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
“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
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
“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
“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.”
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.”
nearly jumped out of his chair. “Then Morgan, and Duncan,
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.
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?”
grinned back, running his hand over an old scar behind his ear where the
king had done just that.
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.
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?
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?
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
“What is wrong?”
Dhugal asked, falling to his knees at Kelson’s side in his concern.
Kelson dictated. “Mairona also bears the blood of St. Camber, and so
will my daughter.”
“Are you certain she
“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.
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?”
“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.”
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
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.
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