for your family's."
Taking her hand in his, he rose and led her to the Queen's gardens, where the ladies were already working on their needlework. Queen Jehana looked up and smiled at Cameron and Elinor as they approached her. Cameron bowed. "Your Majesty, this is my daughter Elinor. I thank you for your kindness to her." Elinor curtsied. "If you will excuse me your Majesty. The King is waiting for me." Jehana nodded. Cameron kissed Elinor lightly on the head. "Be good." he whispered. "I shall see you this evening." He turned and left the gardens.
Elinor had never been so close to the Queen. She looked up and was amazed to realize Jehana was a beautiful woman. Her black hair hung in a braid under a silky veil of white. Her emerald green eyes sparkled as she smiled at Elinor. "Don't be afraid, child. I don't bite. Sit here with me so I can get to know you. Can you embroider?" Elinor dutifully sat on the stool at Jehana's feet.
"Yes, Majesty. My grandmother taught me." Elinor's grandmother was well known for her needlework, and she passed that skill to her only granddaughter. Elinor actually enjoyed needlework, she just hated having to sit still for long.
"In that case, you must be quite good. Your grandmother's skill is known through the Eleven Kingdoms. Would you like to help me with the trim on this tunic for my son?" Jehana handed Elinor a blue tunic with trim around the neck. "Just copy the pattern around the end of the sleeves and the bottom."
Elinor smiled to herself as she took the tunic from the Queen. I wonder what Kelson would think if he knew I was sewing his tunic! she thought. He'd probably refuse to wear it.
"Something amuses you, Elinor?"
Elinor blushed. She didn't think she laughed out loud. "I was just thinking, your Majesty, that His Royal Highness..."
"You think my son won't wear a tunic that you embroidered? Don't worry. I'll make sure he does!" Jehana winked at Elinor.
The day passed more quickly than Elinor thought it would. The Queen was suitably impressed with Elinor's skills. Elinor was amazed at how pleasant Jehana was. Jehana laughed at the jokes and gossip told by the Queen's sister-in-law, the Duchess Meraude, and by her aunt-in-law, Baroness Sivorn. Araxie was seated with Richelle next to Sivorn, but none of the girls spoke. As Elinor worked, she thought of the times she sat with her grandmother and aunt in the gardens of home.
"Are you homesick, Elinor?"
Elinor blinked, confused. It was as if Queen Jehana had read her mind. "Yes, ma'am. I was just thinking of my grandmother. We often sat in her garden and embroidered. That's where she taught me."
"It's hard to be away from the place and people you love. You must miss home very much. But you must think of this as home, while you're in Rhemuth."
Elinor grew more confused. She hadn't expected the Queen to pay much attention to her at all. She knew that the daughter of a second son of a minor earl didn't rate any notice at all.
"Did you know that your mother and I were friends when we were children, just as you and Araxie are now? Her parents spent a lot of time at the Court in Bremagne."
"I didn't know that, your Majesty. I didn't know my mother's parents, and I don't really remember my mother much. She died when I was very small."
It was late afternoon. Elinor had just completed the trim on the bottom of the tunic when all the ladies rose and curtsied. Brion, Prince Nigel and Elinor's father strode into the gardens, followed by Kelson, his cousin Conall and Dhugal.
Brion kissed Jehana's hand and turned to speak to Elinor. "Your eye is better, Lady Elinor?"
Elinor curtsied again, not sure if she liked being the center of royal attention. "It is, Sire. Thank you for asking." The king turned back to Jehana and held out his hand. "It's a lovely evening, my lady. Shall we walk before dinner?" Jehana handed her embroidery to Elinor as she rose. "Lord Cameron, your daughter has been delightful. I look forward to her company tomorrow." King and Queen strolled from the gardens, lords and ladies bowing as they went.
Cameron extended his arm. "If you will excuse us, Your Royal Highness, Elinor and I will be dining in our rooms this evening." He bowed as Nigel nodded his permission to leave. Cameron did not speak until they had returned to their rooms.ôSo, how was your day, Elinor? You seem to have made quite an impression on the Queen."
"I had a good day, Papa. The Queen is not what I expected at all. She was very kind to me. You know, she reminded me of Grandmama. She seemed to know what I was feeling, even without me saying anything."
Cameron looked at her sharply. "You aren't suggesting that the Queen is Deryni, are you Elinor?"
"She couldn't be, could she? She hates Deryni so much. But she wasn't mean at all. She paid a lot of attention to me, she kept asking me questions and commenting on my embroidery. She said she and Maman were friends when they were children."
"Yes, I remember your mother mentioning it once or twice. Your mother didn't really like to talk about her time in Bremagne though. Well, I'm glad you enjoyed your day. Perhaps the rest of your summer won't be so bad after all!"