Again, thanks to Alkari for allowing me to use a little something from A Gryphon by the Tail
Part 3 - “Fare Thee Well”The Green Tower
Duchy of Corwyn
February 14, 2013
Evaine Morgan watched the seventh Duke of Corwyn pace restlessly around the tower study, hands clasped behind his back, pausing occasionally to look closer at various objects in the room. It was late afternoon, edging into a typically early winter evening. He paused before an ornately carved box, picked it up and brought it over to the table.
Evaine was the only other occupant in the room. Her brothers had left her to provide company for the duke while they attended to other matters for a while. She was seated at the table, reviewing a newly published book on Gwynedd in the twelfth century. She didn’t agree with several significant points in the research and made notes on a pad of paper. She would have preferred to use her laptop, but had decided it was best not to in front of their guest.
“We’ve never been able to open that box,” she said. “We’re sure it’s been locked magically, but we’ve never been able to counter the spell.”
“I am glad to hear that. I would be disappointed to know that my spell had been broken or had worn off.”
“It is yours, then! I thought it was from the twelfth century, carved from highland timber.” Evaine happily pushed the book aside to give Alaric Morgan her full attention.
“It was a gift from Duncan. It’s a puzzle box, and he wouldn’t tell me how to open it. I had to figure it out for myself.” Alaric deftly slid two slats of wood forward, one on each side of the box, and then one on the back of the box to one side.
“I was able to get that far,” Evaine said while watching him closely and resisting the temptation to take notes. “But never any farther.”
“No,” Alaric said with a slight shake of his head. “Nothing else will open, until you do this.” Alaric placed the face of his signet ring against the wood revealed beneath the last wooden slat he had moved. He then turned the slat downward, and the lid rose a quarter inch upward. He removed the lid and smiled.
“That’s not fair, you know.”
“It was perfectly fair,” Alaric favoured Evaine with a mischievous grin. “I added the spell after I finally figured out how to open the box. Then I told Duncan I had given up and asked him to show me how it worked. I let him become suitably frustrated before I showed him what I had done.”
“He forgave you?”
“Of course,” Alaric replied, his grin broadening. “He is a priest. Shall we see what is still inside?”
Evaine moved closer and peered inside the box. There were only a few items; she suspected that Alaric Morgan was not the type to hang on to frivolous things. There was a small square linen packet, wrapped in a faded blue ribbon; a small seashell; and a magnificent pendant with what looked to be a shiral
crystal supported by a golden lion on one side and a golden gryphon on the other. There was also a heavy gold ring that Alaric picked up, looking both surprised and concerned.
“Whatever is this doing here?” he asked, more to himself than to Evaine.
“What is it?” Evaine asked.
Alaric turned the ring so she could see the golden lion of Gwynedd etched into a cabochon cut onyx stone. “It’s my King’s Champion ring. The same as this one.” He looked at the identical signet on his right hand. His face had a look of deep concern. “Did Kelric not succeed me as Champion?”
“He did, Your Grace. That fact is recorded in the Morgan archives. I also know that King Kelson had a second Champion’s ring made, though I don’t know specifically why.”
“How do you know?”
“It was recorded in the King’s accounts in the year 1153. It was an expensive entry.” Evaine hesitated a moment, then lightly squeezed his hand. “Don’t worry. Kelric becomes a fine Champion.” She had a thought and then asked, “Were you the only one that could open the box?”
“No, I set a second spell for Duncan, so he could also open it.” Alaric shook his head. “I guess this will have to remain a mystery then, until I find out what happens.”
“At least you will find out, Duke Alaric. It may remain a mystery to me,” she said ruefully.
Alaric replaced the ring in the box and then paused before closing it. “Would you like to be able to open this box after I leave?”
“Yes, your Grace, I would like that very much!”
“We’ll use this,” he said, pointing to the signet ring she wore with its Corwyn gryphon, labeled for the eldest daughter, “to set a third spell.”
Deepening the light rapport they continued to use to communicate easily, he set the additional spell for Evaine’s ring. Once finished, he closed the box.
“Now try it.” He sat back and watched as Evaine carefully slid the correct slats and touched her ring to the box under the third. As the lid lifted, she flashed the duke a brilliant smile.
Alaric Morgan felt his heart skip a beat. He knew that smile as well as he knew his own reflection in a garden pond. It was Richenda’s smile, but set in a different face. He stood and walked thoughtfully over to one of the closed green windows as Evaine closed the box and returned it to the shelf.
