42b - Chapter 42 - Part 2 - The Queen of Meara By: Martine A. Lynch
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
          Hall of Seasons  
         Print Chapter 42 (8 Pages)  


The Queen of Meara  



Chapter  42 - Part 2



“Their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Cassan,” Dolfin announced, then stood back from the door into the king’s bedchamber.

Kelson smiled warmly as his closest friend was announced. “Brother, I am glad to see you. How go things in Druimfada?”

Dhugal grinned and entered without replying, letting his wife in. “Ailín!” Kelson exclaimed with a grin. “This is a pleasant surprise!” She curtseyed, then tilted her head up when Kelson made to kiss her cheek. He offered her the chair opposite his own, at the foot of the great state bed and before the lively fireplace. Dhugal hooked a stool to draw near, dropping a leather tube on the floor. Both new arrivals took refreshments from Ivo.

“We have been to the church at Druimkyriel,” Dhugal announced. “It begs further exploration.”

“What did you find?” the king asked, leaning forward in interest.

“There is a hidden chamber beneath a carving of the letters K, Y, R, and L, for starters.”

“Kyriell,” Kelson murmured.

“Aye,” Dhugal confirmed. “Mairona said the church was St. Kyriell’s. I intend to have the chamber opened, but there is more. Mairona touched the altar, and said it was alive. When I placed my own hands on it, I heard whisperings of a Mass celebration, but no service has been held there for over a hundred years.”

“Indeed? Is there more?”

“Not of the church,” Dhugal replied. “It will take some excavation to gain safe access to the underground chamber, and the altar will take Deryni trained better than I to explore.”

“Mairona did not wish to try?” Kelson asked, taking a deep draught of wine to mask his features.

“She is greatly changed, Kel.” Shifting on his stool, Dhugal stretched his legs out. “The only interest she has these days is her Camber scrolls.”

A flicker of concern flashed across Kelson’s face, but it soon disappeared in hard-set eyes. “I find that impossible to believe.”

“You have not seen her in nearly five months. Her studies have born fruit, though.”  Reaching to the floor, Dhugal retrieved his leather tube and fished out the aged, rolled parchment Mairona had sent. Handling it carefully, he passed it off to his blood-brother. “This is one of the items found in the sealed chamber beneath Druimfada. It was compiled by one of the Servants of St. Camber over one hundred years ago, and traces some of the MacRorie descendants.”

“Really?” Kelson breathed, gingerly unrolling the first few lines.

“Aye, a real find. Camber MacRorie’s daughter Evaine married Rhys Malachy Lord Thuryn, and their son Tieg married a lady named Karis d’Oriel. They had a daughter Elyse Thuryn, who was wed to Albion Corwyn.”

“Corwyn?” Kelson nearly jumped out of his chair. “Then Morgan, and Duncan, and—you!”

“Aye!” Dhugal grinned, pleased with himself. “I’m especially holy—a bishop’s son and an heir of St. Camber!”

Kelson was clearly speechless, his jaw working up and down as he looked at Dhugal, then at the fire, and back at Dhugal. Slowly, he leaned back into his chair and rested his chin on a hand, a slow smile spreading on his face. “Well.”

“Well?” Dhugal snorted to Ailín. “All he can say is ‘well?’”

“Well, I have to find another partner for arms practice!” Kelson grinned, then attempted a bad imitation of Dhugal’s border speech. “I cannae knock ye aboot yer holy heid now, can I?”

“Well!” Dhugal grinned back, running his hand over an old scar behind his ear where the king had done just that.

Chuckling, Kelson tossed off the rest of his wine. “My family is gathered in the next room. Will you join us?”

“Not yet, Kel. There is something else,” Dhugal responded, holding one hand up to keep the king in place as the other reached in the leather tube again and pulled out Mairona’s sealed packet, which he offered to his wife. “Here, Ailín. This is your task.”

She swallowed visibly, but took the missive, unwilling to refuse in front of the king. Her eyes locked on Dhugal, who smiled with an encouraging nod. Sighing, she rose from her chair and approached her king, offering the letter. “The queen bade me see that your Highness receive this,” she gulped. Kelson took it cautiously, as if its very touch would sear his fingers. As soon as she was free of her burden, Ailín fled back to her chair, and Kelson noted her discomfiture, debating whether he or the missive was the cause. If Dhugal were so casual about the letter, it must be he.

“Ailín,” he said kindly, dropping the packet in his lap as he put it out of his mind. “You have been away from court much, and we have not come to know each other well. I have long considered Dhugal to be my brother, which now makes you my sister.” Ailín dared to look up at him, her mouth rounding in an “o” as he continued. “Since my brother calls me Kelson in private, it seems that my sister ought to, as well.”

Her entire bearing changed, and her blue eyes glowed as she looked at her husband, then back at him. “Thank you, Kelson,” she said shyly, as if trying out a word for the first time.

“Ailín,” Dhugal called. “Go on into the next room. I will join you later.”

“Aye,” she replied, rising and preparing to curtsey to the king, but he shook his head.

“That is not necessary here,” Kelson said. “You will want the door to the right of the fireplace.”

“Aye.” She looked at him, then her husband, and turned to leave as instructed. When she was gone, Kelson smiled ruefully, thinking back to an equally frightened girl on the heights of Rhemuth’s walls.

“I seem to have a habit of terrifying young girls out of their wits,” he commented.

“Ailín is child-like when she is uncertain.” Shaking his head, Dhugal returned to the king. “’Tis your crown, not you,” Dhugal returned.

