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
“What is wrong,
dear?” she asked.
protested, trying to find the strength to stand without clutching to her
“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!”
her away to a stand of trees, holding her as she bent over. “How
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?”
night, too, after I have eaten.”
“Have your monthly
courses stopped in this illness?”
The girl heaved, and Mairona held her as she retched.
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.”
Mairona countered. “She will feel better in another fortnight or
“What ails her?”
“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
“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.”
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
“Oh, how I have
missed you,” he murmured to her. “More than I would let myself
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 will be
fine,” Kelson reassured him. “I cannot believe they never even
suspected. Come next summer, you may be a grandfather!”
Duncan’s jaw dropped in a lesser echo of his son’s stunned face.
“Ailín is with child?”
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.”
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.
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.”
blinked back happy tears as Kelson took his turn and kissed her cheek.
When he had tendered his good wishes, Ailín turned to Duncan.
said softly, and somehow Duncan knew that she was not referring to his
priestly title. “Will you give me your blessing?”
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.
stated with mock impatience. “Will someone please show me this
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