“Would you like to see outside, Duke Alaric, before the day’s light is gone?”
He smiled down at her. “Yes, my lady, I would like that very much.”
Evaine swung open the window casement, stepping back so Alaric could see the view.
Alaric found himself looking into the castle courtyard. Most of it was familiar, but there were changes here, too. Someone had added a fountain in the centre of the courtyard, and whatever was that thing in front of the steps leading to the door?
Evaine sensed his consternation, and peered to see what he was looking at. It was Dom’s car.
“That is called a car.” At his blank look, she attempted to explain further. “It’s a machine, like a, um, siege machine, only we use it to transport people.”
“You are not planning on ramming someone through my front door, are you?”
“No, certainly not.” Evaine did her best to suppress a laugh. “But it will carry someone through the castle gates and into town. “ She motioned toward the window on the opposite side of the room. “You can see Coroth from this side.”
He followed her eagerly across the room, and she opened the window.
Alaric’s eyes widened at the expanse of Coroth that stretched before him. The last rays of sunlight glinted off tall buildings with smooth sides and countless windows. The crane that he had commissioned for Coroth Harbour had multiplied tenfold, each one reaching higher than he would ever have thought possible.
He drew back from the window and quickly crossed the room to snatch up a spyglass he had noticed earlier. Expanding it as he crossed back to the window, he used it to get a closer look at his town below.
He finally turned from the window, collapsed the spyglass, and handed it back to Evaine. His face was set with firm resolve.
“I have to go back. I do not belong here.”
Evaine understood, and walked beside him back to the table.
“There is something that puzzles me, Lady Evaine,” Alaric said as he resumed his seat at the table.
“What is that, Duke Alaric?”
He pointed at the book on the table. “You study the history of my time period, yet you have not asked me a single question about it.”
“It’s not that I haven’t wanted to,” Evaine replied ruefully. “It’s just that, well, how can I avoid using the information?” She flicked a page of the book derisively. “I can hardly counter this drivel with a footnote that says, ‘Related to me by the seventh Duke of Corwyn, in person, February 2013.’”
Alaric Morgan chuckled. “That could be a problem. On the other hand, if my answers at least pointed your research in the correct direction….”
Evaine’s face broke into an all too familiar smile. “If you put it like that, I think I can keep you busy until it’s time for dinner.”
Alaric smiled back and made himself comfortable. The time passed quickly, and Evaine took copious notes.
Evaine Morgan studied the bright moonlight pouring through the green tower windows. At the moment, she had nothing to do but wait.
They had planned to follow the same steps they had followed the night before in order to try to duplicate, as exactly as possible, the events that had snatched Alaric Morgan from his own time and brought him to theirs. They had decided to have a light supper and then retire to rest until the moon rose. Evaine had arranged for a meal of chicken sandwiches and fresh fruit, which they had eaten mostly in silence, until Duke Alaric had suggested he should participate in the night’s preparations. Dominic had vetoed the idea out of hand, but Alaric insisted that playing a part in the preparations could only strengthen whatever link might still exist from the previous transfer. Richard had listened to both sides intently, and she had stayed firmly out of the discussion. Neither of the two Dukes of Corwyn was willing to give way, and Richard’s best diplomatic skills were falling short.
“Peace!” she had finally declared, slapping both hands flat on the table before her to get everyone’s attention. Three pairs of startled grey eyes turned toward her. She took a deep breath.
“I think we all understand the risks involved and the fact we can’t be sure this will work at all. Dom, if it was you in Duke Alaric’s predicament, would you be willing to stand back and leave this totally in someone else’s hands?” She held her breath, waiting for his answer.
Dominic’s eyes narrowed as he studied his sister and then looked toward his brother. “What do you think?”
“About the best thing to do or whether I think you would sound remarkably like Duke Alaric?” He quickly held up a hand to forestall Dominic’s answer. “What I really think is that it can’t hurt. He can’t set the wards, since they aren’t attuned to him and he can’t use his own, if he has them with him. He could place the candles and light them, though. Only you can the initiate the activation, because he has to be on the Portal, focusing on his time. It will still be the three of us forming the circle as before.”
Dominic looked across at Alaric. “Will that be acceptable?”