“I used to think that, but there is no separation,” Kelson mused. “I am the Crown, and the Crown dictates who I am. Enough nonsense. What is this about?” He raised the folded parchment and cocked an eyebrow.

“Neither Ailín nor I know what it contains,” Dhugal told him. “I was only asked to be certain that you read it, and I thought you would prefer if Ailín were not here. If you would like me to leave as well, I will, provided you promise to read.”

“Why should I? You do not know what this contains.”

Grimacing, Dhugal took his first taste of the wine Ivo had poured. Oh, how he missed the Fianna vintage! “Ailín tells me that Mairona cries herself to sleep more often than not, repenting of her sins but finding no solace. She still loves you, Kel. You know something of what it is to live suffering from a shattered heart. Traitor or no, as a Christian she deserves peace in her penitence. If you reading that letter will give comfort, then you will do so. Shall I go?”

Snorting, Kelson waved a negative. “If you are brash enough to order your king about, you may remain. Let us see what my errant wife has to say.” Kelson shattered the wax seal and unfolded the letter, tilting toward the firelight to scan through the beginning, and he grunted. “It merely reiterates what you have already told me about Druimkyriel and the linkage between St. Camber and the House of Corwyn. Wait—”

It appears that another great-granddaughter of St. Camber married into the House of Dugain as well, which explains the presence of Druimkyriel in Druimfada, and the Camber scrolls hidden beneath the castle. As I reflected and prayed on this knowledge, it gave me insight on my troubles.

“The Dugains, too?” Kelson breathed, leaning forward to catch the light better. What on earth could this mean?

I have wondered how God and St. Camber could have blessed our marriage, knowing what I did not at the time, namely, the treachery I planned to carry out. The answer is in your daughter. I expect that I shall hear of the annulment of our union soon, leaving you free to marry again and beget the male heirs you need to carry on your royal line. News in Meara tells me that the Princess Rothana has returned to Rhemuth, and knowing the feelings you once bore for her, and possibly still do, I hope she will be your queen after all.

Khadasa, she expected to be repudiated, and offered her blessing to Rothana as her successor. Did she think he would risk his soul to annul a marriage sanctified by the Church, St. Camber, and God himself? She knew he would always act in Gwynedd’s benefit, but did she not realize that God must come before even duty?

The gift I can give in reparation for my terrible wrongs is a princess of your own blood who also bears the blood of St. Camber. I beg you to treasure her, and not hold her accountable for my failings. With loving and firm guidance, I am certain that she may grow without my defects of character.

May Camber protect you, and God grant you long life.

He had spent his entire reign working to restore St. Camber to prominence, searching for any bit or piece of his life and work that was to be found. Never had he dreamed to uncover the saint’s bloodline, living representation in his closest friends, and now in his unborn daughter and traitorous wife.

“Dear God!” Kelson cried, letting the missive float to the floor as he buried his face in his hands.

“What is wrong?” Dhugal asked, falling to his knees at Kelson’s side in his concern.

“The Dugains,” Kelson dictated. “Mairona also bears the blood of St. Camber, and so will my daughter.”

“Are you certain she speaks true?”

“There is little reason not to, since she believes I will renounce her and make Rothana queen. A marriage can only be annulled if it is invalid, and unfortunately, it was plainly obvious when we were wed that ours is not. I have to take her back. Our union was intended by God, or it would not have been so divinely blessed. I cannot forgive her, but I have to take her back and learn to tolerate her.” The final shattered remnants of dreams that sang of a heart’s joy in marriage slipped away with his tears, taking the tattered remains of his heart with it.

“Kelson.” Rising, Dhugal placed a hand on his blood brother’s shoulder. “Return to Druimfada with me, and see Druimkyriel.”

“Aye.” He pulled his hands away from his face, and Dhugal could see the tears that still fell. “Your father should come as well, and Archbishop Cardiel. Rothana, too, as a representative of the Servants of St. Camber.”

“Is that wise?” Dhugal asked.

“Wise or not, we may need her help with the altar. Morgan and Richenda are home in Coroth, and Rothana’s eastern training may give her knowledge we need. I am certain my aunt will care for her son until we return. Go now, join the gathering. I wish to be alone.”

 “Aye, Brother.” Dhugal squeezed Kelson’s shoulder. When he opened the door, the sounds of laughter and happiness floated through the opening, only to be snatched by silence as the heavy oak thudded back into place and the latch caught.

Springing from his seat, Kelson stalked to his private chapel and sank on the prie-dieu before the altar, tilting his head up to a fresco of St. Camber crowning his ancestor, King Cinhil, thereby restoring the Haldanes to the throne of Gwynedd.

Why did You send her to me, Lord? How could You give me a wife and queen that intended to destroy me? I cannot forgive her; it is too dangerous for Gwynedd. How can that be Your will? Please, Lord, give me the strength to do what I must and endure. Domine Christe, dona me pacem.


~ Previous ~                                        ~ Next ~     

~ Story Index ~


Story also located at the Author's website - Brenwell Manor


This story may not be copied or used in any way from this site without permission.

  Sunday Chats, Filks, The Carthmoor Clarion, The Mearan Sunday Herald,  Essays on the Deryni Stories of the XI Kingdoms Deryni Archives - The Zine, Deryni Links Administravia, Author's Biographies, Author Index, Character Index, Story by Era Index, Codex Index, Site Policies  

Hall of Seasons