Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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Derry's Wedding



Chapter  8

The Humble Greet The Sun

The following day, as promised, began at dawn with Ethan's departure and proceeded with little respite through sword drill in the armory yard during the morning and patrol drill outside the town walls for the entire afternoon. Derry was used to both activities, but he was still sore from his wound and shaken by the news that Wencit of Torenth had a son, and one who looked just like him. On top of the long day of hard work, Lord Michael had made sure Derry had no time to spend with Dacia. Immediately after supper, he had summoned Derry, along with Gregory and Lucas, to the study and given them additional tasks for the next day. Derry had not returned to the hall but had gone straight to bed. He had not slept soon, however, for he kept remembering Geoffrey's somewhat awkward movements in the armory yard and the fact that he'd never had a minute alone with Dacia throughout the entire day.

When he finally did sleep, it was only fitfully. He woke fully just as the first hint of dawn began to lighten the sky and sighed in disgust. He had another grueling day ahead, and he felt less rested now than when he'd gone to bed. He didn't know why Lord Michael was so insistent on keeping him away from Dacia; he just wanted to talk to her! And then there was Geoffrey. What in the world was he going to do about the boy? As if they didn't have enough trouble just training the soldiers to protect the passes, he had all this other baggage to carry.

Musing, he decided he knew one of his problems. It had been days since he had actually relaxed, and he certainly wasn't doing it lying here staring up at the canopy of his bed. Pushing the covers aside, he rose and found his clothes. He dressed quickly in just hose and a shirt, slipping on shoes and carrying his tunic and belt. It was always better to run through the positions outside, where he could hear and feel nature around him. He went quietly down the newel stairs and out into the garden, where he would have some room to move about. Dropping his tunic, belt, and shoes onto a stone bench at the edge of a clearing in the middle of the garden, he moved to the center of the circle and positioned himself so that he should face into the rising sun.

He closed his eyes and settled his heart, concentrating on the sounds and smells that came to his senses. He could feel the earth beneath his bare feet and the wind wafting gently through his hair, could smell the delicate scent of the blossoms of early-blooming fruit trees. His mind and spirit began to still as he felt himself center down into the mental state San Te had shown him. He began moving slowly into the form, his mind clear, his body relaxed. He thought of nothing except the little spark of perfection he seemed to feel as he moved through the positions. Crane Walks the Stream became Dragon Sweeps the Trees. The slow and rhymic coordinated movements of his body settled into the form completely, and Derry felt as if he were flying. The Pounding Wave became Eagle Keeps the Eyrie. He concentrated on his breathing and on relaxing his muscles as he moved through the form.

Almost before he realized, he was in the midst of Weasel Takes the Snake, a complicated flying kick combined with a double catch low, and he was settling into the final movement, The Humble Greet the Sun. The telling of his training would be shown when he opened his eyes. He bowed to what he hoped would be the east, where he would be greeted by the rising sun. He smiled in satisfaction as he found that he had indeed placed himself correctly and suddenly realized he was also face to face with Dacia, who sat on the bench beside his other clothes, watching him in fascination.

"Good morning," he smiled at her.

"Good morning indeed. What in the world were you doing, Sean?"

"It's called a lotus form," he said as he sat down beside her to pull on his shoes. "I was getting in touch with the perfection of the spheres." He grinned his lopsided grin at the surprise on her face. "Sorry. It helps me to relax."

She looked concerned. "What's got you so tense you need to relax at daybreak, Sean? Did you not sleep?"

He shrugged and admitted, "Not very well, no. It's just–everything, Dacia. Your father's working me like a very peasant, and he hardly lets me speak to you, and he's assigned me a squire who really needs a lot of training. And I guess it's mainly the idea that Wencit's coming back to haunt me again. I thought I was fairly well past the worst of that."

"It was bad, wasn't it?"

He nodded, refusing to meet her eyes. "It was worse than bad sometimes. I–finally worked through it. At least I thought I had. What you saw me doing–the forms of Tan Che–that was a real beginning point for me. Learning that helped me begin to understand that I had to find peace from within myself, that no one else could give it to me."

"Did Duke Alaric teach it to you, then?"

Derry smiled, shaking his head. ‘No, not m'lord Alaric. I learned it from a most amazing man named San Te, a gardener by trade."

She was surprised. "A–a gardener?"

