20b - Chapter 20 - Part 2 - The Queen of Meara By: Martine A. Lynch
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The Queen of Meara  



Chapter  20 - Part 2


Mairona opened and closed her mouth several times, trying to think of exactly what to say. Across from her, Richenda waited in patient silence, remembering her first wedding and the anxieties she had. Finally Mairona seemed ready to speak, and Richenda listened in seriousness.

"I want to please him tomorrow," she started slowly, her eyes trained on the floor. "I need to know how."

Richenda smiled comfortingly, though Mairona never looked up to see. "Mairona, you do not have to do anything special to please him. If the two of you truly want each other, things will work themselves out."

"But I do not want to just lie there." Mairona turned a deeper shade of red, pulling her knees up to her chin.

"Many brides do, simply from ignorance."

Mairona finally looked up at that. "I do not want to be many brides. Ignorance is a word I have never liked."

Rising, Richenda moved to sit in the window embrasure across from Mairona. Gently, she reminded Mairona that Kelson, like most men, probably did not expect anything more than her willingness. Then she gave Mairona a few ideas to try, talking on until her student tried to suppress a yawn.

"My lady, you should retire. Even if you survive the ceremony, you would not want to risk falling asleep tomorrow night before your husband has a chance to gain your bed." Richenda helped Mairona up, leading her to the bedchamber, but she brushed off the duchess.

"I shall be fine. You go to bed yourself. 'Tis late."

"As you wish, my queen. Sleep soundly." Richenda smiled, then left Mairona alone.

She opened one of the large windows and sat again, letting the winter air wash over her. If Saraid saw what she was doing she'd get a scolding regardless of the fact that she was about to become queen. The cold air refreshed her, though, and reminded her of home. Druimfada. It wouldn't be home, anymore. These new apartments here at Rhemuth were now her residence, and she was to be chatelaine of this castle and of all the crown lands, for Kelson rarely had the time to tend to those duties himself.

Closing the window finally, she rose and made her way into the bedroom. It would probably be her last night sleeping alone until Kelson left for Torenth. She stretched and yawned, allowing Saraid to undress her and put her to bed.

A much more festive atmosphere reigned in the royal apartments. Wine had flowed freely that evening, lending to an unusually jovial atmosphere. It was very different than a previous evening spent before the last royal wedding, a somber, nervous night before Sidana's murder. Rather than being reflective, Kelson was now involved in a jesting match with Dhugal, entertaining Duncan, Nigel, and Morgan with their antics.

"To my brother!" Dhugal proclaimed, raising his cup so abruptly that wine sloshed over the rim. "May he forgive me for being envious that his bed will no longer be empty!"

Grinning, Kelson raised his cup in salute before draining a good half. "We'll just have to find you a wife, 'tis all," he chuckled. "Morgan, how many eligible cousins does Richenda have left?"

"A few." the blond duke raised an amused eyebrow. "Her R'Kassan kin are quite beautiful, I hear."

"I might even approve one or two," Duncan grinned, watching his son try not to squirm.

"'Tis bonnie tae know if they don' please ye, Kel, ye'll pass 'em on tae me," Dhugal said, a trifle sour as his border burr slipped into his normal court speech.

"I do believe you are starting to sound as bitter as I used to be!" Kelson laughed, refilling Dhugal's cup. "There is no reason to get all touchy, now. You do not have the entire royal council breathing down your neck to find a bride. Now Ewan and the rest will have to find something else to pester me about."

"Like the rigorous duty of getting an heir," Dhugal shot back.

Morgan grinned at Kelson. "I think our king will find it in himself to perform that function as dutifully as he does the rest."

"I hope Father Duncan will forgive me if I pursue that duty with a little more enthusiasm than most," Kelson snickered, downing the rest of his wine. "Is it possible to ask absolution now for a lifetime of marriage?"

"Kelson! I am shocked at you!" the bishop chided, but he couldn't keep a chuckle from his voice.

The king frowned at his goblet. "Must be the wine. What d'you think, Dhugal? You're more accustomed to this sort of drinking."

"I think you need more." The red-headed border duke lurched for the wineskin, pouring as much on the floor as he did in Kelson's outstretched cup. "Just make sure you don't have a hangover tomorrow morning or Mairona might have a word or two to say."

"More than two, I would wager," Kelson snorted.

"She might even shout them, to make your head hurt more."

"Aye," Kelson grinned. "She'd split my skull in half. Good thing I'll have a Healer nearby." He winked at Duncan, forgetting the full goblet in his hand. Nigel caught it before the king tilted it far enough to spill.

"I think you are disappearing in your cup, Kelson," Nigel quipped, letting go slowly enough to make sure his nephew could keep it straight.

Kelson frowned, staring at his drink. "Have I had too much?"

"Nah," Dhugal waved his free hand at the king. "You can still shpeak—speak." He got a startled look on his face when his tongue didn't move properly.

"But you cannot!" Kelson giggled. This time Nigel couldn't save the goblet before most of the contents were dumped on the floor. "Oops!" Kelson exclaimed, trying to right the cup, but he tipped it too far the other way and spilled some of the remainder on himself. Deciding not to waste the rest, he drained it to the dregs.

"Looks like you need more," Dhugal said loudly, reaching for the wineskin.

"I think our king would do better with water for the rest of the evening." Morgan snapped his fingers at the squire Ivo, who carried a pitcher over. Kelson was still snickering over Dhugal's speech as his cup was refilled with a milder liquid.

"Then, 'tis time for his nuptial advice," Dhugal noted. "Alaric, tell my dear brother what to do tomorrow night."

Duncan cleared his throat, then looked at Kelson. "I believe this is where I absent myself. After your night of drunken festivity, I will expect you for confession just after dawn." He turned his gaze to his son Dhugal. "Both of you."

Morgan chuckled. "You will not have to assign them penitence. God will do that well enough if we refuse to cure their hangovers in the morn."

"Aye, I may do just that." Duncan returned with a game grin.

"Father!" Dhugal cried, a stricken look on his face. The prospect of going through Kelson's wedding day with a hangover migraine made him want to die before sunrise.

"Don' worry, brother." Kelson elbowed his foster brother, not realizing his own speech was starting to slur. "If he won', I'll order Alaric as hish king."

"Oh. Thash alrigh', then." Dhugal took another draught, spilling more down his front than into his mouth. His clumsiness set Kelson on another round of giggles.

"I think it is high time the both of you went to bed. But first you are both going to drink water until you drown." Morgan had Ivo fill another cup with water for Dhugal as he made sure Kelson drank his dutifully. The king balked on the refill, however.

"Whaddif I don' wan' to?" he mumbled.

"Then you do not drink it, and I leave you to Mairona's gentle ministrations on the morrow," Morgan retorted. Kelson frowned.

"I'd rather be thrashed."

"That could be arranged," Morgan chuckled, "but drinking the water is your least painless option."

Grimacing, Kelson downed the cup and then another. After Dhugal had drank similarly, the three older men half-carried the groom and his foster brother to the state bed for the night. Morgan smiled at the memory of his own younger, tavern-frequenting days when he was commonly seen in such a state. Kelson had never had free enough rein to go through that stage of life, and probably would have passed up the option if it had been offered, so the duke smiled indulgently at his inebriated king. He and Duncan made sure both young men would wake feeling much better in the morning.


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