Tales Of Gallanol : Ch.6 The Party (Part 2: Aftermath)
Ch.6 The Party (Part 2: Aftermath)
At midday the following morning Jovian returned to his temporary quarters in the Wall Barracks below the Palace with the Galdelleini soldiers. Iain Cullough met him as he was about to enter his room. He had been at the Party.
“Well you certainly picked the best of the bunch last night Jovian! The flower I got let me take her home early, but it turned out she was married. Her husband is with King Lew in Morith, a rich man, I believe.”
Jovian said nothing on that subject, but, “You saw them lay into me last night, did you, as well?” he asked.
“From what I saw, you laid into young Cynan. You shouldn’t have done that, you know. He was fully drunk, and besides, he is one of Deneldinhew’s finest, a special favourite.” Iain seemed to see it as a joke, like he saw everything as a joke, but Jovian was not amused. If Iain had not noticed that he had been picked on, then Deneldinhew would not have, if he had been looking. And surely Owen would have told him his version; another black mark against his name.
“I did not start it. Owen Gireald sent Cynan to pick a fight with me so that he could make it look to the High King that I had started it.”
Iain laughed, “Then you will be in deep trouble.” The man was being sarcastic. Jovian thought he was a fool at that moment, but of course no one else knew of Owen’s vendetta. To Iain it was just a drunken scuffle over an attractive woman. How could Jovian expect him to sympathise or understand? He was alone in the whole of Deneldinhew’s army, without allies with whom he could fight Owen Gireald.
“I tell you Owen Gireald wants me dead,” Jovian said. Iain just laughed louder, oblivious to Jovian’s feelings.
When he stopped laughing Iain said, “Actually I came to tell you that you missed a war meeting this morning, and your absence was noted. I was there and I can tell you that we’re moving against King Lew in Morith tomorrow morning. High King Deneldinhew says we can’t afford to wait in Caerella. We’ve got to finish the enemy off before he can gain any new strength. Scouts are out already, and we’re leaving a garrison here. We’re going with the army. The High King sent a message just now. He wants to see you at the Palace as soon as you return. I’ve got work to do now, so I’ll see you later.”
Iain saluted, but it was only play acting, and marched off down the corridor whistling. Jovian was worried now. He did not look forward to an interview with High King Deneldinhew, which he suspected would concern the bad reports he had been given by Owen Gireald and Eric Cadwallon, who he now knew disliked him, and it was with trepidation that he ascended the Agal steps to the Creadd Palace on that crisp bright day.
The High King was in the same room where Jovian had met Morgana and Prince Trahearn and the leaders of the City just three days before. With him were Owen Gireald, dressed in his habitual green fur cape, Eric Cadwallon, smaller, in blue and purple, with his symbolic broadsword, which he wore as leader of the army, and Bleddyn, a small, thin, handsome man, with a tidy fringed head of black hair, in a thick dark blue tunic and tight trousers, striped with different shades of green. Bleddyn offered him a seat, and he took it.
“You should have been here this morning,” Deneldinhew reprimanded without humour. “We march for Morith tomorrow. Does that suit you, or would you prefer to stay in Caerella to brawl or to get drunk?” Deneldinhew sounded irritable. “You made a fool of yourself last night, in front of all the notables of Caerella. You must hold back that greedy temper of yours; it’s not good public relations! You are an ambassador and a representative in this city. You should know how to behave.”
Jovian had never felt the High King’s anger before. He knew Deneldinhew was a reasonable man, but he was angered by the accusations. He could not let them go unanswered. He had his pride.
“With respect Sire, I did not start it. Cynan did it on purpose, to anger me, and I was made a scapegoat.”
“Now he tries to make excuses for himself. See how he blames others, and never himself. You serve only yourself Jovian. Think of Gallanol for once. Was it not you who was absent here this morning? Could it not have been a guilty conscience which kept you from us for so long? Or was it that your own pleasure was better served?” This was Owen, and it was the mockery of utter hatred.
Something snapped in Jovian and he could not help himself. It all came out. “High King, I have done nothing wrong. This morning I have returned late because I was sickened by the way I was treated last night. Owen of Girithon, whom you seem to value so much, has taken great offence to me, for reasons which I cannot understand. From the first time I met him I have had the feeling that he despises me. Since the overnight stay at Girithon he has pledged himself to ruin my career, and has prejudiced others against me. While you have treated me well and given me great honour, he has been plotting against me, for some reason which I do not know.”
Jovian no longer cared whether Owen revealed his partial seduction of Ywain. Even if he did, why should it matter to Deneldinhew? But he did not think Owen would want to face the dishonour and embarrassment, as he might view it, however angry he was.
“Last night Owen sent Cynan to provoke a fight with me, by mishandling the woman I was dancing with. As soon as I hit Cynan, Owen sent Idwal and the officers to restrain me and make it look like I was causing trouble. They were trying to turn you against me by creating the incident, and it seems they have succeeded.”
Owen was confident that Deneldinhew would not believe Jovian the newcomer’s word against all of Deneldinhew’s closest friends and counsellors. Jovian’s unconventional appearance, his animal ferocity, and the implied insult to Deneldinhew’s judgement would make it easy for Deneldinhew to support his friends and to turn against Jovian.
Deneldinhew stood up suddenly. “Enough Jovian, enough! This paranoia of yours is childish. It stems from your most obvious dislike of Owen. Owen is a true and loyal subject of Gallanol. Between us there is honour and understanding. In attempting to excuse yourself from your failings and excesses, you have not even the man inside you to admit to your mistakes and to ask for forgiveness. Instead you accuse Owen falsely because you do not like him, and you see it as a way of justifying your mistakes. I now see what kind of a man you are. You did your duty well in the negotiations, and I thank you for it. I will forgive you for last night and this morning. Let it not happen again and I may honour you in the future.”
With these harsh words Deneldinhew dismissed Jovian. It was typical, thought Owen, of Deneldinhew to forgive and allow a second chance. That was why he was such a good leader. But he knew also that never again would Jovian achieve an elevated position among Deneldinhew’s men, and Jovian knew it too. It would be an easy matter now, thought Owen, to make Jovian into a traitor. He might just become a traitor by himself. Owen would not put it past him to join King Lew now, or to flee back to his saucy parties in Gorn, or to go north into Nardyrria, where all the men, and even the women, looked like barbarian simpletons and animals. Whatever happened, Jovian would not last long in Elladein while Owen was steward.
As he had no specific duties to carry out, Jovian returned immediately to House Dunough, and Rowarna, on the first peak, without returning to the barracks, where there was never any privacy. She was standing in the gardens in winter furs, looking northward and over the plains and forests, when he returned. It warmed his heart to see that she had let her hair down, which he took as a sign that she loved him truly.