Story for the Day: Mureadh and Tiulaine
Everyone always teases Mureadh for his devout constitution, not because he's religious but because he loves the Leabhar Maith more than anything in the world. Here he finally has his two loves come together, and he's a wreck.
A gentle introduction would be both their tranquility, and Mureadh graciously did her the honour of a bow. “I am Sir Mureadh Farhayden, Captain of the Royal Guard and protector of the Brennin line,” he said, his long red mantle draping over his shoulder as he righted. “His Majesty King Alasdair sent me to be your guardian.”
She wanted to believe him, but she had learned to be distrustful. It took her a few moments to consider his addresses, and in the midst of her thoughtfulness, she received confirmation of his assertions: she descried the Brennin livery on his cuirass when he placed his hands back at his sides. If this was not enough to secure her comforts, the clasp of his mantle was one she recognized as the same one that Alasdair had been used to wear during his time in the forces. “King Alasdair?“ she exhaled in relief, the glimmer in her eyes renewing.
Mureadh nodded and made a nervous smile. “His majesty gave me the order to show to you.” He produced his charge from his pack and unrolled it that she might see Alasdair’s signature and the stamp of the royal livery at the bottom of the leaf. “He insisted that I make certain you were being well cared for.”
She blushed and inclined her head. “Oh, His Majesty is very kind.” She tried not to smile so much and curled a loose hair behind her ear. “Even when he was my guard at the prison, he was so gracious even though I didn’t deserve his attention.”
Mureadh’s happiness was a little damped here, and he felt all the awkwardness of being forced to continue the subject that her disparaging comment could supply. “I’m honoured to be in his service and act nobly in his name,” was all his could remark, and he quickly motioned toward the bench, inviting her to sit that she might be inclined to discuss something other than her time in Karnwyl.
She was reluctant to accept Mureadh’s invitation; her mind cautious and her heart eager, she was hesitating and advancing every other moment, rapt with the hopes of possibly having a friend and yet diffident to accept a fellowship so easily given. She would sit, but only after Mureadh had taken his place in the middle of the stone bench. She moved in front of it as though to take her place, but paused to judge the distance between them before doing so. She began to dread sitting down: he was so large, his immense size expatiated by his pauldron, as to occupy nearly the whole bench. There was a mere few inches separation from where she was. She looked down, she must find a better seat, but there was none beyond high end of the bench. Her shaking hands and fleeting smiles betrayed her terror of sitting too near, and when she at last did take her place, pressing herself as must as was possible against the end of the bench, their knees were almost touching.
Mureadh was sensible of her anxiety and would not distress her. He shifted until he faced her, and though their legs were closer together, his carriage was further away. She must find comfort in their being somewhat separate, but when her countenance was yet discomposed, he knew his hopes must be unfounded. His endeavors had only made her more apprehensive, increasing his own vexation. He must do something to show his amicability; standing would only offend her after he had made the first submission. He looked about him, scratched his neck, and said, “Are you enjoying your time here?”
“Yes, Sir Mureadh,” she said in a dutiful tone.
Here was a pang of grief. He had enjoyed the sound of his title, as the meaning behind it gave him a hale pride, but not as the manner in which she said it and from one of her distinction. “You don’t need to lower your eyes to me, Tiulaine,” he said, leaning forward to gain her awareness. “You don’t need to wait to be spoken to either. You can just call me Mureadh.” He observed the half of the sweet bun was still in her hand. “I’m sorry,” he sighed. “I interrupted your breakfast. Please, continue.”
She looked down at the slender meal she had failed to conceal and broke it in two, offering him the larger half. “It would be wrong of me to eat while you have nothing yourself, Sir.”
He regarded the offering, then smiled and turned aside. “That’s considerate of you, but I fast until midday.”
“You are a member of the Church?” Her eyes flared with sudden terror: he used to do the same, she thought.
Mureadh now saw that her education had not been given as it ought to have been. The fear in her sparkling light eyes conveyed that she had been taught to revere the members of the order instead of emulate their ways. “I am religious,” he said softly, “but I’m not a Brother. I can’t be if I’m a Captain in the armed forces-”
“I said my grace before my meal and said my morning prayers, Sir,” was her trembling interruption.
Mureadh gave her a look of circumspection. “Are you being forced to do these things?”
She was silent.
“You don’t have to be afraid to tell me, Tiulaine,” he said, shifting closer to her. “I’m here to help you.”
She was caught, conflicted with the agonizes of wanting a friend, of admiring a guardian, and of obeying those who were decidedly above her. “Well,” she said presently, lowering her eyes, “the warden taught me to be grateful before and after meals, and the Reverend Mother is teaching me how to live by the Good Book. I’m going to be learning every day with her. Yesterday, I learned about selfishness.”
It was said with such compliance as to astonish Mureadh. He would wait to hear more before passing judgment, however, and treat her lessons as only part of her rehabilitation. “Is that why you fed every bird in the garden?”
“This is too much for myself, but I remembered to give others first, as Reverend Mother said I should.”
“Give thee unto others before thyself, lest thou hast none and makest beggars of others,” he said with a warm smile.
She gasped in exultation. “Do you know the Good Book, Sir Mureadh?”
“I have read it a few times,” he said, abashed. Her apparent excitement brightened his expression: to have someone so eager to learn the Word and to discuss it with him was bliss unfathomable. His heart leapt, and he sincerely wished that she were not being made to learn his book that she might come to enjoy it as much as he did on her own accord.
She shifted closer to him and regarded him with a beseeching expression. “Will you help me with my studies, Sir Mureadh? I have learned so much but can remember so little of what the warden tried to teach me. The Reverend Mother is being generous with her time, but if you are a scholar, maybe… “ She turned away and checked herself. She was being unreasonable in asking someone whom she had only met. Who was she to beg assistance from the king’s personal guard? Kind he may have been, but to ask more was unpardonable. Still, however, she must ask if she were to improve, and she therefore said with forced composure, “Well, I know it’s not your duty to teach me the Word but, I would be so grateful if-“ She looked up to discover that he was smiling at her, and all her further notions were hushed. She would avert her eyes, but he was observing her with a something like compassion: his eyes seemed concerned in their intimation, his smile was guileless, and his hands though resting in his lap were open toward her. He is smiling at me, was her terrified notion, and they sat in the misery of each other’s penetrating looks without a whisper, their eyes and parted lips speaking what words would fail to express.
“Of course I’ll help you,” Mureadh said presently, trying to govern his enthusiasm. “I’m not ordained and I cannot answer all of your questions, but I would…” He became lost in her hopeful aspect, her gorgeous features now in their full bloom of gaiety, and he had done. He coloured, gawked at her for a some minutes, and recollecting nervously averted his eyes. “I helped all of my sisters with their lessons,” he hemmed, “All thirteen of them.”
“You must have read the Good Book more than a few times then,” she simpered.
Her innocence, her tinkling laughter, her shy character assailed him. His chest surged with a sudden needed inhalation and he exhaled with a shuddering breath. She was lovely, by all manner and means requisite. He had never seen such an artless character, such easy temper, such eagerness, so numinous a complexion. The powers of light green eyes, of full pouted lips, of crimsoning cheeks were bewitching him, and though she had been accused of magic of the most unspeakable kind, this was an enchantment far greater, one which no countering charm could undo.
Enjoy the story? Enjoy the first book in the series:
Enjoy the story? Enjoy the first book in the series: