45b - Chapter 45 - Part 2 - The Queen of Meara By: Martine A. Lynch
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The Queen of Meara  



Chapter  45  - Part 2



The reunited party crested the last ridge to make the descent to Druimkyriel Church, Dhugal riding with Kelson at the front, followed shortly by Ailín, Mairona and Saraid. The queen thought that the young duchess was not looking well, so when they came to a halt outside the ruins and Ailín pulled her horse away from the others, Mairona followed. The girl nearly fell out of her saddle, turning a ghastly green, and Mairona eased herself to the ground to assist when she saw that Dhugal’s attention was occupied elsewhere.

“What is wrong, dear?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Ailín protested, trying to find the strength to stand without clutching to her horse.

“You cannot deceive me. What ails you?”

Tears pricked at Ailín’s eyes as she realized she could not lie to the Deryni queen. “I have been ill for a long time,” she nearly cried. “Do not tell Dhugal, he must not know—Oh, God!”

Mairona shepherded her away to a stand of trees, holding her as she bent over. “How long?”

“Over two months,” the duchess gasped, clutching her stomach. “It will be better by noontime. It always is.”

Mairona could not see Ailín’s face as she bent double, but she thought she could see a few tears fall to the ground. “This only happens in the morning?”

“Sometimes at night, too, after I have eaten.”

“Have your monthly courses stopped in this illness?”

 “Aye—Oh!” The girl heaved, and Mairona held her as she retched.

“Saraid!” Mairona called sharply over her shoulder. “I need water, and find a napkin or cloth, or like item!”

That got the entire party’s attention. Ailín was too involved to panic that her secret was out as Saraid came running with the water and Dhugal with a cloth meant for their lunch. Kelson rushed to their aid as well, watching with sadness as Dhugal’s conversation played out in reality. Mairona withdrew to Kelson’s side as Dhugal took her place, putting his arms around his wife as she threw up until there was nothing left to lose. Her tears fell openly as he helped her clean her face.

“I have known, lass. Why would you not talk to me?” he asked softly.

“If you fear the illness will spread, you would put me away, or leave me,” she cried. Dhugal embraced her gently, shooting a look at Kelson as if to say this is what I meant.

“Hush, lass, dinnae think such thoughts. I willnae leave ye,” he soothed her. “When we return tae Rhemuth ye’ll see the king’s physician.”

“No need,” Mairona countered. “She will feel better in another fortnight or so.”

“What ails her?” Dhugal demanded.

“I would not call it an ailment,” Mairona smiled as she approached to lay a soft hand on Ailín’s arm. “Dear, do you not remember when you arrived at Druimfada how I would let no one in my chamber before late morning? Did you not guess you are with child?”

Her head shot up, eyes piercing Mairona as her tears lay forgotten on her cheeks. Dhugal looked as though someone had put an arrow through his gut, but the expression was more of blank shock than any pain or torture. Mairona squeezed Ailín’s arm, then turned to rejoin her husband.

“Come, Kel, give them a moment or two.”

“Aye,” he agreed, putting an arm around her waist as they went to rejoin the morbidly curious group remaining with the horses.

“That is what you missed,” Mairona stated. “It was not so bad the first few weeks as we marched on Meara, but I was miserably ill the second and third months.”

“Then next time I get you with child, I will send you back to Druimfada to tend to Meara’s business,” he grinned. Mairona punched his arm more forcefully than he expected from a lady. “Ow!” he chuckled, rubbing the bruised area.

“So much as think that again, and I will never let you touch me.”

“Mercy!” Kelson laughed, squeezing her waist. Mairona grinned back, then turned in his arm to look back at Dhugal and Ailín. The girl’s head was pressed to his chest, and his was bowed on hers as he held her tightly. Dhugal must have been speaking softly to her, for she nodded. Kelson glanced back, too, then turned to his wife and looked her in the eyes.

“I wish it had been like that for us, when I told you about Evaine,” Mairona murmured. “I am so sorry.”

A glimmer of pain lanced through Kelson’s eyes as he remembered how his heart had been torn by her confession in a war camp outside Druimfada’s walls. “That is past, and must be left behind,” he told her firmly. “When I get you with my son, it will be like that. For now, we must give thanks for what we have.” He placed a hand on her stomach, where their own daughter grew. She smiled, placing her hand over his for a moment, brushing her shields against his in the briefest echo of Deryni rapport’s communion. Closing his eyes, Kelson allowed himself to savor her touch.

“Oh, how I have missed you,” he murmured to her. “More than I would let myself admit.”

“Perhaps later?” Mairona offered tentatively.

“We will have to, for we will likely need rapport between ourselves and the others to examine the altar. Best not be distracted by other desires, then. Open to me, my queen.”

Letting herself be pulled into his arms, she released her shields to mingle with his, enfolding both of them in an exquisitely tender embrace. In the brief space of a few seconds, they shared their experiences of separation and the growing joy in reunion. Kelson was able to filter his memories for her, stripping most of the hatred and anger to avoid hurting her any further. He regretted that the controls he was forced to place on her last summer left her unable to do the same, would never give her the privacy that even a Deryni wife and husband should have from each other.

It does not matter to me, she reassured him. ’Tis small price to pay for your trust, after what I have done.

Sighing with her acceptance, Kelson blinked his eyes open as he withdrew, pressing a tiny kiss on her forehead before they turned arm in arm back to the horses and the remainder of their party. Duncan nearly rushed them down, fraught with concern.

“Dhugal has told me,” he said with anxiety as his eyes darted to his son. “How bad is she?”

“She will be fine,” Kelson reassured him. “I cannot believe they never even suspected. Come next summer, you may be a grandfather!”

“What?” Duncan’s jaw dropped in a lesser echo of his son’s stunned face. “Ailín is with child?”

Chuckling, Cardiel came forward to lay a hand on his fellow bishop’s shoulder. “Congratulations, my friend. Perhaps you will be able to share in the childhood you missed in your son.”

“Aye,” Duncan breathed, his face slowly splitting in a silly grin. “Not even hellhounds will keep me away. Thank You for Your mercy, Lord Christ,” he offered heavenward with a sincere heart.

“They return,” Mairona observed. Indeed, Dhugal and Ailín were approaching, swinging their joined hands as they both grinned like children. The duke and duchess were received with heartfelt congratulation, none stronger than Duncan’s as he happily pulled his son into a bear hug and slapped him on the back. Mairona engaged Ailín in a gentler embrace.

“I am so happy for you, my friend,” she whispered. “Later, if you like, I can show you how to determine if the child is a boy or girl.”

Nodding, Ailín blinked back happy tears as Kelson took his turn and kissed her cheek. When he had tendered his good wishes, Ailín turned to Duncan.

“Father,” she said softly, and somehow Duncan knew that she was not referring to his priestly title. “Will you give me your blessing?”

“Gladly, my daughter, and with a joyous heart.” She bowed her head, and he placed his hand on it, whispering words that were for her and Dhugal’s ears alone. When he was done, he signed the cross on her forehead, and she smiled as he leaned over to give a quick, warm embrace.

“Now,” Kelson stated with mock impatience. “Will someone please show me this church?”


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