The Queen of Meara
Chapter 5 - Part 2
fire had already been started and food brought to the room Kelson
utilized for the meeting. It
was of a good size, with a large table on one side and a more informal
sitting area with a smaller table before the fireplace. The furnishing
was more extensive than Mairona was accustomed to. She noted with some
surprise that none of the men nor Richenda rose or bowed to the king
when they greeted him. He seemed to prefer a casual atmosphere in private, which was
fine with her. That was how things were at Druimfada, by her choice and
her father’s before her. Dhugal offered a bowl of food, but Kelson
shook his head and seated Mairona close to the fire. He saw her glance
around the room, at the people, her outward calm too forced. Placing his
hand on her shoulder, he sent mental reassurance. He wished there were
something he could do to soothe her.
believe you already know everybody in the room.
You met Alaric Morgan yesterday,” he started, trying to ease
her into the business ahead. Mairona smiled.
lord Duke,” she nodded. “I
have been a little disappointed. The legendary fearful Deryni sorcerer
in black doesn’t strike nearly as much terror when dressed in green,
as you are this morning.” She held her breath, waiting for his
response. The atmosphere was very casual in here, but as a newcomer this
was a huge risk. Morgan laughed, and she thankfully let out a sigh.
see my reputation goes as far as the Mearan mountains, but news travels
slowly,” he chuckled. “The badgering of no less than Archbishop
Cardiel, my wardrober, and my lady wife put an end to my darkling phase
several years ago. ‘ Tis
something for you to look forward to, Kelson, when you do marry,”
Morgan said pointedly at the king, who humored his Champion with a wry
least I did not need the Archbishop pestering me to stop wearing
black,” Kelson returned. Mairona
wondered if he referred to his mourning clothes after Sidana died. “My
apologies, Richenda. We do not mean to overlook you.”
apologies necessary,” she said, her blue eyes twinkling with a smile.
“I am certain Lady Mairona and I will have plenty of time to
become acquainted in the solar.”
look forward to it, my lady Duchess,” Mairona replied, returning the
smile. Kelson continued
with the introductions.
Duncan and his son Dhugal were also present last night.”
we met words in the hall, didn’t we my lady?”
Dhugal asked, bowing to her.
trust we shall have the chance to do so again,” she playfully dared
have not formally met my uncle, have you?” the king continued.
“This is Prince Nigel. Uncle, this is the Lady Mairona ní
bowed. “I was unable to
welcome you to Rhemuth upon your arrival yesterday morning, so I shall
do so now,” he said.
thank your Highness,” she replied, nodding her head.
shall we break our fast before we start?” the king said, trying to
give Mairona time to get more comfortable.
She had put on a convincing air of confidence, but she was
largely silent as she ate mostly dried fruit and a slice of bread with
cheese. Kelson noticed gladly that her composure had strengthened,
though he sensed that her inner turmoil hadn’t lessened. As the meal
wound to a close, he could delay no longer.
let us begin,” he started. “Mairona,
I know Rolf of Tirkeeve is leading this uprising in your name.”
he is,” Mairona spat. Kelson
was taken aback at the intense hatred that flashed in her eyes when he
mentioned Rolf’s name.
need to know what he is planning and where he is getting his support,”
the king said.
this not be a whole lot easier and more thorough if you Read me?” she
it would. I am not used to
such open acceptance of our methods,” Kelson said, which was true. But
the real reason he shied away from that was he was reluctant to have
their first experience with rapport, a potentially intimate sharing,
with an audience. It could turn very personal, and he wasn’t sure he
was ready to share his unmasked feelings with Mairona yet, and he had no
desire to do so in front of even his inner circle. She was right,
though. It would definitely be more thorough. He stood up and moved
behind her, placing his hands gently on her shoulders. “Alright. Just
lean back on me and close—”
he could finish, she had established the rapport.
I have done this before,
she chastised him, amused at his surprise. Her touch was very smooth,
betraying her extensive training.
apologies. It is not often
that I meet a Deryni who has been taught so well.
