Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Laird, Orb's Year 937-940


Orb's Year 937
"Lady Laird," a strange man called out as Crystal Noble walked outside the castle.  "A moment of your time please!"
Crystal whirled to see who spoke to her and was surprised to see a peasant she had never seen before.  "Who are you?" she demanded. 

The young man winced and bowed low.  "I am Ryker and I am afraid I have most distressing news for you."

 ***

"How could you?" Crystal demanded after hurrying back inside to confront her maid.  "In my own house?"
Tracy winced and covered her face with her hands, bursting into tears.  "I'm so sorry! I never intended to hurt you, my lady!  He was just so convincing.."  Tracy trailed off awkwardly, obviously not wanting to disclose the ways that she'd been so easily convinced.

Crystal pointed to the door.  "As of this moment you are no longer welcome in my home.  If I hear that you have seen my husband, I will petition the King for your arrest for infidelity!"

Tracy scoffed as she turned to leave, "If it were a crime to be unfaithful, half the kingdom would be under lock and key!"

Crystal fumed as she waited for Tracy to saunter from the house.  The nerve of the woman, she thought angrily.  She didn't care about half the kingdom... she cared about her husband

 ***

"How did you know?" she asked gruffly, "And why did you tell me?"
Ryker winced at the tone of her voice.  "My lady, such things are not secrets for long.  It is spread through whispers.  Usually, we keep the secrets, but I just could not in good faith keep this horrid secret from you.  Especially not after what happened to his first wife..."

Crystal glanced at Ryker sharply, "What do you mean?" she asked.  "What happened to his first wife?"

Ryker assumed an innocent expression, "Why, she was kicked to the curb without her first born because she dared to bear the Laird second half-class child.  Even though he had just left his mistress' warm bed..."

Crystal stared in shock at the servant.  Had Angus lied to her about his first wife, as well?  She shook her head.  It shouldn't matter.  She was Brock's mother now.  She would protect him.  "I find myself in need of an ally in this house, as well as a house-cleaner.  Perhaps you would serve this capacity," she suggested.

Ryker bowed low, "Of course, mi'lady."

 ***

Crystal hurried upstairs and reached for Callum. 
Her entire world was collapsing around her, but the smell of her baby's soft skin and the feel of his little hands holding onto her settled her racing heart.  She had two... no three... compelling reasons to stay and fight for her family...
 ***

"You had no right to fire her without my leave," Angus came home ready to fight after being approached by his angry mistress, demanding compensation.  "Do you know what you cost me?"

"What I cost you?" she demanded.  "I removed a woman from my household that had carnal knowledge of my husband!"

Angus scoffed, "I never said I was a saint!  I'm a man!" he argued.  "I have a man's needs!"
Crystal sighed warily. "Leave my sight," she said tiredly.  "I have no wish to fight."  Especially not a fight that she had a feeling she would not win.  Angus was far too stubborn and concerned with his own pleasure to ever consider his family...

She would just need to be strong enough to not let it bother her...

 ***

Gazing into innocent, young Brock's eyes made it easier than she ever would've thought possible.  Poor Brock who had already been abandoned by first first mother...

Except, she thought, perhaps he had not been abandoned as Angus would have her believe.  The tingle of doubt hovered in the back of her mind. 
Brock jumped up when his little brother Callum started crying.  "Shh.... don't cry!" he said as he hurried to the crib. 
Brock pulled Callum up into his arms.  "There, see?  All better," he said as he rocked the toddler as he had seen his mother do. 

Orb's Year 938
Angus bragged to his friend about the women who had propositioned him after the last tournament he competed in. 

"No! Three at one time?" he asked, duly impressed.

Angus shrugged lazily and furthered his outrageous boast.  "What can I say? They are well-impressed by my mounting skills!"

Both men dissolved into braying laughter.
Ryker watched closely, listening to names and places.  He was paid dearly to collect information for her ladyship.  The Laird's lady never wanted to be in a position of being caught off-guard again.   

And his other benefactor...  Once he'd told Evelyn Farrier that he'd wormed his way into the Laird's household, she'd been quite eager to pay for any information that might help her gain her son back. 

Ryker shook his head, though.

There was no way the self-centered Laird would ever give up his heir.  Lady Farrier held false hope on that count.

***

Brock had such a love for learning and books.  He could sit for hours reading, much to the consternation of his father.  He'd heard his father complaining about his "pansy-son" and tried not to let his father catch him with a book in hand.
When he heard Angus and his friend approach, Brock hurriedly stuck the book under his kilt and held his breath, waiting to see if he'd been spotted.  He hated it when his father mocked him in front of his friends. 

Why couldn't he just be proud of him? he wondered for the millionth time, like Mama!

"Tell your Mother I'm going to the Pub! I won't be back until late," Angus called over his shoulder. 
Angus glanced around the Taveryn's Kitchen, hoping to find someone to work his charm on.  No luck tonight.  Oh well, there was always tomorrow!

***

"Brock!" Crystal called out when the labor pains became steady.  "I need help!"
Brock hurried into his mother's room and rushed to her side.  He wished he knew what to do to help!
But, soon, Crystal delivered his younger brother, little Duncan Laird.

 ***

"Angus?" Crystal called throughout the house, looking for her husband.  Scowling, Angus went to meet his wife, irritated for being interrupted.  He'd been working on his lines for his devoted fans.
Crystal arched her eyebrow and attempted to appear conciliatory.  "I wanted to speak to you about your sons..." she began.

 Orb's Year 939
"Mama! Mama!" Callum called out as he ran into the house.
"I'm up here with Duncan!" she called down.

"Papa said he'd take me out to the joust! Can you believe it? I wanted to grab my wooden sword before we leave!"

Crystal frowned.  Angus was taking Callum to the joust?  This was a first, she thought.  He'd never wanted her or Brock anywhere near the fields when he competed.  
Distractedly, she leaned to steal a hug before Callum ran off.

Callum wiggled from her arms.  "Mama, men don't need hugs!"

Crystal's eyes widened.  It was as though Angus was talking through her child and it scared her! With a wavering voice, she released him.  "Well, men might not need hugs, but young boys love hugs from their mamas!"

Callum giggled, "Oh mama!" he said before dashing off.

Crystal stood a moment with her hand pressed to her aching heart.  Angus was stealing her son from her... 
 ***

"Are you ready to go, son?" Angus said when the youngster came bounding down the ladder with his wooden sword in hand. 

"Aye!" Callum cheered excitedly.  "I just know you'll defeat them all with one mighty swing!" Callum exuberantly pretended to vanquish imaginary enemies with his sword.

Angus laughed and he ruffled Callum's hair.  "Let's go meet Chandler and get suited up!"
Brock watched as Callum skipped after their father and felt a keening disappointment slash through him. 
What was wrong with him that he leaves me behind, Brock wondered sadly. 
As usual, his mother was right there before him.  "I'm sure it was a last minute plan.  They were probably going to look for you on the way out!" she said with fake cheer.  She could see how crushed he was.
"Don't attempt to lie for him," Brock snapped.  "He hates me! I can feel it! I just don't know what I ever did wrong!"

Crystal grabbed Brock's hands.  "His inability to love is not your fault.  It's not my fault.  It's his problem!"  she tried to reassure him.

"Then why does it hurt me so badly?" Brock asked softly.

Crystal pulled Brock into her arms and held him as he cried.  "I don't know," she said sadly, understanding his pain all too well.
 ***

Crystal paid close attention the following weeks and saw how Angus spent so much time with Callum, grooming him to be just like him.  Interacting with him in a way that he'd never interacted with Brock. 

Why would he fawn attention on the second son and not the heir, she thought distractedly.  But then it came to her in a rush...

***

It soon became crystal-clear why Angus was grooming Callum in Brock's place.
"Why would I take a sniveling, pansy-son with me to the jousting fields?" Angus demanded angrily after he'd been waylaid by Brock.