"Aye, though I always suspected he was more than just a gardener."

"Why is that, Sean?"

He pulled on his tunic before he answered, slowly. "Well, it was the oddest thing, Dacia. He just showed up out of nowhere. I mean, the Duchess had wanted to repair the gardens at Castle Coroth, it's true, but he just turned up at the gate one day to ask to be allowed to work on the gardens. He was just a little man in brown homespun, but his eyes–they were truly remarkable. Almond-shaped, and pale as ice, and looking into them I felt like I was looking into–I don't know exactly. A well of time, maybe. This wisdom of eons. Anyhow, I took him to the Duchess, and she accepted him as gardener, and I didn't think much more about it until--" he paused, lost in thought.

"Yes? What happened, Sean?"

"Well, I–I had nightmares, Dacia, for a long time after–after Cardosa. Still do, once in a while, though not so bad now. I had one then, a day or two later, and I got up early–really early, before sunrise, and went down into the garden. And he was there, on the terrace, doing what you just saw me doing. I–I can't exactly say why it seemed–well, to pull at me. As if I had to know what he was doing. It was like–waves of calm just rolled off him and washed over me. And he seemed to sense that I was upset, and he agreed to show me how to relax, and–well, it did. I could just feel the tension and fear draining away from me, and I must have been standing there for half an hour or more, completely relaxed, when the Duchess and Lady Rothana came out of the solar and found me. After that, San Te taught me more and more, and I've been virtually free of Wencit's terror since. Not–not entirely, but essentially so. I've learned how to control my own fears, to find strength in myself. Does any of that make sense to you?"

"It makes a great deal of sense, Sean. I could almost feel your peacefulness myself just now. I just never saw anyone do those sorts of things before. It was–well, almost like a slow dance, very formal."

"Yes, exactly. There is a certain rhythm to them, that's in tune with nature, you see. That's why it's better to do them outside. All the positions have names that relate to natural forms in the world around us."

"It sounds very complicated."

"Well, yes and no. I think there's a lot more San Te could have taught me, but he didn't."

"Why not?"

"He left Coroth after a year or so. He said he had ‘put things on the proper path to wellness,' and he had to move on. I asked him if he meant he'd put me on the path too, as well as the garden, and he just smiled and said I was on it, yes, and that we'd likely meet again before its end. And he left, took ship and sailed off toward Fianna, and that's the last I heard of him. But I get the feeling he's likely to turn up unexpectedly again. A most amazing man, as I said."

"Aye, he sounds it, indeed." She tilted her head to one side as if thinking, then said slowly, "Did you say this–whatever you called it--"

"The forms of Tan Che," he smiled.

"Aye. Did you say it helped you find your own strength from within?"

"It did. Why?"

"Well, I'm wondering if you could teach it to Geoffrey, Sean. He's a good boy, really he is. Better in some ways than Peter, for he wants to know why he does things, not just how. I stayed at Munro with them for a while when he was just a little lad, and he nearly drove my uncle to distraction asking why he had to do a thing one way and not another. He has little confidence in himself; that's his only problem, really. Always comparing himself to Peter, even when others try not to. Do you think you could teach it to him? And do you think it might help him?"

Derry considered this for a moment, then nodded slowly. "I could teach him what I know, yes. And it might help. It would be something I expect his brother never did," he grinned.

"That's true," she laughed. "Somehow I cannot see Peter up at dawn to bow to the sun."

"That's a really good idea, actually, Dacia. It will give us some quiet time to get to know each other, and what little I know will be at least a beginning for him. An excellent idea."

She gave him a teasing smile. "All my ideas are good ones. And right now I've an idea I'd like another kiss from you, Sean Derry."

He answered her smile with one of his own. "Now that sounds like the best idea of all,' he said, leaning forward and closing his eyes as their lips touched. At the same time he heard the crunch of a footstep on the graveled path beyond the clearing, and he opened his eyes to meet the level, sea-green gaze of Lord Michael.

The Earl of Drumaere's expressive eyebrows rose toward his hairline. "Weel now, Lord Derry. Ye're up early. And ye, daughter. I'm just on ma way to Mass. Will ye not join me?"

Derry and Dacia exchanged a look of mutual frustration and wry amusement before they both stood. Dacia spoke for both of them. "Aye, Father. I expect we can both think of a thing or two to pray for this morning."



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