Kelson took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, sinking to a
deeper level. She descended with him effortlessly. Now,
he continued, show me what I need to know before I get distracted by more personal
willing gave him all she knew about the Mearan plot, and thankfully no
lords of real power backed Rolf. Kelson
reviewed the names and identities of all the chieftains and minor lords
who threw their support behind the Chief of Tirkeeve. Beyond that, she
hadn’t discovered much about their plans to make Meara independent
once more. She did know that Rolf had been able to raise a force of
about five hundred men through his backers and hired mercenaries. It
wasn’t large enough to be dangerous, and Kelson had never heard any
tales told of Rolf’s military genius, so that was no problem. Mairona
hadn’t openly supported the plot, so she had never been privy to
details. There wasn’t as much information as Kelson had hoped, but it
was enough to assure him that suppressing the rebels wouldn’t require
the same kind of war he had fought three years ago. Satisfied, he moved
what cause has Rolf of Tirkeeve given you to hate him so?
asked her. Her sharing instantly darkened with a smoldering fury held
tightly under leash. Kelson received vivid images of how Rolf had been
displeased when he found that his chosen Queen of Meara wasn’t as
biddable as he expected. How he had tried to beat her to submission, but
failed as she skillfully avoided his blows. In response she had ordered
her house guard to throw him out of her castle. He had brought too many
supporters, though, for her small garrison to handle. He had broken into
her bedchamber the following evening, demanding that she marry him. With
a growing terror and struggling to hold some shreds of dignity together,
she refused. He threatened that if she hadn’t changed her mind before
the morrow, that he would give her honor no choice but to marry him.
were no doubts in Mairona’s mind that Rolf would carry out his threat
and dare force her to bed first. She
would rather die than be raped, especially by such filth. In the cover
of night she gathered a handful of trusted servants and guards,
hurriedly packed a couple chests of her favorite belongings and as much
of the treasury as she could manage, then fled her castle for Rhemuth
and the king.
felt the full impact of her fear, and her courage in defying Rolf to
escape, watching carefully for pursuit those first days. He moved to embrace her, trying to envelop her in a circle of
safety and strength. Justice will
be served, he promised her. Rolf
he will, she
replied with determination.
Kelson broke in, finding something intriguing. A portion of her mind was locked off behind powerful shields
that were meant to escape casual detection. What
abilities are quite good, my lord.
It is the result of a lesson with my tutor, a safe place in my
mind that no one may breach without injuring himself, she
told him. In fact, if
someone penetrates my shields without my consent, it will unleash a
must teach me how that sort of shield is constructed.
I trust there is nothing behind it about Rolf or Mearan rebels,
my lord. Mairona took the opportunity to turn the sharing more toward
her arrival in Rhemuth, and the feast the night before. Kelson
discovered that his was the first suit that she had even considered
accepting, and shared his awe with her, all reservations to showing his
feelings gone. She had been joyously surprised at someone courting her
sincerely, not for the sake of her lands or her wealth. He showed her
how her courage and spirit had won his attention when she had simply
walked down his hall with head held high, daring to look him in the eye.
I was always a headstrong child,
she sent humorously.
shared their individual memories and feelings from the night before.
She had been able to give herself to almost reckless abandon,
reveling in the freedom of escaping Rolf’s clutches, the relief at a
safe welcome in Rhemuth, and enjoyment of the way Kelson’s interest
made her feel. He showed her how he had felt as they kissed outside her
door, and how he had walked away whistling the whole distance to the
great hall. She laughed out loud when she recognized the tune from the
music they had danced to previously, and he chuckled when she showed him
how she had been grinning ear to ear when she told Saraid of the kiss.
Unintentionally, she let slip Saraid’s reaction to her words, when the
maid said, “It sounds like there is already affection between you.”
And how Saraid had really voiced Mairona’s private hopes.
was initially taken aback. A
part of him hadn’t dared accept what his heart hoped, that she might
feel the same way about him as he did about her, even though the feast
had gone very well. But here he had proof that she did return his
feelings, despite her fears about what he might have to do to her
homeland and more especially Fergal. That was royal duty, however, and
she had effortlessly separated the King of Gwynedd from Kelson the man.
He let his joy wash over her, joy at both the memories she had shared
and at her innate understanding of what the crown demanded of him. It
was a by-product of the strong obligation her father had instilled in
did not mean to let that by so soon,
she admitted with a tinge of embarrassment.
gladdens me that you did,
he returned, because I know I could love you.
this truly happen so quickly? she
he returned. We
need not play all the games humans must.
those games can be fun, she
laughed, sending the image of Dhugal teasing him about his inexperience
with courting, and Kelson hiding his face in his hand, wishing he could
disappear under the table.
mentally choked. We
should not keep everyone waiting.
of course not, my lord,
she ribbed him at his obvious change of subject, coming out of trance
with him. During the course of the exchange his head had dropped down
to rest on hers, and his arms wrapped her in a tight embrace. Her hands
had risen to clasp his. Everyone had withdrawn to the windows to give
Kelson and Mairona an illusion of privacy.
you certain you were conferring about the Mearan situation?”
Morgan quipped from across the room.
learned what I needed to know,” Kelson replied, stepping away from
Mairona, who blushed a delicate pink.
Few could contain their grins, and Dhugal winked. “Mairona, if
you wish you may return to your chamber or visit the solar. My lady
Richenda, you should accompany her. We no longer need your
well,” Mairona smiled bashfully, then rose and curtsied.
“My lords, your Highness.” She departed, Richenda following
closely. Kelson sat down again, waiting until they were gone to begin
speaking. The others took chairs around him.
The situation doesn’t look that bad. Rolf doesn’t have any
strong backers, only some lesser chieftains to follow him and five
hundred men. He had to hire quite a few mercenaries to fill out that
number,” Kelson said.
is he now?” Nigel asked,
Druimfada, with those men. He
was threatening to force Mairona into marriage, and that is why she
left. I doubt he would have moved any men from Druimfada this time of
year, with the winter we’re having. I plan on hiring a few informers
in Druimfada to keep an eye on him.”
nodded in agreement. “How
does Rolf intend to free Meara with only five hundred men?” he asked.
does not know,” Kelson sighed, “and that has me worried. Mairona would not cooperate with him, so she learned little
of his plans. I doubt he would be reckless enough to try to pull this
off with brute military force. What is he up to?”
he was counting on Mairona backing him, and hoping she would pull in
more supporters?” Dhugal
Kelson said. “But I would
not depend on it. There is still time to figure him out. I cannot go
marching any sizable army to Meara for another month, probably more,
depending on the spring thaw. Much snow fell in the Cloome Mountains
this winter, with more bound to come, and the spring flooding will be
bad. I am hoping that by the time it is passable, we will know more.
Unless anyone has any other ideas?” Nobody did. “Alright. The full
council will be convening two days hence, when Ewan arrives from
Claibourne. Before then, Morgan, I would like you to handpick a few men
for this mission and send them to Druimfada. Uncle, will you start
preparing summons to raise an army? I will decide how large it needs to
be after meeting with the council. I think that is all.”
entirely,” Morgan inserted, grinning.
“Will we be preparing for a royal wedding as well as planning a
campaign on Druimfada?”
beamed back. “I need a
chance to ask the lady,” he replied.
time you settle down, Kel,” Dhugal bantered.
“Courting pretty maidens is difficult when they are all staring
dreamy-eyed at you. Now your loyal men will get a chance.” Kelson
if you have ever had any problem getting lovely ladies in dark
corners,” the king returned, standing.
“I need some air. If the roads are sufficiently clear, I think
I will go for a ride. There is some time yet for personal pursuits
before the day must begin in earnest.”
will not be composing little love poems?”
Dhugal shot, throwing an arm around the king’s shoulders.
grinned at him. “I would
not want to jeopardize my good standing with the Lady Mairona, now would
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