“Yes, it will be acceptable,” Alaric had responded, and Evaine had breathed a sigh of relief.
Now she stood waiting while Alaric lit the candles. He had exchanged his borrowed shirt for the one he had arrived in. As he lit the last candle, Dominic came forward, holding the sword Alaric had also arrived with and offering it back to him, hilt first. The candlelight reflected off the St. Gabriel medal Dominic again wore.
“You have been an honoured guest in our house,” Dominic said formally. “Safe travels, Your Grace.” Alaric gave a half bow and fastened the sword to the worn white belt around his waist.
Richard drew a deep breath and prepared to issue the final command to raise the dome that would keep the energy they would release safely inside.
“Wait!” Alaric quickly stepped to the table and selected two chocolate hearts from the crystal bowl Evaine had left on the table after lunch. He tucked them into his belt pouch and then returned to stand on the Portal.
“Richenda and Duncan will never believe me if I do not bring back some sort of proof. I am ready now, please proceed.”
There was no time left to argue about whether two chocolate hearts would change the course of history.“Fiat lux!”
Dominic, Richard and Evaine arranged themselves in a circle around the Portal, holding hands as they had before. The candles flickered eerily in the moonlight that now filtered through the dome above their heads.
“Fare thee well,” Alaric Morgan said, standing straight and tall in the centre of the Portal. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
The final, blinding flash of energy had faded before Evaine dared to open her eyes. The Portal was empty.
No one spoke, until finally Richard said, “I think we did it.”
“Can we be sure? How do we know we didn’t just send him into nothingness?” Evaine’s voice conferred her deep concern combined with a threat of tears.
“If he hadn’t made it, he would have bounced back,” Richard responded, crossing over to where she stood and wrapping her in a comforting hug.
“We could try to contact him through the shira
l, couldn’t we?” Evaine asked hopefully, looking across at her older brother for support.
“We could,” Dominic responded, “but first, Richard should release the wards, and you should extinguish the candles.”
Evaine nodded. “Just like before.”
“It can’t hurt,“ Richard said.
***The Green Tower
Duchy of Corwyn
February 15, 2013
Evaine Morgan removed her hands from the large shiral
crystal sitting in its gryphon claw. Dim sunlight filtered through the green glass of the tower windows. It had started to rain and the grey weather matched her mood. She had returned to the Green Tower to try to contact Alaric Morgan one last time.
She knew she should feel relieved that Duke Alaric had vanished from the Portal, but not knowing for sure where, or rather, when, he had returned bothered her. They had had no more success in reaching Alaric Morgan last night using the shiral
than she had just now. If Richard were in the tower with her, he would have reminded her that without Duke Alaric’s presence, their conduit to the past was gone, and further contact was unlikely. That didn’t help at all.
She sighed, pushing her chair back from the table. Her gaze fell on the printed email she had carried up to the tower with her.
It was from Nigel. He had invited her to accompany him to a seminar on Duke Ewan McEwan and the role he had played as Lord Marshall of the Gwynedd Royal Council during the reign of King Brion Haldane. An offer he knew she would find difficult to refuse, yet she had refused him before.
She and Prince Nigel Haldane had known each other practically since the week they were born. They had grown up as playmates, then friends, then grew closer still. Nigel had asked her to go with him when his brother the king had decided to send him to New Cassan for four years, and she had turned him down. Though she cared for him deeply, she had been in the middle of writing her first book and didn’t want to take a leave of absence from her position at the Royal Gwyneddan Museum. It was a plausible excuse, though she had known he didn’t buy it. She simply had not wanted to take on the expectations and responsibilities required by Nigel’s position. So he had left and she had stayed.
Maybe she would accept Nigel’s invitation this time. Evaine spied Duke Alaric’s ornately carved box on the shelf across the room. “Follow your heart,” he had said. Fat lot of good that had ever done her.
Evaine retrieved the box and set it on the table in front of her. Carefully she moved the wooden slats to reveal the precise spot that awaited contact with her signet ring. If it didn’t work, she knew she would be devastated, but she decided to try. She set her ring to the box, turned the last slat, and to her great relief, the lid rose upward.
She removed the lid, surveyed the contents, and froze.
There, in the middle of the box, lay two carefully folded squares of red foil.
They had done it! Alaric Morgan was safely home in his own time! And the seventh Duke of Corwyn had managed to send her a message, after all.