Princess of Meara
Branwen awoke the
next morning, well rested but oddly unsettled. She shook off her
"visitation" the night before as just an odd dream.
She had just finished brushing her teeth when she heard a knock on the door.
"Come" she called, knowing who was on the other side. The door opened, and a woman carrying a tray with steaming coffee and bagels walked in.
"Good morning, your Royal Highness. I thought we could review your calendar while you ate breakfast." She put the tray down on a small table, sat in one of the overstuffed arm chairs next to it and pulled out an appointment book. Branwen poured two cups of coffee, offered her secretary one of them and sat down in the other arm chair.
Vera MacAthan was a not-unattractive woman with very blond hair in her early 30s. She had been Branwen's secretary since the Princess first assumed official royal duties about six years earlier. Eight years older than her boss, Vera quickly became confidante and friend, as well as a valued and trusted aide.
"Your schedule is light today, Gwen. In fact, you'll be spending the whole day in Coroth. Remember, the new Duke of Corwyn invited you to the 800th anniversary celebration for St. Camber's School."
Vera looked up in alarm.
"Are you all right? You look like you've seen a ghost"
Branwen almost choked on her coffee at the mention of St. Camber.
"A good choice of words, Vera. I had the strangest dream last night about, of all people, St. Camber. I must have been thinking about today's events and my subconscious transferred that into my dream. Yes, that's exactly what happened."
But even as the young Princess tried to convince herself, she felt even more unsettled.
Vera smiled so slightly that Branwen didn't even notice it.
"A dream about Camber? How odd. You never struck me as being the religious type."
She refilled both coffee cups.
"How was your day yesterday? Anything interesting in the mail?"
"Funny you should mention that. I got the oddest book yesterday."
Branwen went over to her nightstand to retrieve the Codex. Her back was turned, so she didn't see Vera's smile.
"It came with a letter supposedly from a Brother Theophilus but I really think it's those two looneys from Valoret."
"I don't think you should call them looneys. The are respected historians in their field! But, let's get back to today's events."
"You will arrive by helicopter at the school at 10:15, y ou'll be formally greeted by the Duke of Corwyn and the Headmaster. Here's the schedule of events. After a day of concerts and award ceremonies, you'll take tea with the Duke, the Headmaster, his family and select faculty and students. Then, dinner at the ducal palace and a late flight home."
Branwen skimmed the schedule. She loved going to school events. The children were always so excited.
"Have I met the Duke? What's he like? I remember his father; he was an aide to my father for many years before he died."
"You may have met the current Duke when you were both children. He's about 30, rakishly good looking and unmarried. The press will have a field day!"
Several hours later, Branwen found herself in the library of the ducal palace. The day had been a great success. The children were enthusiastic and everything went off without a hitch. Vera had been right about the press. The photographers practically climbed over each other to get pictures of the single Princess of Meara and the single Duke of Corwyn together. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Vera had also been right about the Duke's rakish good looks. He was tall and blond, with gray eyes that seemed to pierce her soul.
Now Branwen was waiting for the Duke in his library. The other dinner guests would be arriving shortly but the Duke had offered her a tour of the house before they arrived. He had been called away to the phone just as they reached the library.
She was stunned as she looked at the collections displayed around the room. Some of his pieces were more than 800 years old! She bent down to get a look at a manuscript in a case just as the Duke entered the room.
"Like what you see?"
The Duke smiled at Branwen's enthusiasm.
"Like it," she said. "This is amazing! This is the 'Ballad of Bronwen and Kevin' written by the troubadour Gwydion ap Plennadd. I was named for her, you know. My mother loved that ballad." Branwen sighed. "What a romantic and tragic tale."
The Duke nodded. "My mother used to sing it to me quite a bit. I'm related to both Bronwen and Kevin, you know."
Branwen looked around. "And this painting! This Kelson I! Is it the original?"
Again the Duke nodded. "My ancestor was a close friend of Kelson's. Duke Alaric commissioned the painting. You have a copy of it in Rhemueth Castle."
"Yes, I know. It was copied after the Great Fire destroyed the portrait in the Royal Collection. If I recall correctly, legend has it that your ancestor was supposed to be one of those Deryni who used his magical powers to save Kelson from uncounted threats to his throne." Branwen laughed.
"Legends often have their basis in truth." Branwen turned, surprised at his tone in response to her joke. She gasped as she saw the Duke surrounded by what seemed to be a golden flame. That sight was the last sight she saw as she collapsed in his arms in a dead faint.