Brock's mouth dropped open as his father's finger drilled into his chest.  "But... but... surely as your heir..."

"Ha! You are no heir of mine!  You might not even be my son! Your mother is loose with her favors!"
Brock angrily defended Crystal, "She is not!" he yelled.  "My Mother is pure and kind-hearted! You are evil to speak of her so!"

Angus' eyes widened at Brock's outburst, but then he bent over with laughter.  "You think Crystal is your mother? Nay, son.  She is just your step-mother.  Your true-mother bore a half-class and has lowered herself to life as a merchant," he scoffed. 

Brock felt deflated.  Crystal wasn't his mother? He had another mother? Bits of memories seemed to flash before him.  He couldn't picture her... but he could smell her... hear her...  

 "You are not my heir. You are a disappointment."  Angus stalked angrily away.
Brock hurried to the bathroom and sobbed in privacy.  His whole world shifted in just one moment.  He was not an heir.  He was not Crystal's son.  His father hated him...

***

Past angry at the abuse Angus had hurled at Brock, Crystal approached Ryker.  By now, Ryker was quite knowledgeable about her husband's activities.  Of course, Angus would never believe that a lowly servant was spying on him!  
She slipped him a message.  "Please deliver this with all speed," she said urgently.  "It is gravely important."

Orb's Year 940

"That was a just victory!" Chandler crowed as he celebrated the win with Angus.  "Did you hear the crowd cheering?"

Angus grinned, "Aye.  And all the lovely ladies swooning!  Why what kind of gentleman would I be if I didn't help pick them up from the ground?"

Callum laughed along with the men he idolized.  It never even really occurred to him that it was dishonorable towards his mother until she approached with a serene expression.

Then, guilt slammed into him full-force and he looked down so he couldn't see the hurt in her eyes.
"I would speak to you, husband," Crystal said politely.

Angus sighed, "I will humor you as I am finished eating already.  But, I am soon to head to the Kitchen with Chandler for a time."

"I hate to impose on your time with such honorable pursuits," she said, wincing the sharpness of her tone.  She needed to talk to him about Brock and if she made him defensive, he would never listen.

Angus narrowed his eyes, sure he'd heard an insult.  "What is it you want, wife?" he snapped. "And be quick about it."

Crystal attempted to appear serene and calm.  Taking a breath, she began, "It's about Brock..."

Angus' impatience came full-front.  "Not this again!" he thundered.  "I've told you to leave it alone!  I'm surprised you're not happier that your real son is heir to this castle.  Who cares about the foundling?"

I care! Crystal raged silently.  And how could he be so unfeeling towards his own blood

Glancing towards Callum, who listened intently, she attempted to begin again, "While I am overjoyed you have selected Callum to be your heir, I still wish to speak to you..."
Angus interrupted Crystal with a stroke to her cheek, "Hush now, woman," he said tersely.  "This is man's work and you cannot expect to understand.  Just accept my decision and leave it rest."

Looking towards Chandler, he grinned and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, 'Woman!'

"No, let's be off! The night is young!" he said to Chandler, clamping him on the shoulder. 
He walked out without another word.

 ***

"Ryker, you're my last hope," Crystal said nervously.  She knew there would be hell to pay when Angus returned and discovered her interference.  But, it was necessary.  She would not continue to watch Brock suffer so needlessly.  She loved him too much for that!
"I am at your service, mi'lady," Ryker said grandly.
"Brock!" Crystal called softly.  "It's time."
"I don't know if this is a good idea," Brock hedged.  "What if they don't like me?! What if it's worse there than here?!"  He felt that he was literally shaking with fear of the unknown.
Crystal pulled Brock into her arms.  "They will love you as I love you.  You will be happy there."
She watched as Ryker and Brock slipped through the front door and into the dark of night.

 ***

Nervously, she headed upstairs and fussed over his bed.  It hit her then, he'd never make this bed again, never lively debate research with her, or tell her tales of something he'd read about.  With this decision made... he was dead to her...
Burying her head in her hands, she wept softly for the son that was never truly hers...

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